2023 has probably been one of the best years in gaming. From incredible games to all-time greats, the sheer output is insane. It’s been such a packed year that if you forgot that the likes of Pikmin 4 and many more released, no one could blame you. Of course, the year isn’t over yet, with several big releases – like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and more – still to come.
However, there’s one game that’s seemingly generated less buzz than anticipated. It’s a game that arguably should have had more hype, given its pedigree and the developer behind it. We’re talking about Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, developed by FromSoftware of Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring fame.
Released on August 25th for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5 and PC, Armored Core 6 is the latest in a series of mech combat titles from the developer. It’s a brand new story, with the player assuming control of Augmented Human C4-621 in the far-flung future. After narrowly surviving a dangerous position, they now work for Walter as a mercenary and travel to Rubicon 3, albeit illegally.
They assume the call sign of Raven and begin taking on missions for various corporations. As one might expect, things are far from peaceful on the planet. Due to a highly volatile substance called Coral, it faced an apocalyptic event known as the Fires of Ibris, resulting in massive destruction that spread through the neighboring system. However, it’s 50 years later, and Coral has seemingly re-emerged. Various competing corporations want a piece of it, while the Rubicon Liberation Front opposes them.
Unlike the company’s other titles, this isn’t a Souls-like or open-world. Some stages are pretty massive, but this is about piloting a giant mech or AC and engaging in fast-paced battles with other ACs (not to mention the odd flying drones, capital ships and gunships).
In addition to fighting on the ground, you can also hover in the air, which your opponents will also take advantage of. It grants a new dimension to combat, as you constantly try to outmaneuver an opponent while wearing them down with energy swords, missiles, laser rifles, needle launchers and much more.
Despite lacking many of the trappings of Dark Souls or Elden Ring, this is still very much a FromSoft title. Enemies can be relentless, mercilessly assaulting you at the same time. The bosses are once again the highlight, ranging from Balteus and his myriad weapons to a sweeper with a faux volcano that shoots out magma and attempts to steamroll you. There’s even a massive foe spanning the length of the environment you’re fighting in and might be the developer’s best boss fight against a gigantic boss yet.
In terms of progression, there aren’t any RPG-like level-ups. You can improve passive elements like melee and ranged combat, but Armored Core 6 is all about AC customization to an almost insane degree. Create a heavily armored battle-tank that rolls around, firing high-powered laser cannon shots. A super-light AC with dual shotguns that gets in close and deals massive damage before running away, sacrificing defense for firepower? Go for it. An AC with quad legs that can hover in the air for extended periods, raining down death? If you have the parts, then build it how you like.
If all of that isn’t enough, the narrative is pretty interesting. Though it lacks much of the personalization that comes from interacting with actual NPC models (spawning a crazy amount of fan art for the more colorful characters), your decisions do matter throughout the story, altering the course of certain events and opening up new avenues. There’s also a New Game Plus, where you’re encouraged to replay the game and access exclusive content and other story branches.
Overall, it’s an excellent game and has received praise from critics and fans. Its PC version scored an 88 on Metacritic from 40 reviews, while the PS5 version scored 86 from 76 reviews. On Steam, 89 percent of its +41,000 user reviews are positive, resulting in a Very Positive rating.
Yet, Armored Core 6 feels like it stirred some discussion for about a week and then quietly settled into the background. It’s a great game, but it’s also a FromSoftware game. It’s from the studio behind one of the most successful and critically acclaimed games of last year in Elden Ring. It’s a game that was on everyone’s minds for months, from the sheer scale of its open world and the incredible secrets within to the change of pace from other FromSoft games and how it handled difficulty in comparison.
It’s not like sales for Armored Core 6 are terrible or anywhere close to such, with a strong debut on top of Gfk’s UK physical charts, though it dropped to fifth place the subsequent week. US results are more difficult to gauge since only a single day of sales was recorded, but it still managed second place behind the inexplicably still-popular Madden series. Sales weren’t expected to reach the same levels as Elden Ring, so overall, it did fine.
The release window probably didn’t help, with Starfield’s early access starting a few days after. Then again, Elden Ring arrived after Horizon Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7. So why the lesser response for Armored Core 6?
It could be a matter of target audiences. Elden Ring had years of hype going for it, spurred by an insane community that hungered for new information at every turn while catering to an audience that proved very successful for FromSoft in recent decades. The Dark Souls series alone shipped 33.4 million copies by March 2022, and that’s not considering sales in Japan.
Even games that were decidedly different in exploration and combat while catering to that same crowd did well – see Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and how it crossed 10 million units sold within three years. Elden Ring becoming such a massive success due to all those fans wasn’t a given, but a surety, to say nothing of attracting new players.
By comparison, the audience for Armored Core is way more niche. The last major release in the series was Verdict Day in 2013, which received an average critical reception. FromSoftware may not be at the level it is now, but it was hot coming off of Dark Souls with plenty of hype towards Dark Souls 2. Even if Fires of Rubicon was announced last year in December with a decent marketing campaign ramped up closer to release, the target audience is different. It’s probably still the most successful game in the series, but not quite a multi-million-selling breakout.
That’s perfectly fine, and yet, also somewhat disappointing. Even in a packed season of releases, Armored Core 6 is a unique experience with stellar production values, a healthy amount of content whether you stick to the story or partake in the Arena and other side activities, and arguably the best mech combat in a video game since Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Regardless of whether it gains more appreciation, it’s well worth playing, even for non-mecha fans.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.