Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon: Return of a Classic


Armored Core VI Fires of Rubicon, released August 25th, 2023, is FromSoftware’s return to one of their legacy series. Riding high after their smash hit Elden Ring the studio lifted a 11-year hiatus on the Armored Core series. The franchise, created in 1997, is an old-school third-person mech shooter that focuses on frantic combat and in-depth customization. The goal is simple: build your mech and complete various missions, all of which involve you blowing up other robots in creative ways. If there is one thing I can say about the game, it is a constant dopamine rush whether you are one or forty hours in.


Unsurprisingly, like most FromSoftware products, Armored Core VI quickly became a huge success with it reaching and staying in Steam’s top six sellers a week since release. Its sales numbers have a backing as well with 83% of Steam Reviews being positive (more than 19,000 reviews). The larger media sources and public seem to be in a consensus on the game as well with IGN rating it 8/10 and Metacritic giving an 86/100. While the game’s overall reviews have been stellar there is a small subset of reviewers who have been critical of it due to difficulty and length. Like any FromSoftware game, the developers have taken a no-hand-holding approach to gameplay. The tutorial gives you the controls and game mechanics and then sends you on your way to your first mission. This mission ends with the first boss fight of the game against the HC Helicopter, this is where many of these complaints about the difficulty begin.

Many detractors of the game have labeled it as a filter, a game mechanic specifically meant to push away newer players, however many others have been quick to point out that these failures are not to be put on the game, but on the players for refusing to “Git Gud”(A gaming phrase/meme popularized by FromSoftware fans). Another point of contention is the game length relative to its pricing. Armored Core IV retails at $60 with a base campaign supporting 20 to 25 hours of gameplay which seems rather small for many modern-day releases. What many of these complaints fail to mention is the large amount of NG+ (new game plus) content added like brand-new missions and side content. In addition, the main game contains three endings adding to its replayable.

The game also contains a multiplayer mode that allows you to battle other players’ mechs, but I will admit it is more filler content however it is there nonetheless. Regardless these two things should definitely be on the forefront of your mind when deciding if this game is worth the price tag to you.

Currently, I have over 20 hours in the game and am well on my way to completing the final few missions. As a newcomer to the series, I had no expectations other than a decent product as I was a fan of past games made by this developer. And to be completely honest my initial views were fairly negative. Like many others, I found myself stuck on the tutorial boss and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I preserved though and it finally clicked that I needed to use every one of the game mechanics I was taught to win. Shortly after I was met with the familiar FromSoftware feeling of triumph over a boss. I then made my way to chapter one where many of the game’s mechanics were further elaborated on and I was granted customization of my mech. This is where the fun and power fantasy began as I quickly made my dream robot with all the laser rifles and cannons I wanted. I quickly completed every mission in chapter one with my new mech where it happened once again. The chapter one finale boss, Balteus, was just too hard.

After countless attempts with my build and no progress, I was once again ready to give up. But out of my stubbornness to not waste my $60 I looked up a guide. Every guide I found suggested a different weapon, engine, or chassis so I started experimenting. With every attempt and change, I got closer to winning, and after more and more tries I finally felt that feeling of triumph again. However, I also took something away from this victory. The reason for all the customization options wasn’t to build your ideal war robot but to adapt to every situation the game throws at you.  This is what I think many of the negative reviewers got wrong about the game. Armored Core IV is only as hard as you make it; every challenge has a counter, but it is up to the player to figure it out.

I think this is ingenious on FromSoftware’s part as not only does this constantly mix up the gameplay preventing repetitiveness it also puts the agency on the player. If you want you can make objectively the worst build and have the challenge of your life, or you can make the game a decent challenge but still beatable. Regretfully as much as I would want to only point out the positives there are a few things that did damper my experience. Mainly the atrocious lock-on system and stagger bar are to blame. For anyone who has played a FromSoftware game before you will know the biggest enemies in their games is the camera, and that continues in their newest release. With such fast-paced combat, it is paramount that your eyes stay focused on the threat so you can attack and dodge accordingly. However throughout my time playing there were plenty of times when the enemy my camera was locked on would suddenly move, sending my camera all over the place. In the best-case scenario, it caused a minor annoyance worst-case scenario it would lead to my death causing a feeling of being screwed over.

Similarly, the stagger bar, another FromSoftware classic caused an equal amount of grief. The stagger bar is similar to an enemy’s health bar where it goes up every time they are attacked and once it is filled they become temporarily stunned letting massive damage be dealt. This would be fine, but your mech has one too. The sheer amount of attacks thrown out by your enemies makes it all but a guarantee that at least once in a battle you will be stunned, taking all your agency away. Though this may just be another example of me having to “Git Gud”. Lastly, I need to bring up the story. It is as cookie-cutter as possible. You’re a speechless mercenary who illegally entered the planet of Rubicon 3 to pursue work by being rented out by different corporations to blow their competition up. The multiple possible endings do add personal choice, but otherwise, it is just pre and post-mission exposition.

Armored Core IV Fires of Rubicon is a classic game series reimagined by FromSoftware. The game is far different from the studio’s modern works but holds its own. Tight and rewarding dopamine-enriched combat combined with spectacular set pieces makes the game fun throughout its shorter run time.  If you want a modern game that takes more from old-school series than its contemporaries the game is definitely worth its price tag. As long as you understand it is no walk in the park, that is.

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About the Contributor
Carter Killilea, Journalist
Carter Killilea is a writer for PPHS Now in the class of 2025. Carter puts most of his energy into extracurriculars like football, volleyball, and robotics.Otherwise Carter is passionate about nature and the preservation of the ecosystem. Currently, Carter's post highschool interests lie in engineering and science, but regardless of his path, he hopes to succeed. Lastly, Carter has a strong disdain for poetry, speeches, taxes, and government.
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