Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Sorrel’s Side Quests: FromSoftware breaks out of the ‘Souls’ cage with ‘Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon’

It’s rare for a game studio to become nearly synonymous with a single franchise, but that’s exactly what’s happened to FromSoftware, Inc. over the last 14 years. In the years since the 2009 acclaimed cult classic “Demon’s Souls,” FromSoftware has almost exclusively released “Soulsborne” games. In 2023, if you know FromSoftware by name, you know it for “Dark Souls,” “Bloodborne,” “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” and “Elden Ring” games that are all part of an unofficial super-franchise helmed by director Hidetaka Miyazaki.

But with the release of 2023’s mech-piloting action game “Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon,” FromSoftware has proven that it can handle more than dodge rolls and perfect parries. 

“Armored Core VI” is a return to one of FromSoftware’s most iconic pre-“Souls” franchises. The “Armored Core” series originated way back on the original PlayStation, and while it’s been dormant for some time, “Armored Core VI” serves as a reminder that there’s no expiration date on a truly great idea. The “Armored Core” series generally focuses on freelance guns for hire piloting massive personally customized mechs on behalf of various evil corporate taskmasters. Every game tweaks the formula a bit, but those are the basic ingredients.

“Armored Core VI” takes those ingredients and uses them to cook up one of the best AAA releases of the year. I won’t claim to be an expert on “Armored Core,” having only played a couple of the earlier titles, but this latest entry feels like the best elements of “Armored Core” taken to their logical extremes. Customization is fully at the forefront of the experience here. Over the course of my first playthrough, I was constantly returning to the garage to swap out weapons and other components to build the best giant robot for the job. Every single weapon plays radically differently, and after every death you’re allowed to alter your build using parts you’ve already purchased, leading to some playful on-the-fly dramatic shifts. Many missions genuinely require a long, thoughtful look at your build (at least until you find one wildly overpowered kit, which is its own kind of fun).

The writing here is also unexpectedly phenomenal. In traditional “Armored Core” fashion, there are no human faces present anywhere in “Armored Core VI.” If you run into a person, you’d better believe they’re hiding in a mech of their own. This means the early game is very light on person-to-person character drama. Instead, you’re dealing with my personal favorite part of any involved sci-fi/fantasy story: political turmoil. Coming to grips with the corporate war occurring on Rubicon between the Arquebus and Balam groups is deeply entertaining if you, like me, are the kind of sicko who loves to hear about fictional petty disputes between fictional organizations. You’ll regularly be hired by one company to sabotage their rival’s projects right before snagging a better offer from the rival to assassinate an important figure at the original company. Money speaks where loyalty doesn’t, and it gives the player the chance to see the main conflict from every conceivable angle.

Eventually, of course, all that professional posturing gives way to real human suffering, and the player is faced with a handful of sincerely compelling ethical dilemmas. The story here is presented in such a simultaneously dense and emotionally distant manner that I think will make it difficult for some players to process in a single playthrough, but there are some very compelling ideas at play here.

Notably, everything I love about “Armored Core VI” is something that’s fairly uncommon in the “Soulsborne” games of the last few years. Altering your build in any of those games is usually an arduous, mechanically discouraged task, but it’s front and center in “Armored Core.” The writing in those games is generally floaty, vibes-driven fantasy, compared to “Armored Core’s” dense, political sci-fi. They share some similarities (there’s no denying that first-time director Masaru Yamamura is drawing on his experience as a combat designer on “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”), but after all is said and done, “Armored Core VI” feels like hard proof that FromSoftware can truly break out of the “Souls” cage and make wildly different, deeply effective games.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a junior studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelquest.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung

Opinion Writer

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH