Our review of Armored Core VI, developed by FromSoftware. Available now for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox X/S, Xbox One, and Windows.
WHAT IS IT?
Big robot go smashy smashy good.
IS IT GOOD?
To risk damning with faint praise, it’s about as good as an Armored Core game can get.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Armored Core feels like one of those half-forgotten 90s artifacts, like Bagel Bites, something which you vaguely remember having enjoyed, but couldn’t say where or when.
I remember Armored Core, barely, and I remember enjoying it, though I also remember the vastly superior and equally forgotten PS2 Transformers (2004) being better and more fun. Still, as someone partial to giant smashy robot times, I was surprised and happy to learn that AC (not to be confused with that other 90s series) is still alive and kicking, its sixth entry arriving some twenty-six years after the PlayStation original.
Does it feel like a FromSoftware game? Absolutely. Is that a good thing? … Well, read on.
ACVI puts players in the metallic robo-boots of an unnamed, mute protagonist piloting the latest in giant mech technology. More Metal Gear than Zone of the Enders, your mech (referred to in-universe as an “Armored Core”) is big and lumbering, though jetpacks, and some all-but-necessary boost upgrades, afford some manoeuvrability as you fight foes in the sky and on the ground. Still, those with visions of zipping around screen like Jehuty should prepare themselves that ACVI demands a slower, more methodical approach.
This being a FromSoftware game, harsh difficulty is to be expected. Still, as a game not expressly branded as “Soulsborne“, I was surprised by just how tough this thing can be. Right from its opening tutorial mission, AC resolutely refuses to play nice, inundating you with bigger, scarier foes than you’re prepared for, and challenging you to keep up.
Much like Elden Ring before it, your mileage may vary: on the one hand, I appreciate a good challenge; on the other hand, at no point in ACVI did I ever feel like an awesomely over-powered mech. Instead, I felt small (some of the bosses are MASSIVE), overwhelmed, and pitiful.
DARK, ROBOTIC, SOULS
That said, ACVI has some serious problems, equally attributable to its PS1-era origins and to its Soulsborne pedigree.
For one thing, it has the audacity to impose invisible walls on you, arbitrarily blocking your forward movement, of a type I haven’t seen since mid-2000s JRPGs. It’s a sin that’s particularly egregious during boss fights, with bosses that tend to sit just beyond the invisible wall and outside the reachable melee attack range. There’s nothing more infuriating than lining up a devastating robo-sword attack, only to run into an invisible wall. What the heck, From?
Even worse, ACVI has some outrageous difficulty spikes (absurd even for FromSoftware) that call to mind the sort of thing that used to devour quarters in the local arcade. With no difficulty settings available, committed players are required to play and replay (and replay) sections until they nail down boss patterns to perfection. While this can be fun, it can also be frustrating and, worse, boring, when you’re taking on the same foe for the thousandth time.
On the other hand, FromSoftware does an excellent job of making you feel like you’ve earned your victories. In particular, its stagger system, borrowed from the Soulsborne titles, offers precious moments to inflict extra damage before enemies get back up and unleash their ridiculously overpowered, screen-filling attacks. Dodging one of those attacks, then zipping in for a stagger, is always satisfying.
END OF THE ZONE
Hardcore FromSoftware adherents will have already written off this review with a declaration of noob or “git gud” (a toxic mentality that we, as gamers, should have moved past by now), but this review isn’t really for them.
Rather, it’s for the rest of you, the ones who marvel at the crisp high-def graphics in the gameplay trailer, and love the idea of piloting your own mech, but deserve to be forewarned: Armored Core VI is fun, but it’s also a beast. If you can grin and bear it, and you’re willing to put in the time, there’s some spectacular robot-on-robot combat to be had here.
I, on the other hand, will be booting up my PS4 copy of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner as soon as possible. My thumbs are exhausted.
Final score: 7/10 Leopardons.
Visit the official website for Armored Core VI here.