‘Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon’ first look: Fast battles with customizable mechs

It’s time for a mech game revival.

Bandai Namco

Armored Core, one of the longest-running mech battle series ever, hasn’t been seen in over a decade. Now, developer FromSoftware, flying high from Elden Ring and Dark Souls glory, is returning to mechs, with what it says is a remastered, reimagined take on robot combat. The last time I extensively played a mech game was Konami’s Zone Of The Enders space opera – and that was back in 2003. I think it’s time for a true mech gaming boom.

In a hands-off demo at Summer Game Fest, I saw roughly 15 minutes of Armored Core VI gameplay, set in an early icy stage filled with vertiginous factory structures and tightly-packed warehouses. These dense environments immediately demonstrate how modern consoles can elevate FromSoftware’s newest mech game.

Since mechs can move around in all three planes, expect to see plenty of levels and architecture that take advantage of that. ACVI producer, Yasunori Ogura, noted that you’d be able to go anywhere in a level, flying “as far as your boost system allows”. He teased that several missions offer multiple paths and ways to achieve your objectives. In the snowy level I saw, he said the player could fly to the top of a structure to make their way into a base, or (and what I saw) you can just rush in, guns blazing, to the main entrance.

At the heart of Armored Core VI is your mech loadout. Alongside components affecting energy levels, defense and speed, you can attach weapons to four slots: one in each arm and two on the back, like multi-lock missiles. Arm weapons can range from rifles and machine guns through to light-saber-esque blades and more.

As anyone who’s played an AC game can attest to, your mech design choices will be crucial. You’ll be able to create a lighter, agile mech that can float in the air longer, dodge attacks and probably not take a lot of damage. Or, you could go heavy-duty, making a slower-moving robot with an array of long-range attacks and powerful melee weaponry. You’ll also need to balance out the energy demands of your mech against the power generator component.

Armored Core 6
Bandai Namco

While you can expect a degree of exploration as you fly around these huge environments, the game will be mission-based, just like its predecessors. Each stage begins with a briefing about your mission, some backstory and an outline of what you need to accomplish. If you’re here for the story, Armored Core VI is set on a distant planet of Rubicon 3. The planet is the home of a new energy source, one that’s so powerful and volatile that it caused a cataclysmic event in the past that “engulfed the entire star system in flames”.

If you were expecting a more Souls-style approach to the Armored Core series, you’d likely be disappointed, going off both the hands-off demo I saw and comments from FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki. In an interview with IGN, he said the studio would stick to what makes the Armored Core series "special", which he believes is the breadth and depth of mech customization. But like Dark Souls et al., major fights against more capable mechs could prove to be a highlight.

During the hands-off demo, the player dodged around a powerful molten steel-flinging mech, boosting above it to reveal a weak spot. You’ll be able to stagger enemies to deal bigger damage, another dynamic you’ll need to pay attention to when selecting your mech’s composition.

The fiery mech soon bested the player in the demo, but this meant they could make some adjustments and changes to their mech, retooling it specifically to take down this boss. In this instance, they swapped in more agile legs and a rifle capable of doing more substantial stun damage. A new Armored Core game is long overdue. Hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait.

Armored Core VI will be released on August 25th on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One and PC .

Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest right here!