Armored Core VI: Hands-on Preview

Armored Core VI: Hands-on Preview

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, the surprise announcement from last year’s Game Awards is coming in less than six weeks. In the ten years since the previous instalment in the series, quite a lot has changed in the gaming world. Huge leaps have been made in the technical development of video games, and these developments have allowed FromSoft’s vision for Armored Core to come to life. No longer hampered by technology that could not keep up with their ideas, the team have crafted a game that combines the giant-mech shooting combat that fans of the series love with challenging boss battles that force you to learn and adapt if you wish to survive. I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours hands-on with ACVI in the Sydney offices of Bandai Namco and came away impressed and excited for release day.

After a very slick opening cutscene that sees you dropped to the planet of Rubicon from orbit, you soon find yourself pitted against cannon fodder MTs as you get the feel for how your AC moves throughout the world. With the upgrades in technology, the movement of the AC feels super smooth while also conveying a real sense of speed. At first, I was stopping mid-combat to shoot at my targets, yet after a short amount of time with the game, I was sailing through combat, destroying anything and everything, strafing across the ground with more elegance than an Olympic figure skater. 

I was also very taken with the verticality of the game. At first, as I got my mind around the controls and movements, I tended to be very grounded in my combat, but I soon learnt that taking advantage of the ability to soar into the air and rain down death from above as I zipped over my enemies was immensely satisfying. The verticality of the buildings in the cityscapes can also come in very helpful if you need to take a breather and take stock of your situation, or conduct pop-up guerilla strikes against numerous enemies.

Being able to get up high was immensely valuable when I encountered a wall of artillery cannons during a mission that also had me going toe-to-toe with a mini-boss AC. After getting sick of being shot full of holes while trying to take the AC down, on my next attempt I made sure to fly up and take them all out before returning to the ground to take out my target one-on-one. Do you have to do it? Nope, but it made my chances of surviving the fight that much greater, and since in the mission brief I was informed I would receive a bonus for every enemy destroyed, it was some very easy money added to my pay.

One of the greatest aspects of the Armored Core series is the ability to build your AC the way you want to. ACVI continues the trend, allowing you to equip your mech with different weapons and parts to make your build feel truly your own. For the first few missions, I continued to use the default setup the game starts with, but soon enough I found myself playing with my customisation, making my AC lighter and faster. I couldn’t take as many hits but the answer to that is just making sure to stay mobile. If you want to survive on Rubicon you just have to keep moving and make sure you still have a repair kit to use when you have taken one too many hits.

The team at FromSoft love to create challenging boss fights and this is a trend that continues in ACVI, forcing you to persevere and pay attention to the way the enemy moves and fights. I feel that I was lucky in that it only took me about 25 minutes before I was able to vanquish the giant attack chopper that guards the end of the opening level. I heard from the team the story of one person who was reduced to tears when they finally managed to vanquish the foe after an hour and a half of trying and I can believe it too. I got stuck on the Juggernaut in a later mission and despite getting close a few times, I could never finish the job even though I tried for over an hour straight. The frustration was very real.

The saving grace in these boss battles is, unlike Elden Ring and the Souls games, you don’t lose anything if you die. Not only that, but you can restart from a checkpoint that puts you at the beginning of the battle with your repair kits refilled. Will you still be frustrated and angry? Yeah, probably. But there will be no fighting your way back to the boss battle through who knows how many enemies. You also have the option of altering your AC’s parts before you respawn, changing up your weapons for something that may hit a bit harder, increasing your armour or even reducing it to make your AC more nimble. The only sticking point with this is you can only make use of parts you have already purchased, so if you have not purchased any different parts you are all out of luck.

While it did seem like the majority of the time I got to spend with Armored Core VI was spent dying to boss battles, I really enjoyed my time with the game. The combat is fast and frenetic and yet the entire game ran super smooth as I zoomed all over the battlefields and destroyed (almost) everything I came across. Given what I have seen it is a game I will be picking up when it launches on August 25th, maybe with an extra controller just in case the rage gets a bit overwhelming.

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