Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon preview

“Now they’re asking your name.” Now they’re asking you by name. The phrase blares over the cockpit intercom during a routine briefing as Walter, our “Chairman” and telematics support agent, tells us how word of mouth has made us ever more popular with companies that contract such services, and it’s hard not to feel a pang of pride. Even arrogance. If video games are essentially an eternal return to the hero’s journey, few implement it as explicitly as Armored Core VI, a game that literally starts from the ground up and embodies an unlicensed pilot forced to dig through the smoking remains of other mercenaries until he finds a license that allows us to take orders. Little by little we managed to make a name for ourselves and the best part is that the reputation system isn’t limited to seeing a few bars fill up. It’s there, on the ground, in the anxious conversations we overheard on the radio, and in the enraged enemy colonel wondering how one man managed to penetrate their defenses. This is the first thing that struck me, and the first unexpected clue about Armored Core VI: how much it reminds me of Ace Combat.

Specifically, I mean Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, in my heart and forever the ultimate power fantasy. Armored Core VI has a lot in common with Namco’s mad plane saga, and the most obvious ones probably have to do with the way it trades realism for spectacle, or the pomp with which it treats briefings before each idea, but personally I prefer the way it makes you feel special. Both games achieve this through a device as elegant as using the intercom, whether to chat with our squadmates or to listen to the curses of increasingly desperate enemies, and it’s hugely effective. It’s also something that translates into the plot itself, because Armored Core VI tells a story, yes, but it feels just as casual as his teammates’: it’s there for anyone who wants to delve into it, it’s fun, and of course it’s more linear and a lot less cryptic than Souls or Bloodborne, but that’s not the point. Importantly, Armored Core VI is about becoming famous.

It’s something that, as we’ve said, affects the narrative and its own structure, a rosary of independent missions that even goes so far as to reuse maps that are extremely open and vertical by nature, as we’ll see in a moment, to propose different raids and interchangeable objectives. Rather than the fiendishly connected large diorama we’ve grown accustomed to from recent studio productions, Armored Core VI is a freelancer’s to-do list and primarily linear adventure that happily blends shorter, more trivial tasks with large sequences that tinker with core mechanics, advance the plot, and often end up with an important fight. As for these confrontations, suffice it to say that the first boss took me around ten tries and almost an hour of the little time available for the test session. And of course I enjoyed every second of it. Because Armored Core VI isn’t Souls at all, but at the same time it’s in everything that really matters.

It’s not just because of their way of understanding the challenge – now even in the midst of some confrontations there are checkpoints that force you to go back on the attack and regain life and estus (we get it) – but also because they’re inflexible rather than unfair. There are always tools to advance and the most obvious is a customization system that will soon become the absolute protagonist of the game even before the gameplay itself begins: apart from the simple and numerous aesthetic details, tinkering with different chassis, power generators, aiming modules or the proverbial weapon or shield generators to be equipped in each of the four available slots (both hands and both shoulders) leads to radical differences not only in mobility or offensive capacity but also in the way of playing ourselves, and when we encounter seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the The answer is usually here; in building a real tank that can take excessive firepower, or a jumper that takes combat to the vertical plane, or a spirit so fast and agile it can overload enemy shields before shells reach it. Of course, with each completed mission we will unlock new pieces of equipment that we can buy in the store and our budget for it will increase. However, there is one important detail: if we resell the parts that we don’t like, we get 100% of their price back. I can think of some more elegant ways to encourage experimentation.

An experiment that, to be successful, requires real understanding and appropriation of the principles of a combat system that quickly makes the game an unexpected reference in the studio’s curriculum: Armored Core VI isn’t Souls, but it looks a lot like Sekiro. First the obvious and its main mechanics: the presence of an overload bar in the enemy UI and in our own HUD, which works practically identically to the stance bar. Again, it’s all about stacking attacks as quickly as possible to reach a burst state, which this time doesn’t result in an actual execution, but rather a window of unprotection where all connected attacks deal massive damage. Of course, this all works two ways, and understanding that is key not only to surviving but also being able to scratch seemingly invincible enemies.

That’s obvious, as I said, but subtleties are soon added and even more important points of contact with From’s masterpiece, such as the verticality of a fight that is no longer limited to dodging in a single plane. It is the dominance of the jump in the confrontations and the hook in the navigation that we saw in Sekiro, multiplied by the dice in the control of a device that can hover around the enemies or propel itself at full speed to impale a helicopter with a power sword, and beyond the obvious spectacle factor we are talking about a much more complex one-on-one dance and a much greater frequency of those who overwhelmingly disadvantage us numerically. It sounds hectic because it is, but there is a third anchor point that I personally didn’t expect at all: the importance of stealth, either looking for alternative routes that allow us to exploit the breadth of scenarios to avoid one of these disadvantaged encounters, or even better, stand behind him and roll a few heads from the shadows, which underscores the mechanics themselves, which allow us to fill the aforementioned overload bar with a single hit if we perform it and at the same time keep the element of surprise.

But nobody can be fooled. Despite its obvious and I would say successful intention to come full circle by continuing a saga unrelated to its recent hits while drinking from them, despite its similarities to a game as intellectual and intellectual as Sekiro, and despite the myriad of footnotes that add depth to its deceptively simple control system (four limbs, four triggers), Armored Core VI is primarily an arcade game. A game with frenetic action and dizzying scrolling, and a fast-paced shooter where the objectives very often number in the dozens, and for this reason I have to highlight a third unexpected influence: while playing Armored Core VI, I remembered a lot, a lot, about Vanquish. Maybe not always, because another of the game’s assets is its variety of registers and its ability to hit the brakes in an emergency, without reducing the intensity by an iota, but in its most festive episodes and in those confrontations with cannon fodder that don’t aim to get us into trouble but to structure the missions themselves. First of all with the aforementioned number of targets and the semi-automatic aiming that allows us to pull the trigger without sacrificing mobility, but above all because Armored Core VI is a game played while running.

Always on top, always on boost, activates by default a self-propelled movement mode that only consumes energy when hovering or charging from the front, therefore inviting us to play Platinum and fly from one position to another like a whirlwind of lead. And it works, and it’s exciting, and it’s immensely satisfying… until we take our foot off the gas, because it’s time to talk about what I think is the only blur of those first few hours of the game: its frequent flirting with the platforms, and its head-on collision with the same energy system that impedes movement and interrupts mid-jumps with desperate persistence. Of course it also depends on the build we have configured and like practically everything in the game the power reserve can be increased, but in general it’s episodes that contribute little and make some missions, like mounting a colossal wanderer in the desert, an unnecessarily frustrating ordeal.

I suppose that’s the price to pay for an experience that would rather be malleable than polished, and which therefore prefers to suggest thousands of possible permutations for our metallic device, even though most of them end up not being viable. And I also suspect that this ultimately forms the connection to Dark Souls, to the Elden Ring and to Miyazaki’s most famous works. With games in which you also have to bang your head against the wall and which, in the face of your own desperation, didn’t just answer with “Git Gud”, as rumors say; They replied: “Try things out”. prove. Experiment. He returns with stronger armor or without it at all. Exit the shield. Find a longer range weapon. Try the parade. That, and not the bonfires, the souls, and the rolling stones, is the true essence of From Software: that of an inflexible teacher who doesn’t give gifts but respects the student who knows how to find a way. That’s what we’ve all fallen in love with, and that’s why we’re now looking for its footsteps in the sixth installment of a saga that’s been niche so far. Because they come from software. Because now we are asking for them by name.

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