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Armored Core 6 review: It’s good, but some may be disappointed

Armored Core 6 concept art

While FromSoftware is primarily known for its epic action-RPGs these days, the Armored Core series and its mech combat focus was the studio’s bread and butter for many years. After a decade-long slumber, it now returns with Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, a game that walks the tightrope between new and old while wobbling at times.

FromSoftware fans continue to eagerly await the Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree, which has seemingly become Schrodinger’s DLC after six months of silence regarding its release date. Those looking to scratch that itch may be left disappointed by the new Armored Core game. While Armored Core 6 does have the style and feel of a FromSoftware game, it’s a title that offers very different things to its players.

The Good:

  • Short, punchy missions that are fun to play through
  • Strong replayability 

The Bad:

  • Uneven, under-explored story
  • Trial and error gameplay loop can be unrewarding at times

Review Details:

  • Platforms available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
  • Reviewed on: PlayStation 5 
  • Official release date: August 25, 2023

Armored Core 6 has FromSoftware magic, but lacks Elden Ring’s impact

Mech shooters have existed since the 1980s and were a natural fit for new hardware like the PlayStation 1 and Windows PCs, but there’s always been a schism between development in Japan and players in Western markets. This saw the genre move in different directions based on the region, with the Western mech games on PC mostly dying off in the 2000s while Japan’s walked the line between arcade gameplay and console games to middling effect.

Armored Core was one of the few series that had a foot in every market, but it was still shelved in 2013 even as mech shooters continued to be literally and figuratively huge in Japanese arcades.

The attention paid to Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon set it up to be a potentially transformative game in the genre. It likely falls short of that mark, but it still stands strong on its own as a fun and challenging game.

Armored Core 6 is a fast-paced shooter that will likely leave many perplexed over how best to approach it. Despite the “shooter” label, the game has few mechanical similarities to modern first-person shooters like Call of Duty or over-the-shoulder shooters like Gears of War or Ghost Recon.

Players can utilize up to four weapons at a time, one on each shoulder and one on each hand, with each weapon mapped to a shoulder button on the gamepad. Levels can throw dozens of enemies at the player at once and movement is very quick. It’s a combination that requires a unique solution when it comes to the game’s controls.

All aiming is done via an elaborate lock-on system, with the right stick being used to focus on the general area the player will fire toward. Different weapons handle this in different ways, with the HUD showing how each volley is going to be distributed. FPS purists might be taken aback by this, but it feels satisfying and fun in practice.

While precision aiming isn’t required, that doesn’t mean the game is easy. As with other FromSoftware games, deciphering enemy attack patterns, figuring out the best way to wrangle bosses, and charting the right path through challenging levels are the keys to progress.

armored core slash

The trouble is that a large part of each of those steps is solved by going to the garage rather than “getting good.” While Soulsborne games and Elden Ring have favored certain builds at points, skill could always win through. Many of the biggest challenges in Armored Core 6 require players go into a meat grinder for 30 minutes, change their loadout, and then blast their way through trouble spots with ease. This can lead to frustration when you have the wrong setup, and a lack of challenge when you have the right one.

It’s an effect that sometimes removes that distinct feeling one gets after beating a tough boss that is synonymous with FromSoftware games. There’s still plenty of joy to be had and steep hills to be climbed, but it may get demoralizing when you discover that a certain favored loadout simply isn’t going to work on a particular stage.

Armored Core 6 also goes in a slightly different direction in terms of actually relying on the story to encourage players to keep coming back. The story is as nihilistic as any Soulsborne game, but it emphasizes the central narrative in a way that detracts from the sad but impactful side quest endings that have tended to provide the best story moments in FromSoftware’s Dark Souls franchise. Though there are some memorable characters in AC6, character development comes in sudden spurts rather than with any sort of reliable arc.

The tight gameplay is enough to carry Armored Core 6 to being an enjoyable experience, but the game doesn’t quite hit the same highs as its Soulslike cousins.

gameland.gg’s bottom line: Armored Core 6 hits many of FromSoftware’s reliable high notes and that’s enough to make it a good game, but it’s an uneven experience overall.

Score: 8/10

Author image

Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2. His work has previously been featured by Bleacher Report and The Washington Post, and he was an Assistant Editor at WIN.gg. You can follow him on Twitter / X at @srondina.

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