Armored Core VI hands-on: A triumphant return to FromSoftware’s past

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Armored Core VI hands-on: A triumphant return to FromSoftware’s past

Hours of customization, missions, stages, and mech action make Armored Core VI the perfect entrance for the series.

FromSoftware has brought the Armored Core series back out after over a decade to give us what is shaping up to be one of the series’ best entries yet. The upcoming Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon takes cues from the studio’s most recent titles but retains everything fans of the mech action series have come to love. What we get is a title that doesn’t forget its complex mech simulator identity while still finding fresh ways to advance its formula for a new generation.

During a recent hands-on event, Bandai Namco allowed us to enter the armory, craft a mech of our choice, and visit planet Rubicon to work as a freelance mercenary and get a substantial taste of Armored Core VI’s first chapter. Read on for all the details we could squeeze out from five hours of playtime.

Continuous customization is key

As soon as you jump into Armored Core VI, you’ll find out that the Armory–where you can build and edit your Armored Core (AC for short)–will be where you’ll spend a significant chunk of your time. Maintaining and customizing your AC is a necessity to meet the arduous demands of being a freelance mercenary. Unlike its sibling “Souls” titles, Armored Core VI’s gameplay loop consists of completing various missions, which can involve defeating a mysterious organization of invisible cloaked ACs, taking on an entire army, or even dueling against a colossal mech. Due to the ever-shifting nature of the game’s mission objectives, it’s essential to take advantage of all your personalized AC options so that you may defy expectations and live another day.

Options to make a dream (or nightmare) mech

In Armored Core VI, you’re able to fully customize and swap out the body parts, core, weapons, boosters, defensive mechanisms, and weight class of your AC. Continually customizing your AC can be essential to survival. For example, at times, you might need access to faster mobility, meaning Schnieder legs and their high-jumping and speed capabilities are a must. Other times you may need the Caterpillar tank legs to support a massive load of heavy weaponry and armor to keep you in the fray against a sea of enemies. Armored Core VI gives you the freedom to take on missions with whichever parts combinations you need to get the job done (while also looking aesthetically pleasing doing so).

Style makes the mech

Speaking of aesthetics, you not only have the ability to edit the capabilities of your AC, but the visuals, too. While the series has always allowed players to change the parts and colors of AC units, you can now change its condition and texture as well. This means you can make your mech look fresh off the production line, or like a rusted antique discovered in a long-abandoned facility (as we did with our rustic Nine Ball knockoff).

OS Upgrades

This customizable option is new to the series and offers additional adjustments to your AC that change the feel of piloting your mech. For example, some upgrades allow for faster turning, the ability to use swappable handheld weapons instead of equipping larger shoulder add-ons, or give added armor for the new Assault Boost maneuver. Each of these OS Upgrades can completely change the playing field, especially when fighting against tough opponents, such as the case of being able to swap from a machine gun to a heavy-hitting bazooka on the fly to more readily devastate a staggered enemy.

For veteran fans: An OS upgrade that might pique your attention is manual targeting, which restores the classic style of aiming without the help of auto-targeting from earlier entries. Be sure to equip it if you want a particularly old-school challenge.

Weapons on weapons

The vast wealth of customization options available also extends to weapons. There are so many combinations to try out, each with the potential to completely change the way you play the game. Given the unique feel of each weapon, you’re encouraged to experiment not only to see what works best for you but also to better overcome the various threats in missions. For instance, when you need more tailored firepower to get around enemy shields, you might want to equip plasma missiles that fire upward and into an arc to hit foes from behind. Or you could even equip an energy blade that can knock the shield out of their hands with a single strike. There are many viable weapon loadouts for a variety of situations, so how you equip your AC in a mission is entirely up to you.

Armory stations let you customize mid-mission

Armored Core VI emphasizes constantly changing your loadout to suit the situation, but sometimes the demands change in the middle of a mission. Thankfully, there are Armory stations available in certain areas, allowing you to customize your AC on the fly before tackling specific sections ahead. For example, the beginning of a mission might require you to stay on your toes fighting multiple speedy enemies, while the boss at the end may necessitate more firepower. During key moments, Armored Core VI isn’t against letting you hit the dressing room for a style change to show up prepared.

A vast heavy metal adventure

Aside from the customization, Armored Core VI showcases its ambition in plenty of other areas as well. From its movement options to the mission maps, the game has tons of content to sink your teeth into.

Movement made to master

Armored Core sets itself apart from Dark Souls and Elden Ring by emphasizing vertical and horizontal gameplay and movement. While the Souls games take place entirely on the ground, Armored Core requires you to adapt to the situation by taking to the skies and using all the space offered to you to complete your mission. Staying on the ground as you would in the Lands Between will result in a swift defeat.

Hours of missions to complete

FromSoftware has packed Armored Core VI with tons of varied missions to take on, each different from the last. Some missions will send you into an arena to take on another AC pilot one-on-one; others will pit you against an entire army as you attempt to destroy their power plant. Regardless of the task at hand, you’ll need to constantly adapt to your enemies and their surroundings to succeed.

Giant and varied battlegrounds

Each mission also features a vastly different map to explore and conquer. The unique setpieces present a memorable experience  and allow for different play styles each time. You can go in guns blazing, sneak around like a metal assassin, or even blitz through without attacking enemies at all.

A story-filled adventure

Armored Core VI is suffused with FromSoftware’s brand of subtle storytelling. Each mission begins with a briefing from your commander and, at times, an introduction to a new force or player in the war for planet Rubicon. Once a mission is underway, the game expands on these small and intertwined plotlines by introducing characters and other little pieces of lore that build up this larger picture of the world around you. You’ll also impact these plotlines through the choices you make. One mission we played presented us with the choice of either being a ruthless mercenary and killing an enemy rebel, or ignoring them and sticking to the job of destroying their power supply. Whatever choice you make, you’ll  experience a game full of personality.

Modes and replayability galore

Armored Core VI also features a variety of different modes, such as the Arena, where you’ll face off against another AC pilot in a battle to the death with the goal of ranking up. Along with the main missions, these modes offer tons of replayability, letting you take on things in a new style, follow a different story path, or simply rack up more money so you can buy that new set of legs you wanted from the shop.

The PlayStation 5 experience

Playing on the PS5 adds an extra layer of immersion thanks to fast loading times, keeping you in the gameplay and away from loading screens. The PS5 version also features 3D audio, which makes it genuinely feel like you’re in the middle of an intense mech firefight.

You can witness all of this and more when Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon releases on PlayStation 5 on August 25.

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