Not a single Armored Core game has sold more than one million copies, but that was before FromSoftware became the poster boy for hardcore enthusiasts. Nowadays, the Japanese heavyweight can sell 20 million units of Elden Ring with its eyes closed, and its latest game Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is going to benefit from that. Barring some sort of unmitigated disaster, the sixth mainline entry will be the best-selling Armored Core game of all time based purely on the fact the FromSoftware logo is printed on the box art.
That signals instant success for Hidetaka Miyazaki and co, but long-time fans have reason to be bullish too: the mech-based action experience is shaping up nicely ahead of its 25th August 2023 release date on PS5, PS4. We will not be making any illusions to having experience with the series — Demon's Souls on PS3 was this editor's first exposure to FromSoftware — but a hands off demo at Summer Game Fest Play Days has us yearning to get behind the controls of the hulking mechs in Fires of Rubicon as soon as possible.
In the basement of an unassuming Los Angeles building, lead FromSoftware developers presented the title's ideas and pillars before jumping into a live demo. An industrial factory provides the backdrop for the action, with lots of verticality that seems to hint at multiple ways of getting around a level. Your mech can fly as well as shoot and fight, and how much time you spend in the air is dictated by a Boost bar. While it refills very quickly after landing, you'll need to have half an eye on the meter to make sure you don't fall to your death in the middle of a flight. Opening up exploration and the possibility of secrets far off the ground, you can even get a jump on the Boost meter with catapults that'll launch you into the air.
We cannot speak to how flight feels with a PS5 pad in your hands, but the live presentation certainly suggested controls were responsive, allowing for quick turning and the chance to react to attacks mid-air.
Those blows can come from guns or your robotic fists, with combat allowing for both in the midst of battle. A suite of abilities expands your mech's potential, then a shield and the possibility to trigger counter attacks round out your most basic options. Prior to engagements, you can send out a scan that highlights enemies in the environment, which proves useful as an awareness mechanic comes into play. When you do choose to clash with other mechs, you can focus on whittling down their health just as much as filling the Impact gauge, which staggers the enemy once full. This leaves them wide open for a combo, and makes accessing weak points from the air much easier.
It's difficult to judge how hard Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be without actually playing it, but we get the sense it won't be easy. Probably not as tough as a Dark Souls, but you'll still need to smartly plan your actions. The game has traditional checkpoints instead of Bonfires or Sites of Grace, and you can edit your mech build and adjust stats in between death and respawn. Repair Kits will replenish your health, but they're limited and you can only get them back again at Supply Points.
Due to the nature of a hands off demo, we're weary of committing to saying Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon will be on the same level as FromSoftware's output for the past 14 years. However, the signs are positive. The freeing nature of the game's flight capabilities tied with what looks like fun combat gives the experience fantastic foundations to work from. The proof will be in the pudding, but as well as becoming the franchise's best-selling instalment to date, Fires of Rubicon could warrant those purchases on its quality alone. It's difficult to envision any situation where Armored Core 6 isn't considered a resounding success.
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Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon releases for PS5, PS4 on 25th August 2023. Are you looking forward to getting in the cockpit of a mech and blasting some enemies? Let us know in the comments below.