Mechs are cool. I think it’s just one of those innate facts that we all understand. Give a person a mech suit, let them fiddle around with the kinds of legs, arms, body, and weapons it has, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Armored Core 6 not only has plenty of weapons to choose from, but also different leg types that change the things you can do. Standard legs are jack-of-all-trades, reverse jointed legs are good for jumping, there are legs for hovering, and you can swap out legs for the lower half of a tank, which lets you carry more stuff.
As you’ve probably surmised, you can get really into building your mechs in Armored Core 6, and that’s something that I think will probably draw in a lot of people. Trying to balance your weight with the right thrusters and your weapons with the right energy output feels like a jigsaw puzzle, but one where you can upgrade your puzzle pieces as you go to make them all foil and shiny. This is also how you can find different builds and playstyles, so you could play as a lumbering hovering weapon system fully equipped with only grenade launchers and missile pods, or you can zip around with a highly mobile energy sword-wielding shotgun mech instead. They all feel viable in most of the levels, and that’s great. Plus, you can paint your mech and design emblems and stuff too, so if you want to just tinker with the fantasy of designing and building mechs, Armored Core 6 definitely has you covered.
While there is this deeply ingrained flexibility, I don’t think all of the weapons feel good; some definitely do, but not all of them. I can certainly see a use case for them, but while there’s certain weapons that will work in most scenarios, boss fights present these absurd walls to clamber over, and they often feel as though they require specific weapons or builds to overcome them. The tutorial boss is going to cull a huge number of players, and that’s literally before you’ve hit the point where you’re actually going through proper tutorials. That’s nothing compared to some of the later bosses, with each of them presenting its own kind of mechanised hell to fight against. They stand out like a sore thumb compared to the run-of-the-mill mechs that you can cut through like a superheated knife, making for some wild swings in difficulty.
The boss at the end of Chapter 1, very specifically, is one that I couldn’t beat until I swapped to use a specific weapon. I’m fully aware that it can be done with other builds – there’s already a player who’s beat the game with nothing but punching – but the game really encourages you to switch gear and adapt on the fly. You can rebuild your mech whenever you die and still start at the latest checkpoint, and the checkpoints in Armored Core 6 are very generous. I’m not particularly keen on this feature, though. I want to be able to run around as a mech ninja, or a flying missile octopus, and for each of those to be totally valid and empowering options, instead of feeling like I’m being punished for not buying a specific weapon before heading into a mission.
The story in Armored Core 6 also feels very by-the-numbers, as do the characters. It’s not badly told, nor badly written, and the voice acting is great, but it’s all stuff you’ve heard before, and frankly, the idea that being a mercenary isn’t always great isn’t especially revolutionary. There’s also some of the more interesting story points locked behind new game plus, which while it works for a game like Nier, doesn’t really fit the flow of this kind of game.
Overall, I’m really quite torn on Armored Core 6. I think it’s a good game, and one that feels fun to play most of the time, but it’s hampered by some annoying boss fights that crank the difficulty up way too high and a paint-by-numbers story. The world of Rubicon is visually stunning, and tweaking your mech never stops feeling novel, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to paint figures. However, it just didn’t land for me in a satisfying way, so I’m left feeling a little deflated by the whole experience, when I was 100% certain I was going to love it.