Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon hands-on preview — Prepare for Launch!

Armored Core is experiencing a resurgence, and it’s about time too – Armored Core: The Last Raven was back in 2005 and on the PlayStation 2. Recently we went hands-on with Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon, and what a resurgence it is. Positioned as a bit of a reboot for the series, this entry will be a re-introduction for returning players, and a primer to bring in fresh audiences who have never tried the Armored Core series before. With the entirety of the first chapter completely unlocked and little more than “Go forth, have fun!” for instructions, I set off to see just what we have to look forward to in Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon.

It’s not too much to spoil to say that Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon is going to be a tough game. It’s a FromSoftware title, so you can expect a fair bit of challenge, with some solid boss battle checkpoints to see if you are learning what the game has to teach. Before we get into all that, however, let’s talk about the storyline.


Ultimately, you don’t really need to have a working knowledge of the prior Armored Core titles to understand this one. Humanity has found an energy source of unimaginable power that they’ve decided to call “Coral”. Embracing this, they realized massive leaps in technology, but it came at a great cost. A cataclysm called “The Fires of Ibis” completely engulfed an entire star system, burning it to cinder, locking away the Coral from further attempts to exploit it. Now, 50 years later, humanity has found a new source of this mysterious energy source and the war begins anew to control it.

In Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon you are cast as an augmented human with the designation C4-641. Your first task as a mercenary that is operating off the books is to secure an identity that’ll allow you to take advantage of the contacts being offered by the various factions. It doesn’t matter who wants control of what to you – you are here to make money.

Heading into the wreckage of a nearby city, I began to sift through the remains of several mechs. The city guard wasn’t happy with my rummaging, but they were also no match for my mech, falling quickly to my energy blades. Our first was expired, the second only had a 12 hour license, and the third one was callsign “Monkey Gordo”, but didn’t have the proper pilot rank. We hit a fourth wreck, but unfortunately caught the attention of a nearby PCA heavy helicopter. Leave it to FromSoftware to have a boss battle in the tutorial level. Crushing this helicopter I was able to finally pick up a usable Pilot’s License – callsign “Raven”. At the end of the mission I managed to pull in 170k credits, with 52k running to repairs, 19k going to ammo, and 0 penalties — a 98k payday, all things said and done.


The Pilot’s License we recovered would give us a new lease on our mercenary life. We’d now be able to take contracts from the mega-corps, resistance groups, and various other factions operating in the region. Your handler, a man named “Walter”, helps you do exactly that, putting you back to work on the planet Rubicon 3 with the help of ALLMIND. ALLMIND is an AI running the Mercenary Support System, giving us access and removing our supposed MIA status. It’s also where we can tackle exercises that result in AC parts, gain access to the Arena, utilize the store, and much more as the story unfolds. While this first chapter certainly has you taking contracts from all sides in a bid to make money, I don’t doubt that at some point we’ll be forced to make a choice on who to support in this fight, but for now, let’s upgrade our mech.

The first thing I felt was the sheer speed of Armored Core VI. A blend in mechanics of 3, 4, and 5, the action is frenetic and explosive. I’ve got good news for you newcomers – a new lock-on system that’ll allow you to keep your sights on your foes while circling them and unleashing all of your weapons is now in place. You’ll sacrifice a bit of the finer precision that can down foes quickly, but it’ll also allow you to learn the mechanics of movement while you do. When facing multiple enemies, the reticule will automatically prioritize those closest to you, giving you a chance to circle, strafe, and otherwise use the mech’s agility to your advantage.

The next thing I noticed was that this is absolutely not Elden Ring but with mechs. Character movements are smooth as ever, but now combat is omnidirectional. Thrusting towards an enemy, leaping in the air, and striking them from behind is just as valid as hitting an enemy head on or circle strafing them at high speed.

Graphically, Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon has had a massive visual upgrade since the previous entries. While you can customize it, of course, you can also see scratches, dents, and overall wear and tear on every vehicle. Explosions spray particle effects everywhere on impact, and you really feel the overall momentum of these behemoth mechs hurtling through the air.

In terms of storyline, I’m immediately reminded of Mechwarrior II: Mercenaries. Various groups like Arquibis, Dafeng, Balang, and others are eager to have you eliminate their rivals, disrupt their trade and research, and destabilize the region. The problem, of course, is that the other side is happily paying you to do the same, but for them.


A big part of getting better missions is performance on your last. Building your reputation as a mercenary will yield better paying sorties. you’ll also gain access to LOGHUNT. ALLMIND is interested in your combat logs when you take down specific targets. It’s not unlike the hunting system in Final Fantasy, improving your hunt class as well as rewarding you with parts.

In true FromSoft fashion, you’ll occasionally be given the opportunity to try to take out optional bosses. A Tetrapod (four legger) was in my AO, but I was advised to ignore it. I could, naturally, do it anyway, or I could simply complete the mission and collect my pay.

Eventually you’ll start running into ACs instead of mass-produced bots. These are typically boss battles, with unique challenges of their own. My first was against a rookie pilot just trying to make a name for himself. Unfortunately for him, he ran into me. The test pilot was part of Balam’s in-house AC squad, and a member of their main force. That’ll gain some attention, and perhaps entirely the wrong kind – time will tell.

Eventually we’ll have done enough rep-building to join the Redhounds under G1 Michigan. We got assigned a new callsign – G13 or Gun13. We are just tagging along on “Ass wiping duty” with two other members of this squad. G5 Iguazu and G4 Volta seem even less enthused about my presence than I am to be there. A quick mission to take a dam control system solidifies that I’m not quite the rookie they expected though, solidifying my position as at least a contender. And I get to keep the G13 callsign and emblem — bonus!

My next test would be to take down the “Strider” — a mining base that has been mobilized and weaponized. Now the damned thing has a giant eye that is shielded and firing lasers. We’ll need to take down the generators to clear the shield before we can smoke the eye and destroy this massive mining base on legs. What follows is a massive battle against a vehicle easily the size of a small city. Like Shadow of the Colossus, I find myself having to dodge a massive laser that can literally cut my health in half with a grazing blow, all while having to destroy generators all over the vehicle while it’s in motion. It’s exhilarating, makes you feel like you just went from being the biggest monster on the block to a mere ant by comparison. I sincerely hope these moments happen with some frequency and are not anomalies because it was the highlight of my time with the game thus far.

Completing my mission, I was rewarded with credits. Stacking enough paper could allow me to purchase weapons, armor, cores, generators, thrusters, and more – roughly 200 of them, by the dev’s estimate. It leans into the three pillars the FromSoftware team has set forth – 3D level design with scale, a sense of accomplishment in overcoming difficulties, and a great deal of customization.


Your Armored Cores are split into Inner, Frame, and Unit. These are subdivided into arms, legs, head, core, booster parts, generators, and more. A total of a dozen slots await your customization, and each makes a world of difference in terms of gameplay. Thin reverse-hinged legs are great for jumping and speed, but they are too thin to take many hits. Stockier humanoid-like legs are slower and use more thrust to get airborne, but can take more damage. All of it is interplays into an energy utilization and weight balance. You can also paint every single part, or the AC as a whole. Adding decals to your head, core, arms and legs is also possible, but I’m more excited to see what players come up with the custom emblem system. Similar to something we’ve seen in games like Forza or Gran Turismo, you are provided layers and basic shapes to make whatever magic you can imagine. An Image system also lets you upload your own decals, or download those of other players. There is a depth here that we didn’t have time to play with, but it is sure to keep players creating and sharing for some time.

All of this customization isn’t just for show. Your mech has four weapon positions that can be mixed and matched based on weight and power utilization. You can even equip a bulwark shield in one arm to take the brunt of incoming fire, though at the loss of one weapon of course. Whether you choose to snipe, lob tons of ammo at a foe, or even get right in their face, there are options for you to play your way.

If you played previous Armored Core games you might recall that the end of missions also had a debt component. From what I’ve seen thus far, that has been removed. You’ll still have repairs and expenses, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to run negative that I’ve seen. Better still, you can re-run missions if you need to scrape together a few more credits for a different part to overcome a challenge. This came into sharp relief when I faced the first major boss on a mission ironically called “The Wall”.

With a few missions under my belt, I now had restored access to the parts shop. Here I can buy and sell parts, spending my hard earned credits. Various heads, guns, missile launchers, and more await my purchase. Each of these impacted my overall AP consumption, stability, system recovery, weight, boost speed, and more, but it was the chassis that made all the difference. Changing the core changes the gameplay. Faster, slower, more flexibility, and just the overall movement of the mech is based on that core, which is why they are so expensive. I could only afford two cores during my time with the game, but it was already clear that I’d be building out entire mechs once I could grind away at it a bit.

My biggest test, and ultimately the everything I’d learned in the first chapter game culminated in an attack against the Central Belius Liberation Front Fortress dubbed “The Wall”. The Juggernaut, a mobile heavy artillery platform, would be waiting for me at the top of The Wall. After taking down a tetrapod (no idea if this is the one I ignored in an earlier mission, or if I hadn’t whether he’d be here or not, and the FromSoftware team wasn’t telling) and breaching the wall, I found a resupply-point — something critical to handling longer missions.

Thankfully, I also found backup – V.I. Rusty would be joining to help me try to take down the Juggernaut.

If you bounced off of the various Souls games for difficulty, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad, if you can call it that, is that the game is challenging. You will die, and that’s just a fact. That said, when you do, you’ll likely be restarting at one of the various checkpoints throughout the level. Better still you’ll come back with your three repair kits, no matter how many you had when you hit said checkpoint. The fights are tough, yes, but they also never felt unfair. Even the helicopter that stumped a few of my fellow press members for a good while was fairly easily dispatched, if you had enough forethought to close distance and use your blades instead of your guns and missiles. Every boss has a weakness, and finding it is half the fun. The great news is that it doesn’t feel like the game is actively punishing you for playing it — something I can say I felt frequently in other FromSoft games. If “get good” isn’t in your to-do list, Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon is going to push you, but from the hands-on time I had with it, perhaps not to the point where you’ll quit.

After completing nearly the entire first chapter of the game, I came away a bit battered and bruised from some of these fights, but also exhilarated for what lies ahead. I’m looking forward to continuing my battles for and against the various factions, while eventually figuring out the secret of this Coral energy source. Most of all, though, I’m looking forward to getting some much-needed payback on the Juggernaut. We have a score to settle…

Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, as well as PS4 and Xbox One on August 25th, 2023. Look for our continued coverage of this game and many more, right here at!

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

Armored Core VI: Fires of the Rubicon hands-on preview — Prepare for Launch!

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