Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon – Capitalism and Colonialism
One thing we know by now thanks to numerous science fiction stories: When a mysterious substance is discovered in space and promises the alleged technological progress of mankind, then it is actually only a matter of time until that very substance flies around our ears and achieves exactly the opposite. In Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, once again, no one learns from their mistakes, and so even a man-made explosion that causes an entire star system to go up in flames doesn’t prevent some capitalist corporations and mercenaries from turning the planet Rubicon 3 upside down in search of the valuable resource and subjugating the inhabitants living there. One of these mercenaries is me, known by the catchy name C4-621.
In order for me to gain a foothold on Rubicon, Walter, a supervisor who naturally acts completely altruistically, takes me under his wing: He negotiates with the influential large corporations and gets me orders, which I obediently carry out in return and in the process get the competition out of the sky with lead salvos – whoever the competition happens to be, after all, as an independent mercenary I’m an all-purpose weapon who doesn’t act according to morals, but according to payment. At least at first: Later, there are occasional missions where I can choose between different fronts and thus influence the progress of the story. Accordingly, Rubicon’s fate depends on my actions and decisions, which is reflected in one of several different endings.
But before I can grandstand as a planet rescuer – or, depending on who the highest bidder is, as a star destroyer – I first have to build up a reputation, and that also means getting yelled at or called a maggot in a bear-biting military tone before every mission. This is where thewell-done English voice acting comes into its own, whipping around my ears like the harsh coastal wind – quite the opposite of Rubicon’s icy air currents, which I don’t feel not only because of the thick metal armor, but also because the heated battles dispel any sense of cold. And they are, of course, the focus of Armored Core 6.
Mech with a Mission
If, like me, you’re looking to dip your toe into the waters of the long-established Armored Core series for the first time with the mech revival, the gameplay of Fires of Rubicon might surprise you in light of recent From Software titles. Because instead of a (semi-)open world like in Dark Souls or Elden Ring, a strictly mission-based experience awaits you here. From the corresponding menu, appropriately named Garage, you can accept current missions, complete training exercises and unlock new parts there, or try out your current loadout in the test area. Completing missions again, meanwhile, earns you a rating depending on your performance and allows you to check off missed objectives, which in turn also entice you with new equipment thanks to the Loghunt feature.
Classically, the main objective is to take out enemy mechs or other shotgun fodder on behalf of a well-paying faction in order to weaken the rival – and then support them against the previous client in the following mission. Unfortunately, most missions follow the exact same pattern, which is why occasional interspersed missions like stopping a giant mobile mining machine, where I destroy generators one by one while dodging a deadly laser eye, are a welcome change. Completing missions not only lets you advance in the story, but also rewards you with the in-game currency Coam, which you can pony up for new gear at the parts store.
In terms of gameplay, this is where the mech finally comes into play: with the tin can weighing tons under my mercenary butt, I jet, glide and fly through icy wastelands and nested industrial areas that are aligned both vertically and horizontally to let my rocket engine shine. Because the excursions are usually anything but peaceful, I’m naturally equipped with melee and ranged weapons to send the crappy machinery to the scrap heap with rocket tosses, plasma rounds and shotguns. To emerge successfully from the mech battles, you need multitasking skills: I can only stay in the air longer if I give my thrusters a moment to breathe every now and then and let the energy bar regenerate.
I avoid enemy bullet volleys with skillful evasive maneuvers, while I keep an eye on the ammunition supply of my weapons, my life bar and my healing items – and of course I should not lose sight of the enemy. The conflicts are quick (again over) and can become a bit confusing with a high number of enemies, which is why you should quickly internalize that not only all directions, but also the sky itself are available to you. If turrets or smaller corporate scoundrels can be eliminated with only a few shots and without major problems, the brute boss fights require significantly more concentration and stamina.