Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon marks the cult-favorite mech series’ long-awaited return after a 10-year hiatus, and it’s been incredible to watch so far. The community is alive and well, trading broken builds and sexy emblem designs, and new players are having their confidence checked by the very first giant helicopter boss. It’s already one of FromSoftware’s biggest Steam releases ever, second only to Elden Ring.
Armored Core VI peaked at 156,171 concurrent players on Valve’s PC gaming storefront over the weekend, and it’s currently the ninth most-played game on the platform at the moment. It even briefly nudged Baldur’s Gate 3 out of the number one spot on the Steam top sellers list. While Elden Ring’s peak concurrent player count still towers over the rest of FromSoftware’s games at 952,523, Armored Core VI’s opening weekend beat out both Dark Souls III and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the last game many of its developers had worked on.
The celebration around theseries’ triumphant return has taken many different forms. Twitch viewers have been happily watching their favorite streamers get their asses kicked by the early bosses. The level of customization, from armor and weapon parts to paint jobs and decals, has players trading their favorite designs, including homages to Mobile Suit Gundam, Warhammer 40K, and anime porn. Armored Core VI already has its first star: Rusty.
The first Armored Core came to PlayStation in 1997, and in the U.S. at least was mostly relegated to the status of “obscure game that one friend won’t shut up about.” The last entry in the post-apocalyptic sci-fi series was Armored Core: Verdict Day, a divisive entry whose muddy PlayStation 3 graphics, overwhelming menus, and multiplayer focus didn’t do it any favors in winning over a larger audience. So what’s different this time around, and why is Armored Core VI getting the red carpet treatment?
Read More: 13 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Armored Core VI
“Thanks to Elden Ring, FromSoftware has become a seal, a guarantee of quality, and therefore people will see that the Metacritic of this game is great, [that] it’s challenging but very rewarding, [and say] ‘I wanna try that game,’” Bandai Namco Europe CEO Arnaud Muller told Gamesindustry.biz last week at Gamescom. While the halo effect from Elden Ring is certainly part of what’s going on, it’s also true that Armored Core VI does a lot to bring new players into the fold.
I’ve only dabbled in some of the past games in the series (Armored Core: Project Phantasma, 3, and Verdict Day) and am by no means an expert. A few things the newest entry has going for it, though, are that it looks fantastic despite being cross-gen, the world building and boss fights are evocative and memorable, and the mission structure helps ease you into the game before overwhelming you with menus and choices. It’s still Armored Core, a different beast from the i-frame dodge-roll fest Soulsborne fans have come to love, but there are a lot more footholds to help new players get onboard.
The clearest one of all is the fact that the world itself is a lot more hospitable, with easy rank-and-file enemies and generous checkpointing. A handful of fights will stop you in your tracks. Otherwise, most of the game is content to let you surf around its futuristic playground like the overpowered robot that you are. It’s a blast, and it’s great to see Armored Core getting welcomed back with open arms.