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(Warning! This review is full of spoilers! If you have not completed ACVI in its entirety, I highly recommend that you do that before reading the story segment of this review. Which is the most important part of this review I would say lol. Anyways, take care.)
I feel like most of the entries to this series always fell victim to low budgets and rushed dev time to get in on a console launch, and while they do their best with the time and resources they have, you can see a lot of the jank in the past armored cores. Yet, Armored Core VI is an isolated moment in the series where it looks like the From Soft team has been cooking this for a long time and it shows.
This is the most polished Armored Core I have ever experienced, and don’t get that mistaken as me saying it carries no flaws. No, because perfection isn’t real and not an expectation anyone should have. Its polish comes from a few major factors. One factor being its presentation. This shit is cinema. With the amount that's always happening in this game it’s kinda a miracle it runs as good as it does—on pc at least.
For the next factor let's talk about gameplay. Shit man, what do you want me to say about it? Yes, it does not play like the other armored cores, it’s in its own league. But it absolutely carries the same philosophy that's been developing since AC4/For Answer. They changed the movement and camera for the benefit of the player to feel stronger, to feel like an adequate pilot. But with how diverse the customization is, as well as the amount of movement tech that can be discovered and used for your benefit—this shit is armored core! No matter how hard or “anime” they make a boss fight, it won’t change that.
I’m honest to god bored of the conversation on this game whether it took things from the souls series or not. Listen, here’s what I got to say and then we’re moving on. From Soft has been undergoing the process of refining their formula for a very long time, after iteration and iteration. It comes to no surprise that it would be applied to this game as well. I’m sorry they didn’t just decide to unlearn everything they’ve done for the past decade and make another slow janky PS2 game. I know, it’s a tragedy. But you’ll be okay, we’ll all be okay! If you have to do another playthrough of Last Raven again to cope, that’s okay! I understand and still love you the same.
I’ve seen people say that this game is “shallow” or that it “lacks variety” in its parts and I’m starting to lose my mind! Did they steamline the customization a bit for easier accessibility for players new and old? Yes, absolutely. But each part changes the synergy of a build in a lot of ways— whether that’s to do with movement, your energy gauge, how fast you walk, your aim, etc etc. There’s a lot going on here with plenty of downsides and disadvantages alongside upsides and advantages. Everything has a counter, yes even your duel zimmermans. You’re not safe! You can do so much with this game with patience, experimentation, and skill. (A lot of people haven’t messed around with the parry shields and it shows!). People who think that this game leads you to one build are delusional and think their need for instant gratification is the game’s fault instead of some inner conflict of their own. Hey guys, maybe Vampire Survivors is more your speed?
Anyways, on to the last factor. This one was the most surprising to me! Holy shit, they really did it with the story in this one! Now, I won’t even try to argue how this could be From Soft’s best story because that’s redundant. What I could say is, it may definitely be my favorite story in a From Soft game. This shit hits some emotional high ceilings that I haven’t experienced from them since… Maybe Bloodborne? Don’t get me wrong, Armored Core has had some great stories before. Especially AC4/For Answer—but it’s worth noting how AC VI tells their story in an exceptional way that stands out to me. AC VI is an effective character drama unlike any other. LIKE WHAT EVERY MECHA SHOULD STRIVE TO BE!
Each pilot you encounter in this world is a person that’s self absorbed into their own world and ideals, just gleaming with personality. Rubicon is alive with all the pilots behind these factions going to war against each other. Even Balan’s Redguns are great to be around even if admittedly they are mostly for comedic effect (which isn’t even a bad thing to begin with).
Let’s talk about Handler Walter. The relationship between him and 621 continues to fascinate me. As their relationship develops throughout the game it goes beyond expectation. Because it’s not just a simple slave/master dynamic or employer/employee relationship, no— it’s different. There’s a few interpretations to take it. One being the simple man and his hound (working dog). Another being the father/son relationship.Then there’s the more gayer perspective… How I happened to see it was like Frankenstien’s monster if the monster managed to make a friend after all. Straight from the Story trailer, Walter gives 621 a “reason to exist.” by applying his ideals onto 621, as described as “his legacy”. 621—as an augmented human, isn’t viewed as a human with individuality. 621 is mostly seen as a monster, something inhuman towards the other characters (especially because of their generation). It’s not until 621 is granted an identity as Raven—although it’s a stolen identity—it becomes their identity entirely. Even if Walter calls the pilot 621 throughout the whole story, the pilot is able to practice their will to power through the new self as Raven. After the completion of the third level survey, near the destination of the coral convergence, Walter says to Carla that 621 is going to be the key at the end, which is why he isn’t going to pick which jobs to take. Walter puts all his chips on 621, allowing the pilot to go whichever path in hopes it will lead them to their goal from the beginning—the coral.
Again, there’s many ways you can read this. Walter trusts 621 enough to have them make their own decisions but reminds them there’s a job to do, a legacy to fulfill. Through the lens of a father towards their son, it would explain the references to such familiar concepts like “legacy” that are being used by Walter. This lens comes to connect with the theory that Walter was “the boy” that was referenced in a data log written by one of the RBI researchers before committing the act of the fires of ibs. Through the lens of man and dog, it explains the trust and positive affection Walter expresses towards 621 at times. When Snail refers to 621 as a “mutt” it is nothing but vitriol. It’s demeaning, similar to how people call a dog a mutt in a derogatory way. But with Walter, hound is more affirming—yet it’s a complete misunderstanding of what 621 is and can be.

“Walter told me, you know. Looks like you made a friend of your own. But it’s good to make a choice. Sit on the fence, and you make no enemies…or friends.”
Throughout the game, 621 is met with moments of individuality through the ability of making decisions on their own. The Swineburne mission is a prime example of this! You can first off, not ambush him in the first place and make him think you’re just some grunt for a moment. Then within the fight he surrenders and tries to make a deal with you. You can accept and let him go or refuse and continue the fight. What I did on my first playthrough is accept his deal then blasted him with a pilebunker. The coral friend in your head—Ayre then asks if Walter taught you that. Even Swimeburne was shocked that I could do that. I—myself was a little shocked that it worked. 621 is just as much as a functioning person as anyone else. The whole story is mainly them being able to have a friend for god’s sake.
Back to the paths I’ve mentioned earlier. First playthrough you have two paths. (third playthrough you have another, we’ll get to that.). You either side with Walter and help him achieve his friend’s wishes by destroying the coral or you go with your friend’s wishes and bring down the Xylem, preventing the destruction of coral. On my first playthrough I went with Ayre. The Liberator of Rubicon route quite possibly hits the highest emotional peaks for me. Having to fight Carla and Chatty ripped my heart out. I never wanted to fight those two but it really opened up how emotionally engaging these characters really are. Then you have the Snail fight, then “re-educated” Walter. Walter is a broken man at this point. Walter arguably was never a free man, as he felt what he had to do for his friend was part of some legacy, a torch he attempted to pass on to 621. He saw this as the final job, what would free him and 621—through surgery to make the pilot “normal” again. But as stated before, 621 is just as much a human as anyone else—augmented or not. 621 earns their own freedom through free will, making the Raven name mean something to themselves. Walter is capable of seeing Ayre and upon his defeat he accepts that 621 chose for themself, something that Walter hasn’t done for a very long time.
“Look at you, 621. You found a friend.”
Although it isn’t as emotional as the liberator route, the third playthrough was my favorite. Just because it’s the playthrough that got really into the philosophical and scifi aspects of AC VI. As well as me feeling like the liberator ending feels like a set up to Alea Iacta Est. Together, Ayre and 621 discover how humanity and coral can be one. This playthrough gets into the concept of symbiosis and coral release— crossing to the other side, a point of no return (you see where this is going?). 621 decides that they no longer want to be human. Which is fascinating because through character dialogue the game has explored the big question, what is being human? AI like Chatty provides how individual AI can be in this world. Because of how faceless the characters in Armored Core are like, Chatty is almost no different than a human pilot. Their relationship with Carla is real like anything else. What humanity has that AI or Coral doesn’t is bodily anatomy. From birth, our consciousness has always been mediated through bodily experience. Even if we dream, hallucinate, or dissociate, our conception of consciousness is difficult to untangle from flesh. Even if dualists try to separate the mind from the body (lol), they can’t deny that to be utterly in the body is totally Human.
So, what is 621’s relationship with their body? Obviously, not necessarily a concept that’s fully explored in ACVI for its reasons of narrative style. What I have to work with is the story trailer. 621’s body is like the status of a cocoon wrapped in some form of bandages or tape, punctured with large metal needles, skin looks burned or flayed, the body just been punctured by metal all around them. They’re an older generation so they’ve been in this augmented state for a long time. An important note is in this setting, coral is a major factor for human augmentation. Basically, 621 already has one foot into coral. With full awareness that this is simply a personal interpretation, I believe 621’s relationship with their body is either negative or non-existent. Especially considering how one even pilots their AC to begin with. I always assumed it was a place of consciousness into the AC to be controlled. But there’s plenty of arguments for ACs being designed for full body pilot use. Simply put, I see some AC frames and I just struggle to imagine how you can fit a cockpit in there. But what do I know? For the sake of the conversation, let's just say that the device that’s removed from 621’s body and is implied to have been inserted into the AC in the story trailer is their mind. But what is a mech, if not another, different, transhuman body? I can then understand the desire to no longer be human, to no longer be tied to such a body. In the third playthrough, 621 is battling against what other people in this world want them to be. They desire to go beyond the duality of human and dog (inhuman), so becoming-Coral is a breakage, an escape for 621.
There’s a classic gamer argument about the third (secret? true?) ending, where humanity is fused with Coral. Is it The Right Thing To Do? Is it… ETHICAL? IS it… MORAL??? Guys, which ending do I choose so I’m not a bad person? :( I would argue that the ending goes beyond the common understanding of morality, the Humanist ethics. What is it like to become a new type of consciousness in the world? Which brings us back to individuality. People have been comparing the ending to NGE’s with its human instrumentality thing. Same thing right? No. With NGE, humanity is homogenized into a single consciousness, or something like that. The ultimate loss of individuality is death, the dissipation of life’s intensities into the great undifferentiated flow of the planet, the world without oneself. Human instrumentality is tantamount to death. To “kill” a world’s worth of people… pretty immoral! But human-coral symbiosis isn’t that. The becoming a new form of consciousness is unprecedented under humanist ethics and can’t be accounted for. A single event that can change everyone in an unimaginable way, neither for good or for ill, but with retention of individuality? It goes beyond human, yeah, truly post-human.

Best fighting game since Ultra Fight Da Kyanta 2.