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Armored Core 6 Review – bigger isn’t better
6:00 pm | August 23, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review Information

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
Release date: August 25, 2023

Armored Core 6 opens with flair. The default mech you’re given for the prologue handles responsively with fluidity and grace and you spend the majority of the mission zipping between smaller enemy mechs, shredding them between machine gun fire and a big sword. Eventually, however, you come to the set-piece encounter: a large enemy gunship. It’s here that the game begins to show its flaws. 

A tough encounter designed to teach the value of dodging, as well as how to use the stagger mechanic, the gunship battle could have been a great opportunity for a spectacle. Instead, you battle the flying leviathan in an arena flanked by restrictive invisible walls. While charging the nose of the gunship and hitting it with your energy sword is fun the first couple of times, the engagement quickly becomes a punishing slog, sitting at odds with the earlier fast-paced combat. 

This contrast is indicative of Armored Core 6’s shortcomings. Despite an impressive grasp of fundamentals, FromSoftware’s latest offering shoots itself in the foot with disappointing regularity, diluting its fluid, well-build mech battling mechanics with stolid boss fights that feel like unfair slogs.  

FromSoftware’s latest offering shoots itself in the foot with disappointing regularity

For the uninitiated, the Armored Core series predates FromSoftware’s more recent soulsborne projects - the likes of Dark Souls and Elden Ring - by some margin with the first Armored Core releasing on PlayStation back in 1997. It’s been over a decade since the release of Armored Core 5, the last installment in the series. With this in mind, Armored Core 6 has the unenviable task of appealing both to fans of the series as well as newer FromSoftware fans brought into the fold by the studio’s soulsborne successes.  

A scavenger mech gathers supplies

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

The Armored Core games are third-person mech battlers that deliver on the mech pilot fantasy while offering a strong emphasis on customization. You go out on missions, earn money and return to the hangar where you can upgrade and tweak your mech before going out again. There’s a story, sure, but it’s always taken a backseat to this satisfying loop. While Armored Core 6 does an impressive job of carrying this torch in many regards, this classic formula finds itself diluted by the addition of design philosophies inherited from the soulsborne genre. 

As expected, Armored Core 6’s story is little more than a backdrop for the mech battling escapades - a task it performs well, offering a bleak and minimalist survey of a corporate dystopia in the far future. While there are some elements of intrigue, these very much take a backseat to the action. 

And there is plenty of action to be found, especially when it comes to the game’s sense of scale. Even the hangar in Armored Core 6 gives a real sense of the immensity of your mech of choice. The environments, too, capitalize on a futuristic industrial aesthetic in order to convey the idea of combat between soldiers the size of buildings.  

Fearful asymmetry 

A red mech wallruns into battle

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Unfortunately, this sense of scale is something of a poisoned chalice for Armored Core 6. In contrast to previous titles in the series, FromSoftware's latest is filled with asymmetrical boss battles, often against opponents that dwarf your mech with their size and ferocity. 

On paper, this could be seen as an attractive proposition. After all, what could be better than even bigger giant robots? Clearly borrowing from the soulsborne playbook, these encounters are tough and unforgiving. The bosses themselves have moves sets that players must memorize and counter before progressing. In a vacuum, this design philosophy can make for a satisfying, if intensive experience that rewards determination and grit - beautifully executed as it was in Elden Ring.  

Armored Core 6 is filled with asymmetrical boss battles

However, in the context of Armored Core, this approach feels jarring and out of place. Most obviously, these engagements are at odds with the mech pilot power fantasy central to Armored Core’s appeal. Piloting a big, stompy mech the size of a building feels good. What doesn’t feel good is for your mech to be rendered small and fragile in contrast to an immense piece of industrial machinery or some sort of supercharged prototype killing machine that lacks the hardware limitations of your own vehicle.

Best Bit

Two mechs duel with plasma swords

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

One mission has you defending a missile launch as hordes of weaker enemies attempt to stop you. In my light mech, I dashed around the battlefield, slicing foes to ribbons with glee. The mission culminated in the arrival of a spaceship that required me to boost towards it and blow the bridge to bits with my shotgun - a satisfying end to a thrilling battle. 

Additionally, though Armored Core 6 prides itself on “omnidirectional battles”, the environments in which these boss battles take place are often full of invisible walls and other limitations which prevent evasive maneuvers and rapid repositioning. Granted, this is more of a problem for mechs built for agility or aerial combat, but it’s still indicative of a lack of follow-through when it comes to encounter design.

Like their soulsborne cousins, Armored Core titles have a reputation for being tough but fair. However, being crushed to death by a giant metal spider because you had the misfortune to slam into an invisible wall while strafing hardly feels just, especially when it’s possible to perish in a single hit. What elevates the best soulsborne titles is their ability to make your deaths feel fair, which, in turn, gives meaning to the game’s learning curve. Thanks to oddly restrictive level design and bosses having access to asymmetrically powerful abilities that fall well beyond the capacity of your own mech, Armored Core 6 is unable to consistently convey this sense of fairness. 

Custom job

A mech in a hangar with ominous red lighting

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

That said, Armored Core 6 has a lot to give when it comes to the mechs themselves. The game’s customization systems are deep and rewarding. In line with previous Armored Core titles, your mech’s frame and internal components can all be chosen to fit your exact specifications. Weapons, too, can be swapped around with ease, letting you pursue a build that truly reflects your playstyle. What’s more, this doesn’t result in subtle, under-the-hood tweaks, but tangible, large-scale changes to mech handling and performance. When put into action, these customization systems are a marvel.  

Armored Core 6's customization systems are a marvel

For instance, seeking a faster ride, I swapped out my mid-tier generator for a more specialized counterpart which allowed for rapid energy recharge rates at the cost of low output. In real terms, this would mean easier flying across the battlefield in exchange for having to use fewer energy-intensive parts in my build. The results were astounding. While I had to use some less durable arms and legs to make the new setup work, my mech’s speed and recovery were massively improved, allowing me to change my playstyle and really focus on melee combat. The process of settling on this new build and seeing it in action was a joy from start to finish and is where Armored Core 6 really shines. 

Additionally, the game offers equally fleshed-out systems for paint jobs and emblem customization, allowing you to pilot the mech of your dreams. Thanks to all of the different options, there aren’t mech archetypes as such as there’s a spectrum of choices across which you can select a mech that’s all your own.  

Iron gladiators 

A brown mech flies towards a ruined industrial complex

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

It’s a shame, therefore, that the playground that Armored Core 6 offers for your mech of choice is hit-and-miss in its appeal. For every satisfying mission and joyful battle through a bleak sci-fi locale, there will be another interminable boss fight to take the wind out of your sails. What’s particularly interesting is the contrast between fights with large-scale bosses and fights with rival mechs. 

Battles with enemy mechs feel frantic and well-paced. Enemy Armored Cores are satisfying to fight because the engagements feel fair and symmetrical. They’re playing with exactly the same rules set as you are. In theory, you could build an identical copy of their mech, if you so desired - a fact that makes these engagements feel resoundingly fair, even when they end in defeat. 

Enemy Armored Cores are satisfying to fight because the engagements feel fair and symmetrical

To that end, some of the most fun I had with Armored Core 6 was in its arena mode, a sort of side mission where you fight progressively tougher mechs as you progress through the story. These boss fights, free of ill-fitting soulsborne asymmetry, were deeply satisfying and left me with a greater appreciation for the interlocking and well-balanced systems that make up Armored Core 6’s customization suite. 

However, rather than lean into these areas of strength, Armored Core 6 has crossed a Rubicon of its own, embracing a soulsborne design philosophy that seems out of place next to the consistent and well-crafted systems of combat and design that underpin the game. While there’s certainly a lot to enjoy in Armored Core 6, the title presents a skewed experience that neither scratches the soulsborne itch nor remains entirely true to the mech piloting power fantasy at the heart of the Armored Core series. 

Accessibility 

Options menu in Armored Core 6

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Armored Core 6 is disappointing when it comes to accessibility. With little more than the option to display subtitles, the title offers nothing in the realms of colorblind support or field-of-view sliders. Though the game does offer customizable keyboard mapping, and adjustable controller and mouse sensitivity, those looking for broad accessibility options will be disappointed here.  

How we reviewed 

I spent 18 hours with Armored Core 6 on PC, playing through majority of the main campaign as well as arena mode. I experimented with a range of different mech builds including tank-tread mechs and quadrupeds. I experimented at length with the mission replay feature as well the mech customization and personalization systems. I was unable to test the game’s online PvP features as the servers were not live at the time of writing.

I’m very familiar with the Armored Core series, having sunk dozens of hours into Armored Core 3, Armored Core 4, and Armored Core 5; experience I relied on when approaching Armored Core 6.  

The game was reviewed on a mid-tier curved gaming monitor and played using a DualSense wireless controller.

Looking for an alternative? Our list of the best PS5 games will sort you out, as will our list of the best upcoming games. 

Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer review – authentic boomer shooter
6:36 pm | June 8, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review information

Platform review: PC
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: June 1, 2023

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath is a perfect time capsule of the most embarrassing years of my life. It so skillfully captures the blinkered imagination of a kid who ‘rocks out’ to Limp Bizkit, constantly references The Matrix, and always wears their wallet on a chain.

To spare my blushes, the fictional creator of Slayers X, Zane Lofton, takes turn-of-the-millennium jerkishness to hellish new extremes. He uses words like ‘bunghole’ and ‘terds’ [sic] with cringe-inducing abandon and fervently believes in his own awesomeness, casting himself in all of his creative endeavors, from comic strips in which he battles evil alongside the frontman of his favourite band, Seepage, to the videogame he started creating as a 15-year-old in 1998.

Fast-forward to the present day: Zane is in his mid-thirties, still a beacon of self-belief, and finally ready to unleash Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer, an accidental boomer shooter, upon the world.

In the story, Zane finds himself the last-standing member of a superhero squad after an attack by the satanic Psyko Syndikate gang. And if Zane seems familiar to you, it’s because he was the self-enamoured cyberbully from 2019’s Hypnospace Outlaw, who went by Zane_Rocks_14. Yep, this is a shooter that both stars and is ostensibly designed by a fictional character from another game.

That context is important because if you play Slayers X for its gunplay alone then you’ll probably come away disappointed. This is a perfectly serviceable shooter, but it’s not a great one. It can’t possibly be a great game because it is, for all intents and purposes, the work of a high school edge lord. In order for Slayers X to properly deliver on that concept, it has to be a bit crap in places.

 Crappy game design, literally 

Terminal Aftermath Vengance of the Slayer dialogue

(Image credit: No More Robots)

The lofty ambition of an absentminded notebook-doodler is evident in every level, story beat, and boss battle. There’s a highway shootout in which you jump between cars and lorries that are gradually ripped down to their chassis over the course of the fight, but beating the boss of this section is just a case of firing any and everything you’ve got in their general direction.

Then you have weaponry like the Glass Blaster, a mighty boomstick that fires shards of glass, ammo you can collect by smashing any window in the game - it could be a videogame shotgun hall of famer were it not for its designer calling the ammo ‘glass sharts’. Or there’s a boss fight set in a toilet bowl complete with swirling brown water, the boss itself a toilet, but with a skull in place of a cistern.

The level design flip-flops between these extremes constantly. Secrets rooms and routes are hidden throughout the game containing gags you can imagine game designer Zane patting himself on the back for, but levels are padded out with monster closets or suddenly spawning waves of enemies in a fashion that seems knowingly obnoxious. Reach a new area, backtrack through an old area after completing an objective, or open any locked door and you can guarantee a level’s worth of bad guys and monsters are about to appear.

Enemy hoard in Terminal Aftermath Vengance of the Slayer

(Image credit: No More Robots)
Best bit

Terminal Aftermath Vengance of the Slayer gameplay

(Image credit: No More Robots)

Easter eggs and references to Hypnospace Outlaw abound in the secret rooms of Slayers X, but one that stuck with me was when I fell for a clearly labeled trap door on the off chance there was loot inside. I  spend the next couple of minutes plummeting to my death - it’s the best a game’s got me since Dark Souls’ Mimic chests. 

Even the way the difficulty scales feels consciously basic, with the final couple of levels resorting to simply spawning in all the toughest enemies anywhere there’s space and equipping you with increasingly overpowered weapons to balance things out. Sometimes you’ll get stuck at random difficulty spikes or find yourself desperately low on ammo with dozens of enemies charging at you - developer Zane clearly hasn’t thought everything through or played the game much himself.

It’s unavoidable that these subtle design decisions result in Slayers X occasionally becoming frustrating and even laborious, but in doing so they also sell the setting. That’s no mean feat for a concept as silly as this.

Famous CEO Zane Lofton 

Using power in Terminal Aftermath Vengance of the Slayer

(Image credit: No More Robots)

Whether or not that’s fun for you may depend on how familiar you are with the incredibly specific zeitgeist Slayers X is riffing on. For me, the act of exploring every nook and cranny of Zane’s imagination is the real highlight of the game, and if the gunplay or level design were any sharper than that illusion would be shattered.

It’s important to point out that while there are objectively funny things about this depiction of the late ‘90s, it’s sincere rather than sneering. The reason Zane’s game is so fascinating to explore is because it offers a real insight into his character and his warped, juvenile view of the world and his place in it. This is a guy who can picture himself as a “famous CEO” with superpowers, but one who still lives with his mum in a rundown apartment in Boise, Idaho.

Slayers X sits somewhere between an archived forum post, a foggy memory, and a shitpost. It’s parading around under the guise of Build Engine nostalgia bait, but really it's an explorable and earnest microhistory of a moment in time that’s often roundly mocked but still intimately relatable for those who were there. Perhaps that’s too grandiose considering one of the most numerous enemy types in Slayers X is a chirping, sweetcorn-flinging pile of feces, but there really is no other game quite like it.

 Accessibility 

Not only are there limited accessibility options in Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath, its characterful menu design may actually pose a problem for some users because of unclear option titles, a lack of option descriptions, and a hard-to-see cursor. However, there are some handy options such as a ‘head bob’ toggle, aim assist, and auto-run - although these can only be switched on or off. Slayers X does feature subtitles by default, however, they are littered with intentional typos and there are no options to increase the size or tweak the opacity. 

How we reviewed 

This playthrough of Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath took four hours to complete on the recommended ‘normal gamer’ difficulty. If you’re not looking for every secret it can be done in half the time. There’s one easier difficulty option, and two more challenging ones which we tested briefly.