FromSoftware is most known for making difficult, beautifully rendered worlds where you, the player, face peril at every turn. With exhilarating and rewarding trials at the center of their gameplay loop, their titles have stood the test of time and live on in the hearts of dedicated players everywhere.
While their games are known to follow a very specific style, Armored Core does not follow in the footsteps of From’s recent past. Don’t expect the level of difficulty or open-ended environmental storytelling. There are no ambiguous hints that give the player the strings of its world to tie their own tale. Those elements are not completely missing, though.
Many FromSoftware fans will be happy to know that although Armored Core VI boasts different mechanics and unique environments, and it still features exceedingly difficult bosses that will fill you with the confidence of fulfillment that only FromSoftware has been able to consistently deliver.
New Story, New Pilot
Armored Core VI functions as a sort of reboot. Bearing lore that crafts this entry as a sequel, Armored Core connects it to its precursors. Do not fret if you have never piloted an “AC” before; this entry is the best time to dive into a new, challenging title to keep you busy until Elden Ring’s much anticipated DLC drops. It might even become a new favorite title for you.
Armored Core offers astonishing bosses and thrilling environments with a story that is riveting and immerse. Bosses are always a topic in From’s works, and Fires of Rubicon is no different. You won’t need to just focus and memorize move-sets like Dark Souls or Elden Ring; it needs your creativity to craft mechs that inevitably crush your opposition like a 90’s Mecha-anime encouraging you to fill the role of the aggressor and victor if you play your cards right. Those Souls-like skills will definitely help, though.
One of the best inclusions for level design is the ability to retry at a checkpoint if that pesky enemy pilot just ripped you circuit-to-circuit. At the retry screen you also get the ability to re-assemble your AC to give you a better shot at beating your enemies until they belong in a junk yard.
This leads to the most unique-part of Armored Core VI’s game-play loop: its customization. With FromSoftware’s level and detail within each interchangeable piece of tech, you have to determine what piece best fits your playstyle or the boss you are fighting. You must weigh your options realistically and ask yourself, “Do I need more weapons for this fight?” This means putting on different cores, arm-pieces, and legs to increase your load. This also means that you will not be as fast or stay in the air as long as you would like. If you want to be faster? You have to sacrifice firepower and armor to lower your weight. With a multitude of stats influenced by every component, creating your AC can become an exhilarating chain of experimentation. Testing and then applying specific builds to a mission, and then succeeding, is an unforgettable experience.
To quote a TV Salesman, “That’s not all!” When you build your AC, you don’t just get to customize it with fancy parts and weapons, you can create color schemes, emblems, and decals that allow the player to express themselves in any way imaginable. You want to recreate that Gundam you loved as a kid? Get to work, pilot!
To afford all of these amazing and technical pieces of AC armor, you will need to complete missions for different factions on Rubicon or from the soothing voice of your handler, Walter. This leads me to the most drastic change in From’s formula: its narrative and mission layout.
More similar in structure to games like Hitman: World of Assassination and Metal Gear Solid, there is a chapter layout which is broken down into missions with your handler or employer complete with a detailed story briefing. This structure gives a well-built narrative that provides more than just the item descriptions and environmental storytelling in souls-like games. Rather, there is a story to tell here.
It is still important to note that cut-scenes are few and far between, and you never see another human. Most of the story is conveyed through logs which contain not only various narrative and world building elements, but great voice acting that is executed masterfully with talented voiceovers including Patrick Seitz (Mortal Kombat, My Hero Academia) as Handler Walter, and Chris Hackney (Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom) as the crowd favorite, Rusty. Although you take the role as the voiceless Pilot 621, your handler leads you through the story. It is important to know that, narratively, Armored Core has a compelling story with highs that had me sitting on the edge of my seat with my hands sweating and an impact that will kick you in the feels like a Taylor Swift breakup song.
Grafting a great story shakes-up FromSoftware’s traditional splintered formula, and this layout leads to some monotony that would often drag for long hours. Although most missions are engaging and have explosive action that make you feel like a super-pilot in a giant hulking suit of death, some missions are so menial, or so quick, I wonder why they were included in the capacity they were used in. Yes, going to (x) place and destroying (y) artillery squad makes sense, though it is not always as entertaining as locking your mecha-lightsaber with an enemy pilot.
With all of these factors working in tandem, FromSoftware did more than just hide their trademark formula in this cohesive explosion of sci-fi greatness. They created a sustained reason to replay this legendary tale multiple times. With the inclusion of three different endings, Armored Core VI expresses a different experience with every play-through, as well as new gear, logs, and story differences. All of these choices drastically change the outcome of 621’s adventure on Rubicon and boast morality narratives, allowing players to fully encapsulate their morals and choices, making their playthrough “theirs,” encouraging everyone to play how they want.
Mech Versus Mech
On top of all of this, Armored Core VI features a simple but enticing PVP option for pilots to test their mechs against other players all over the world, or to cosplay their favorite fictional robot. When I say it is simple, it doesn’t even feature a matchmaking system. Instead, players will customize what kind of battles they want to have and pretty much create open lobbies that players can view from the join menu. This may not be the most convenient way to implement PVP in a game like this, but when you do get into matches, it can be a joyous experience of explosions as you and your opponent’s clash AC units to the death. Currently, the game only supports 3v3 and 1v1, which has created a niche audience that live on the modes and are a blast to interact with. I do hope FromSoftware improves on multiplayer or adds to it as time moves on.
Armored Core VI performed beautifully for me in the 29 hours I spent obsessed with its world and destroying enemy pilots. In fact, one of my favorite things about this latest entry from FromSoftware is that I utilized my Steam Deck for the majority of my play-through. I would even go so far to say that I had a more seamless experience on the tanky handheld than the few crashes I experienced on PC. Aside from those few crashes, the game looks amazing on both my high-end PC and Steam Deck, making this another amazing game to add to the list of exemplary titles to be released in 2023.
All experience aside, I have spent the majority of my time gaming this year diving into FromSoftware’s catalog of amazing games after my life-changing experience with Elden Ring, which you can read about here. With only two titles left, the fantasies that this company has created have astonished me and created a life-long fan of their works. Armored Core VI is no different. Flying through the skies of Rubicon and immersing myself in the fantasy of piloting a giant, all-powerful mech that I created was a thrilling adventure that I don’t think is even close to being over yet. I can’t wait to see how FromSoftware continues this franchise and where it goes in the future.
You can find Seasoned Gaming’s review policy here