Mech action games allow us to live the ultimate anime or Pacific Rim-inspired dream. They put us in colossal humanoid machines and tell us to battle it out with others because they’re the enemy and that’s all that matters. These games allow daydreams to almost meet with reality, and the moment-to-moment gameplay provides us with memories of encounters we had that can last a lifetime.
It’s strange then, that for the past decade, nothing has come close to hitting the highs of the Armored Core or Zone of the Enders series in terms of sheer spectacle and awe. However, FromSoftware’s Armored Core 6 changes all of that. Giving anyone the ability to jump into a mech of their own design and go on a gripping journey that sees them tussle with machines as imposing as towers and gods.
- Developer: FromSoftware
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S & PC
- Release Date: August 25, 2023
- Multiplayer: Yes (up to six players in 1v1 or 3v3 matches)
- Price: $59.99
It Still Works
Armored Core 6 retains everything that made the series unique but modernizes it simultaneously to give players everything they want and more from a modern mech action game. For example, deep mech customization is still front and center and an important part of every mission. But the game’s design has been streamlined to make it more akin to a garage in racing games, a place players visit more often than actual combat missions.
The game is unlike anything FromSoftware fans will likely expect. This isn’t a mech version of Elden Ring, it’s an Armored Core game through and through. Players blast into missions, destroy machines of war on a planet desolated by greed, and butt heads with the biggest metal monstrosities ever imagined.
Sometimes, a mission or boss hits back much harder, and players will be forced to rethink their approach. This usually means changing their Armored Core, adding more powerful weapons, making it more agile or faster on the ground, and going back in to try their hand at beating whatever beat them last.
Once I realized this is how you’re meant to play Armored Core 6, I fell in love with it. I struggle with games where certain items can be upgraded or a character can be leveled up so much that any encounter is rendered simple. I like a challenge you need to solve like a puzzle, and this game scratches that itch.
No matter the boss or mission, I always knew when my Armored Core wasn’t good enough. I could feel the strain on the machine as I battled through enemies. I knew when I’d been beaten, and I tweaked my build accordingly.
The only frustration I have with this system, which is basically the heart of Armored Core 6’s gameplay, is that you’re not in a good spot with customization until you’ve beaten a few missions and own a vast arsenal of weapons and parts. It’s possible to customize your Armored Core every time a boss beats you without restarting a level, but if there’s a weapon or part you don’t own, you need to quit to the menu, buy it, and run back through the mission you just quit before you can attempt the boss again.
The best comparison I can draw to FromSoftware’s more famous work, such as Elden Ring, is that death is part of the cycle. If you fail, it’s only to learn how to be better. Armored Core 6 isn’t as unforgiving as the Dark Souls series or any other soulslike, but players still need to learn how to play it, because it’s not going to tell them how to be better.
If You Can Dream it, You Can Build it
Armored Core customization is fantastic in this game. Initially, all I wanted was to jump into missions and fly around blowing things up. But after realizing just how important the system is, I took my time and learned to love it.
Your Armored Core starts out as a fairly basic behemoth of war but can become anything you want. Every part has variants from light to heavy, with a few unique ones such as tank treads and sets of four legs that transform an Armored Core into a Tetrapod. Of course, all of these can have decals added to them and be painted any color under the rainbow, making for some amazing community creations.
Every part has a purpose, whether it’s the long-range rifle that decimates targets from a distance to the grenade launchers that make short work of anything they’re aimed at. Tank trends allow for incredible mobility on the ground, but lighter ones make for a speedier machines, and others still allow for mid-air hovering to avoid being decimated by well-aimed shots.
After a few missions, the Arena unlocks, giving you a plethora of named Armored Cores with their own builds to fight it out with. These were paramount to my learning process with Armored Core 6 and helped me get to grips with how I should approach every mission or boss. For example, I quickly picked up that certain weapons get through shields quickly, and without them, I’d be a sitting duck.
These battles also award a currency that can be used to permanently upgrade your Armored Core. This, I felt, was incredibly important because nothing else comes close to the RPG sense of progression you should have in any campaign, and it gave me something to hold onto while playing.
However, no amount of customization and upgrading helps the game’s aiming system. There’s a lock-on that works well for keeping enemies in view, following them, but weapon accuracy isn’t as great while using it. You can opt to aim yourself, but it’s impossible to follow some bosses around without using lock-on.
I would have appreciated a more accurate lock-on system because the bosses themselves are already tough enough, even when it works well. With that said, I did struggle my way through every fight eventually, so it can’t be that bad.
Like Watching a Movie
The story of Armored Core 6 is interesting enough, but won’t win any awards. It’s told almost entirely through game’s main hub, a hanger, where little more than audio logs and images add flavor to each mission and the world as a whole.
I didn’t mind this too much because the gameplay does a better job of showing an epic fight scene between two giant hubs of moving metal than any cutscene would have. Just seeing bosses drop onto the map and start to fight my Armored Core was enough to get me excited.
The cutscenes that are in the game do a good job of adding to the story and give those looking for over the top anime-style encounters a little something to chew on. The bulk of the action really is player-driven, though.
Armored Core Never Gets Old
New features are unlocked fairly regularly in Armored Core 6. From the Arena and a steady supply of new parts, through training missions and multiplayer, the game grows as you progress through the story, and that’s all without New Game +.
Players have the option to blast through the game again in New Game + with all their unlocked gear. They’ll battle tougher missions and bosses and can make different choices to see everything the game has to offer. It’s not a lot, but it does allow everyone to keep feeding their need for more Armored Core action while seeing something fresh.
The constant need to change up builds and the onslaught of new Arena fights only means that every faucet of the game becomes more engaging the longer you play. However, it’s still not as meaty as what other games can offer in post-game content, but I’d say it’s certainly enough, given the quality of Armored Core 6.
I had so much fun with this game and didn’t want to put it down. It’s certainly not for everyone, but those who enjoy the deep customization of Armored Cores after analyzing a mission or boss will find a new addiction here. The game does a handful of things really well and FromSoftware doubled down on them. It’s not trying to appease a wider market, it’s trying to be the best Armored Core game to date, and I think it’s more than achieved that goal.
Armored Core 6 is shameless in its vow to appeal to a specific set of fans and no one else. It knows what it wants to be and does it incredibly well, which is why it won’t appeal to everyone. As a mech action game, this sets a new bar for everything that follows to hit or surpass. You can play through for 15 hours of the story and be done, or invest hundreds in the near-endless amount of content on offer if you’re up to the challenge.
While the game takes some getting used to, everything has been implemented in a way that’s easy to pick up for those willing to put in the time. I can see this being something I pour more hours into throughout the rest of the year as I return to it after a break with another game.
It feels like a game built around the idea of hitting a boss, leaving it for a week, and coming back to destroy that boss in the very next attempt. Time away from Armored Core 6 is just as good as time spent with it. You never stop thinking about it or its universe, and it’s rare for something so vast in scope and scale to be so immersive too.
8 / 10
|+ Fantastic customization mechanics|
|+ Great range of activities that are always interesting|
|+ Near endless playability|
|– Aiming mechanics could be better|
|– A checkpointing system for bosses would take some of the sting away from chancing builds between runs|
|– Feels as if it’s one or two tutorials away from being completely approachable|
Gamepur team received a PlayStation 5 code for the purpose of this review.