Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the latest in a decades-spanning franchise that helped put mecha action games on the map. The first series entry in almost 10 years, it follows many of the same story and mechanical structures as its predecessors. As a freelance mercenary known as a Raven, you work for shady interstellar corporations, doing wetwork, espionage, sabotage, and whatever else you’re paid to do. In your off time, you’ll use the money earned to customize your mech (called an Armored Core), upgrading it and mixing and matching parts to best suit your playstyle. Also like previous games, there’s more to the planet Rubicon, where the game takes place, than what the corps are letting on, and while you are essentially nameless and faceless, you will be at the heart of it. With these details in mind, should you play the earlier Armored Core games before AC6? Are there other connections to find? Yes and no.
Playing Earlier Armored Core Games Before AC6 is a Good Idea…
…and it also isn’t. Armored Core VI is a standalone title narratively, as most numbered entries have been. Previous AC games have dealt with similar themes and mechanics, but narratively, they’ve been separate. The only exceptions are within the earliest games. Armored Core 2 took place some years after the first entry in the series, and Armored Core 2: Another Age was a direct sequel. AC3 was a reboot, as were the fourth and fifth numbered games. Armored Core VI departs from the earliest titles in that it doesn’t focus on a Mars vs Earth conflict, instead placing the action on Rubicon, a distant planet ripe for mining.
So, while the stories of the mainline AC games tend to follow the style of Final Fantasy, they share a lot mechanically—and that’s why I’d recommend playing some of the older games. They’ll help you get your head around the mech customization, which unlike FromSoftware’s Soulsborne games is in-depth to the point of being a spreadsheet-lovers heaven. There are more stats to consider than Souls games, but the emphasis on fashion is still front and center, even if optimal AC builds might look a little janky.
There is also tons of weapon variety, and with AC6’s renewed focus on melee attacks, that volume of choice has only increased. I’m not even taking into account how many different kinds of back-mounted weapons and gear are available—everything from missiles and targeting systems to railguns, chainguns, and more. Then there’s your power consumption and weight to worry about, and while those systems are somewhat analogous to the Equip Load and Stamina mechanics from something like Elden Ring, there’s a bit more on the bones there, as well.
In short, you should play previous Armored Core games before AC6 if you want a feel for how the story, gameplay, and mechanics will operate. You shouldn’t if you want to be surprised by that story or can’t deal with muddy visuals or want some sort of continuity between games. But as a lifelong fan of the franchise, I say start with AC3 and go from there, if only because the controls actually made sense. That’s a whole other story, but.