In this Armored Core 6 Review, we’ll be taking a look at the fresh reboot to the Armored Core series that is developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco. Should you play Armored Core 6? Is it a Soulslike game? What’s new in Armored Core 6? We’ll discuss all of these and cover more!
Armored Core 6 Review
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Shooter
- Developed by: FromSoftware Inc.
- Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., FromSoftware Inc.
- Release Date: August 25, 2023
- Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Series X|S
- Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
- Price at the time of Review: USD 59.99 – 69.99
STORY & SETTING
Armored Core 6 is set in the future where we find humanity has built a civilization on a remote planet called Rubicon 3. It is on the planet that humankind discovered a sublime substance known as Coral that was heavily used as a source of energy and the advancement of technological research. This ignited a catastrophic event known as the Fires of Ibis, during which a sea of Coral was set ablaze and the planet’s geography was irrevocably burned, bathing its surface in lethal contamination.
Fifty years later, conflict once again arises as signs of Coral are detected on Rubicon 3, where corporations, mercs, and independent groups try to take the substance into their own hands. No matter what the purpose is for their desire for Coral, one thing that is understood by all parties is that Coral is valuable and that finding it is worth killing over.
Jumping to the present timeline, you take control of an independent mercenary, identified as “C4-621”, employed by the mysterious Handler Walter. And as a faithful “hound” you focus on completing jobs for different corporations and embark on a peculiar journey that ties into the core of it all, Coral.
Whether you’re a veteran of the series or completely new, you may find the setting itself really interesting, or get curious about the many events and factions. The muted tone feels appropriate for the series and it emphasizes the amount of destruction that continuously grows as you progress. And as a whole, these factors immediately reeled me in and left me wanting to know what happens next.
You should not expect a narrative focused experience out of this game, but Fromsoftware have done a good job with world-building and setting, giving the story an excellent background to develop and follow its unexpected twists and turns. This is mostly achieved by sustaining good pacing with gradual progression, something that is often not done well in action games, so it’s quite commendable.
AC6 – AC Customization
AC Customization is for me one of the most appealing parts of an Armored Core game, and I was not disappointed. The game encourages build customization to overcome obstacles and challenges, and it’s done in FromSoftware’s style of “learn and adapt” gaming that has become so addictive to me over the years. Assemble your AC > Start the Mission > Observe the situation > If you fail, reassess your build > Win and start the next mission.
The customization options in AC6 are fantastic, and aren’t merely cosmetic. If you are someone who hasn’t played an Armored Core game or has little experience with FromSoftware titles, it will take some time for you to wrap your head around the mechanics but it is such a rewarding experience to have your mech come together as you want it.
These customization and adaptability options give you the opportunity to approach different missions with different playstyles. Whenever I do a mission, my default is often to opt for a lightweight AC capable of quick maneuvers and mid to close-range combat. However, if I hit a wall, I’d find myself in a bubble where I’d have to think of a new strategy to win by assembling a new mech, which really appealed to the build-maker and tinkerer in me.
There is a considerable amount of Frame parts and weapon units you can use to construct your AC, and each one has a major component in making your gameplay experience feel unique. From assembling a nimble AC, a hovering mech that can rain fire and brimstone, and even a tank that is equipped with explosive units, the number of builds seems endless and I am sure many players will be spending most of their time assembling an AC and sharing it to help the community.
And if you’re wondering, yes, you can change the visuals and cosmetics of your mech. You can add an emblem, use a pattern, and even customize the colors for each part of the unit. Additionally, once you’re settled with your build and its look, you can save it in the AC Data where you have access to 4 “accounts” with 40 slots, rounding up to a total of 160 AC builds you can create.
AC6 – AC Combat Mechanics
There has been an ongoing discussion about whether AC6 is a soul-like, or Souls is AC-like. I did notice some fans worried that FromSoftware may change a lot of the core elements of the game to attract the souls audience, but I am happy to report they have not. The game maintains its original structure from the Armored Core series with some innovations from the studio’s later title. Either way you can expect to see recurring mechanics such as limited healing, supply stations for checkpoints, and over-the-top boss battles.
Combat in AC6 is fair and punishing at the same time, I say this because unlike in older Armored Core games when you failed a mission, it would cost you to repair your mech and resupply. In AC6, although there are still expenses that affect your total income after completing a mission, you are free to quit, retry missions, or restart at checkpoints as much as you like without having the need to spend your COAM, and even switching up your AC build. As far as the “punishing” aspect, as expected from FromSoft, the boss battles are breathtaking, rewarding yet challenging even to the most skilled player.
Another thing I want to point out, and I’ve mentioned this in our last video is that the controls and overall combat are just great, and this is what FromSoftware continues to deliver consistently. This is something important for fast-paced games, especially for AC6, and I’m really glad that the features of how I imagined controlling a mech translated well to the controls. It just looks so awesome when you activate an assault boost and fly around, evading and firing weapons.
When it comes to weapons, you’ll have an arsenal of offensive and defensive Units that can be equipped on both hands and shoulders. From rifles, machine guns, shotguns, pistols, bazookas, melee weapons, and shields, you’ll surely have a great time tinkering and mixing different units that complement your build. Additionally, players will also gain access to OS Tuning where you spend OST Chips to improve the AC’s general stats and unlock extra skills.
AC6 – Enemies and Exploration
Beyond the different builds and fun tinkering, AC6 features a good mix of Enemy classes and boss encounters, each having its own unique moves, status effects, and unexpected events that keep you on the edge of your seat. As I progressed through the story, the difficulty of enemy encounters and missions kept intensifying and it was a satisfying experience, especially when I found myself overcoming formidable battles.
When it comes to exploration, the game is not open-world. It could have been developed that way, but according to Masaru Yamamura, the maps you explore during missions that are designed in a huge 3-dimensional space feel right for an Armored Core game, giving players different ways to maneuver around the area. There’s also a bit of variety here with the map levels. Sometimes you’ll find yourself out in the field where you can move and fly freely, while there are some areas where you are pitted within confined spaces that have less vertical movement.
I’m glad that the areas are designed differently in accordance with the Missions since it challenges you to reassess your builds not just in combat, but also in your surroundings. There’s more to just making it from point A to point B and fighting different mechs, you’ll also discover loot bins containing parts and units that are not available in the shop, as well as some lore items, and some special encounters.
AC6 – Combat Difficulty
AC6 in my opinion is not an easy game and I stand by what I said in our previous video that “the skill ceiling for this game is much higher than Souls games” and “mastering will take a longer time to do for an average player”. There definitely is a feeling of satisfaction and excitement when you overcome a difficult encounter, but at the same time, for some, it can actually feel taxing and you may think that the goals are just chores you need to complete.
If I’m being honest with you, some of the bosses in the later chapters took me more than 3 tries to defeat. It felt tiring, and sometimes, it got me tilted. But the success of FromSoftware’s difficulty is that I just didn’t want to give up, I had to rethink my strategy and create a build that worked for me. In the end, it felt all the more rewarding to overcome that challenge.
All in all, AC customization and understanding the mechanics of the game are the keys to winning. Armored Core 6 is not just a title where you shoot and blow up mechs, it’s much more than that, and its charm lies within learning and adapting your mech to the different situations of the game.
Armored Core 6 Review: Design, Audio, and Performance
AC6 Review – Design
Everyone knows we are enthusiasts of soulsborne and fans of FromSoftware, and if there’s one thing we know, gameplay is king for this developer. That is not to say they neglect design elements, as they have a very talented team that expertly weaves different aspects.
I really enjoy the artistic direction of FromSoftware in general, and it’s really good in AC 6: The visuals of mech action, the details of combat encounters and the presentation of really epic Boss battles matches an excellent delivery of combat.
That said, and despite us being huge fans of the developer, I do not want to be biased and turn a blind eye to aspects that could be improved. The levels of the world would probably be much enhanced by better visual fidelity, as there are some sections where it was really noticeable to me to be flying over structures that had none or poor textures or very limited visibility in general.
Since I assume a lot of people may still be hung up on our previous video, where I made a 20 second comment about how I really wish FromSoftware would continue to develop their graphics to match their industry-setting standards for combat and gameplay, I’ll be very clear:
AC6 is an excellent game, the combat is fantastic, most people will play it exclusively for that reason, and it’s smart of the developer to make sure this is 100% delivered on. But I also believe FromSoftware is a successful and capable team, and as a fan I always want to push them to improve – they have conquered the combat and gameplay frontiers, graphical fidelity enhancements are a technical hurdle they can easily overcome as well. There are many games adapting cutting-edge gameplay with high visual fidelity, notably Devil May Cry 5 and Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls. I am completely confident that the Fromsoftware team has the talent and budget to achieve similar results, and so I will continue to encourage it.
I truly appreciate the visual art style of the mechs, the different AC parts, and even the boss designs that looked phenomenal and really takes you right to that mech battle feeling you’re here for, but there was definitely room or an avenue for improvement that would make me drool over not just how bad-ass my mech looks, but also appreciating the beauty of the surroundings and visual effects.
AC6 Review – Audio
Diving into the audio department, the music and voice acting were a delight. The BGM reminded me of Cyberpunk 2077 which had influences of futuristic punk rock, synth, and a touch of retro electro. The heart-pumping and intensifying tone was perfect for AC6 as I found myself bopping to the music and adrenaline immediately started to rush when it was time to fight against formidable bosses. As far as audio effects, it was well-balanced, you could hear audio cues even with the powerful music, each weapon sounded appropriate for its type, and the sound effects of mechs boosting, flying, and shooting left me satisfied.
When it comes to voice acting, the performance of the actors was excellent. You can’t really see the body language of a character but instead, you get to hear their interactions through their comms. And this, in my opinion, is a difficult job to express emotion and project the character through voice work. Each dialogue and character was fully realized, there was an element of nostalgia, and the delivery felt natural.
AC6 Review – Performance
Taking a look at the performance of the game, there weren’t any issues on the PC version I played. I was running on a 3060 GPU and I had consistent FPS that was always above 60 frames whenever I was doing missions. Loading times were fair, there were little to no texture pop-ins, and overall movement was smooth, and combat inputs translated well.
Armored Core 6 Review: Replayability and Pricepoint
AC6 – Replayability & Online
Traditionally, Armored Core is a series that has a mission-based structure where you hop into contained maps, and it’s still the same case in AC6. It is linear when it comes to story progression but you have some sort of freedom to choose which mission to start and you get to pick “Decision” type assignments, missions that conflict with your potential clients, each having different goals and becoming unavailable on your current playthrough. In order to complete and unlock different endings, you’ll need to play through the game multiple times and choose the other set of decisions along the way.
New Game Plus
Armored Core 6 also has New Game Plus cycles where it carries over your Arena Rank and acquired equipment which saves the player the trouble of having to do everything at zero. The difficulty remains the same on subsequent playthroughs but extra features unlock in the Arena and alternate paths become available in Missions.
Apart from the Missions, there is also the Arena. It is a simulation where you fight against an AI-controlled mercenary AC registered on Rubicon, each one having its own unique combat style and difficulty. This is a definite plus to replayability if you haven’t paid attention to it in your first playthrough because you can unlock the opponent AC’s preset build that you can try out and you get rewarded for it as you climb the ranks.
If you’re wondering if there is co-op, unfortunately, there isn’t. AC6 won’t have the option to “call a friend” or “summon” a random player to aid you in difficult missions. You’re gonna have to go at it on your own. However, if you want to be competitive, there is a PvP mode called the Nest. The Nest is a game mode where you can fight against players online in 3v3 or 1v1 custom matches, and it is the perfect place for players to show off their AC builds and skills. The PvP crowd for these games has typically been incredibly tight-knit, so you will probably see activity for a very long time.
This is something you’d expect from FromSoftware, and I’m quite happy that there is a variety in both single-player and PVP modes that add a layer of excitement, encouragement to experiment with new builds, and give reasons for the player to go for another playthrough to unlock other routes, secrets, and endings.
AC6 – Pricepoint
In our previous video, we mentioned that we estimated a first playthrough would take about 50-60 hours, but this will highly depend on the skill level of the player. In the first chapter, you’ll experience missions that would take a minute or two to complete, but as you progress, the missions exponentially become longer, and enemy plus boss encounters become harder. I expect you could theoretically finish a campaign run in about 20 hours, but I did spend over 50 hours to get there – be it because of boss challenges or maybe I spent a lot of time tinkering with builds cause it was just so much fun.
Armored Core 6 on Steam has a pricepoint of 59.99 for its Standard Edition while the Deluxe Edition is 69.99. Considering the amount of content you’re getting, the uniqueness and quality of the experience, and the solid foundation for replayability, it’s a game worth spending on, especially for fans of the series and for those who are looking for a good mech game.
Armored Core 6 is without a doubt a great entry to the series and it shows that FromSoftware has maintained the charm and structure of Armored Core while perfecting the combat and smartly weaving new ideas. Although the visual fidelity is not as striking as I wish it would be, the overall delivery of amazing gameplay and an excellent soundtrack more than makeup for it.
Armored Core VI is an intense, challenging and rewarding experience that surpasses any other mech style game I have played. Intricate mech customization and exquisite combat encounters makes it a definite must-have if you are a fan of the Armored Core series or FromSoftware.