FROMSOFTWARE and Bandai Namco Entertainment have finally revived one of the longest-running mecha-action series from the studio with Armored Core 6. As someone who always appreciated the franchise from a distance, I finally got to experience what it’s all about alongside countless other fans of FromSoftware’s recent fantasy titles. In my Armored Core 6 review, I’ll share my experience as a newcomer to this shockingly deep action series.
Mobility and Control
The first thing that becomes instantly obvious is the great sense of control you have over your mech, or AC as the series refers to them. You can hover, boost, fly, slide sideways, and practically move in any direction with a lot of precise control over your movement.
You can cancel your boost animation by dashing out of it which is something that functions oppositely to their Souls titles where you need to commit to your movement and attacks.
This greater sense of control plays a key part in how you tailor your build and approach different enemies and bosses. Having this much freedom of movement feels gratifying, and the sense of speed and continued momentum factors into it.
I’m sure a lot of these things already existed in the series, but it’s an enlightening experience for someone that never controlled a mech before. The sense of control doesn’t mean you don’t need to strategize, but it allows you to dynamically switch strategies as you maneuver around bosses and enemies.
This is arguably one of the best parts of the game in my opinion, and even though I played the game with a controller, the keyboard and mouse support is well and beyond what we expect from FROMSOFTWARE.
Combat and Weapons
The sense of control extends to the combat as well, and you initially have access to four different weapon slots. I was a bit intimidated by this at first, but the tutorial and many training missions eased me into combat. For most players, getting through the missions won’t be a problem, because most builds will allow you to easily run through enemies.
The vast array of weapon choices means you can tailor your build to your liking, and even go for a completely melee build if your heart desires. The difficulty of handling each build is different though, and mobility-focused ACs certainly go down faster. The combination of these weapons impacts how you approach bosses, and it was fun seeing different players tackle bosses in ways I didn’t personally anticipate.
Some weapons are simply overpowered though, and if you’re struggling, just slap on two Zimmermans or Gatling guns and melt away health bars like a joke. I suspect a patch will address this, but right now, that’s essentially the easy mode. This isn’t to say that other weapons aren’t viable, but you need to put far more effort into those builds.
Overall, the sheer variety of weapons at your disposal means you’ll have endless builds to try out, and I had a lot of fun with this complex aspect. The more you experiment, the deeper you’ll understand how these weapons function and complement other weapons of your build. It’s rewarding, and encourages players, especially with how the economy functions, more on that later.
Boss Fights, Big and Small
There are plenty of smaller, and larger boss fights in Armored Core 6, some of which only appear after making different narrative choices. Compared to the pretty simple missions, the bosses are incredibly difficult. Most players will struggle with the first boss, the AH12, and it serves as a teaching moment for most players to utilize their melee attacks as well.
I found most of the bosses to be enjoyable, but I am a bit dumbstruck by how different the mission experience is compared to the boss fight. At times, you’ll have to adjust your build to account for some aspect of the boss, which thankfully can be done at the checkpoint. However, I would’ve liked for missions to feel a bit harder instead of the sudden difficulty spike the boss presents.
My favorite fights are the ones with ACs of your size. They feel more personal to engage with, and seeing them blast around the arena, as you try to lock on to them, while avoiding their attacks is a delight. They force you to creatively use your build, especially when their damage output isn’t as big.
Some bosses are massive though, and seeing them tower over you is the kind of scale I’ve been desperately wanting to return in other action games as well.
Customization, and Economy
Customization is pretty much half the game. If your AC doesn’t look good, what is the point? You can build your dream mech in this game, and I spent hours trying to perfect my AC. By default, you have tons of color presets to work with, and you can create your palettes as well, which can be saved and applied to other builds and presets. You can color almost every part of your AC, and apply stickers and emblems that you can create yourself too.
I’ve seen people make Mr. Crabs from Spongebob in this, and he looks glorious. In an age of paid customization, Armored Core 6 is proof that giving players control over how their characters look not only encourages them to be more creative but feel personal about their characters.
The “paint” part of the customization is completely free but to buy parts, you’ll need to spend COAM, which is the in-game currency that you earn from completing missions, participating in training, arena, and more. The best part about the economy is that you can continue to grind older missions and make as much cash as you want.
It doesn’t stop there, because no matter what you buy in the shop, meaning weapons and AC parts, you can sell those back for the same price. This means you’re not losing anything, and you can buy and return something after testing it out.
Overall, the economy, and customization both encourage players to be more creative about their ACs, which should be the motivator for customization in any game. This aspect shouldn’t feel tedious, but welcoming. You feel like a little kid trying to put together your giant robot, and I had a smile on my face as I made my perfect AC that looked like Shockwave.
Presentation and Characters
Like other FromSoftware titles, Armored Core 6 has incredible art direction that teleports you to yet another post-cataclysmic world full of history, and life that continues to persist. Areas feel large to accommodate your ridiculous movement capability, and landmarks in the distance continue to fill you with a sense of awe and wonder.
Boosting over the remains of a once-functioning world now overrun by different military corporations paints a harsh, and somber canvas that complements the tone of the writing and story.
While the story itself isn’t special, I found the characters to be pretty memorable. You mostly interact with them through voice-comms and the voice acting is solid throughout. This might have more voice-acting than the entirety of the Dark Souls franchise, and the general storytelling is far more direct, a lot like Sekiro.
You’re not going to piece together what happened, as there will be plenty of exposition throughout the missions, and in the garage. Handler Walter is a lot of fun to listen to, and I liked how his motivations evolved as you progress through the game. You’ll also interact with recurring characters from different military organizations that will hire you for their mostly dirty work.
Fantastic PC Port
The last thing I want to touch on is the quality of the PC port. FromSoft’s PC releases have always been a bit of a mixed bag, but Armored Core 6 is a sign of that changing. This is an incredible port that puts a lot of recent AAA PC releases to shame with its stutter-free performance and the high framerate capability of up to 120 FPS.
The game came with PlayStation button prompts, ultrawide, and HDR support. It has proper keyboard and mouse support, and many players will end up preferring that input scheme simply because of the added precision. It’s honestly special, and there are enough options to improve the framerate.
Playing a stutter-free action game on PC in 2023 feels like an anomaly, but I’m happy to report that no matter how much you boost through swathes of land, the game won’t stutter at all.
This was my first Armored Core game, and I had an absolute blast with it. The ridiculous freedom of movement, the vast array of weaponry, and endless customization add up to a fantastic action title that isn’t brought down by any filler. Some of the weapons feel a bit overpowered, and I would’ve liked it if the missions felt a bit harder, but these are minor gripes that don’t detract from a feature-rich experience that feels deep, rewarding, and sufficiently challenging.
What did you think of our Armored Core 6 Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. The key was provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment.