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Armored Core 6 is the least surprising FromSoft game I've ever seen

But that's not necessarily a bad thing!

A big mech spins in a circle in Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon
Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

LA is an amazing, if tremendously grey place. Everywhere you go, there are grey skyscrapers touching the clouds, so they all look like the concrete's puffing on numerous cigarettes. More often than not, cracked paving gives way to an empty lot or a vacuous car park, often with one guy slumped in a little booth ensuring it stays as grey as possible. So, what better way to commemorate grey than with a look at its president, Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon?

Having seen a 20 minute presentation of the game at this year's Summer Game Fest, I'd say it struck me as an action game through and through, with the most recognisable bits of Souls soldered onto it when it came to, say, tough battles set to erratic rhythms. Honestly, I would say the hands-off demo is exactly what I expected it to be: lots of fast bits of metal slamming into each other in what was, perhaps, the least surprising FromSoftware reveal I've seen. Here's a piecemeal, slightly chaotic breakdown of the whole experience, coming to you from the frazzled mind of a jetlagged man sitting at a wobbly table.

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Having been led into a basement lined with sofas, I sat down with a bunch of other folks to see an early mission with the objective, "Reach the center of Grid086". We were told there were a couple of ways to complete it, although I didn't quite catch what the first method was. All I know is the demoist opted for the less-than-stealthy approach, surveying enemy mechs from a distance before jetboosting into them. They seemed to be making a big deal of perching on an edge and looking out onto an arena filled with bad robots, as if it gave them a better idea of how to approach a situation. Although, for the life of me, I didn't get any sense it was worthwhile. Aside from a first hit on an "unaware" enemy, every fight started with an approach as subtle as an airbus landing at Heathrow.

I should mention the map, which was a huge bustle of large columns glued together by iron and pipes and platforms. They mentioned that each map is "intertwined", presumably in a way that's similar to Souls. Although exploring its nooks and crannies was pretty far from Souls' usual tentative feeling around in the dark, desperate for a glimpse of a shortcut or a crackling bonfire to warm your cockles. As you pilot a hunk of jet-propelled aluminium, it seems like you're able to blast from A to B with relative ease, with a much greater emphasis on either climbing upwards or bridging gaps.

Two mechs fight each other in mid air in Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon
Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Midway through the demo, the map constricted and we saw some mech fights inside claustrophobic tunnels. Here, the devs highlighted the ability to scan the environment with a quick pulse of orange. Any enemies caught in the scan would show up through walls, so you could get a better idea of how to 'approach a situation'. Again, the demo just showed them storming in and blasting them all to smithereens, so I'm unsure how helpful the whole scan thing was in the end.

Ed's hurried phone notes for a hands-off demo of Armored Core 6.
Here's the Armored Core 6 experience distilled into a single, frenzied chunk of notes I made as the presentation rolled. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Still, that's not to discount Armored Core 6's action, which looks ace. It's fast and frenetic, with a seemingly big emphasis on strafing to and fro to avoid a baddie's pew pews and swipes. You know arcade shooting games where the speed of everything is ramped up several notches and you bounce from one explosion to the next until there's suddenly silence? Fights had a subtle hint of Time Crisis in them, for sure.

As you'd expect, there's an 'impact' (or stagger) bar that you'll gradually fill up until an enemy slumps over and you can hit them with a hefty combo. Aside from that, though, it was hard to get a sense of the demoists mech and how its construction fed into fights. It seemed to fire lots of missiles and have a strong energy sword swipe. Death means either a respawn at a checkpoint or the option to re-think your Bionicle, which is where we got a peek at a bit of the menu screen which I'll call the garage, even if I know for a fact it's not called the garage.

Going off memory, it looked like you could customise four main bits of your mech, each with its own three or so subsections: heads, shoulders, knees, steel toes - that sort of thing. To defeat one of the minibosses, our man opted to swap out his cumbersome legs for some faster legs which meant he could outstrafe the deadly robot and beat him to a pulp.

Two mechs stand looking at a much larger tank mech in Armored Core 6: Fires Of Rubicon
Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Right at the end of the mission - I'm unsure whether this is the case for all missions - a climactic boss battle ensued with what can only be described as a giant roomba with a smelter for a body and those rotatey bits of combine harvesters for arms. They cut the demo off mid-battle, but all in all it shaped up to be quite the war of attrition, all dips and dives out of the roomba's harvester hands. Again, you could see the Souls influence.

To sum up my brief experience with Armored Core 6, I would say it didn't surprise me in the slightest. It looked as I thought it might look, which was a no-nonsense blast through grey, where the pleasure lies in tweaking your droids to complete missions, not in being lost in some dark fantasy lake at the bottom of an abyss. If you're expecting the game to be Souls with mechs, it's not that. The game borrows some Souls elements, but from what I gather it's focused more on optimising action over adventure.

NotE3 and Summer Game Fest 2023 is over for another year. You can find out all the latest news by visiting our E3 2023 hub, or you can catch up with our round-up posts of everything that was announced at Summer Game Fest, the Xbox Games Showcase, the PC Gaming Show, Day Of The Devs, and our top highlights from the Wholesome Direct.

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