- AC6 offers a unique NG+ experience right from the start, with new missions, dialogue, and objectives that enhance the story and gameplay.
- The NG+ run allows players to fully customize their mech with unlocked parts and weapons, providing a satisfying sense of dominance over enemies.
- The game rewards players with additional content and challenges in subsequent playthroughs, keeping them engaged and offering a high level of replayability.
Many games now offer the option of New Game Plus (NG+) so that once players complete the game, they can go through it again, perhaps on a higher difficulty, and carry over everything they accomplished within the game. Things like stats, abilities, and equipment all often carry over, though in some cases, quest-specific items may stay locked until that part of the game. However, in most cases, the NG+ version of the game is the exact same rollercoaster of a ride that players enjoyed the first time. While this is great for players who love the game, FromSoftware is doing something different with their newest release, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is the newest entry in the almost-forgotten mech series developed by FromSoftware. The series has had a lengthy tenure spanning several console generations including the PlayStation One, PS2, PS3, and PSP. The action RPG features fully customizable mechs and an engaging sci-fi story, along with epic battles, big boss fights, and online multiplayer in some cases. Fans have been clambering for a new entry for years and were finally satiated when AC6 was released on August 25, 2023.
AC6 Throws Players Right Back Into The Fight
Unlike some other games that offer the NG+ option as an update several months after launch, AC6 has it right out of the gate, however, it works differently than what gamers are used to. Instead of completing the game and then returning to the main menu to select the NG+ option, after the credits roll, players are thrust right back into their hangar, right after the tutorial mission. The story kicks off once again and while it all seems familiar to start, a line at the end of the first playthrough teases that there is something more in this second time through.
Once players start going through the missions again, they’ll start to notice some differences in the story. There are entirely new missions that open up, alternate objectives that can be selected during a mission, and new dialogue that gives more insight and alternate perspectives into the events of the game. The first playthrough teases some characters, or at least only shows them briefly, but the NG+ run introduces them and their objectives a little more. In order to complete this new run, players must choose those new missions or alternate objectives.
The really fun part of a NG+ run is having a fully loaded mech that can deal out swift and brutal punishment to enemies. By the end of the game, the end of that first playthrough, players will have unlocked a ton of parts and weapons to make their AC unit to their liking. On the second playthrough, boss fights that took attempt after attempt and caused a lot of frustration, suddenly end in minutes. That feeling of utter dominance over a boss that previously crushed the player’s soul is extremely gratifying. However, FromSoftware knows exactly what they are doing, and while those early and later missions let the player feel like a God, the new missions added into the NG+ run keep the player’s ego in check. New boss fights and difficult enemies pop up to make sure the player doesn’t get ahead of themselves, checking them back and giving them a challenge once again. Sometimes a NG+ run can feel a little too easy because players have all the equipment to blast through enemies with ease, but AC6 adds new challenges that up the difficulty of that new run.
Thought Customization Options Were Over? Nope, There’s Way More To Unlock!
Along with the new story beats and missions, players also unlock new levels in the Arena, a 1v1, player vs. AI battle simulator that rewards in-game currency and OST Chips. The OST chips are used to upgrade the base abilities of an AC unit, as well as add and upgrade additional functions like shield protection, or a last-stand ability once health is depleted. Players will notice that the first playthrough’s Arena only offers so many OST chips, and that number won’t allow them to max out the stats. With the second run though, enough chips can be earned to fully unlock every OST upgrade. Other games can offer similar objectives, Cyberpunk 2077 being one of these games. It lets players unlock points for skill trees, but in a single playthrough, players will come nowhere close to unlocking all the branches and abilities. They must pick and choose carefully to select what they want. AC6 is the same for the first run, but that second time gives players the OST chips they need to fully max out their AC unit, making it even more powerful.
A heavy part of the Armored Core games is the mech customization. With dozens of parts for the body of the AC unit, including head, arms, torso, legs, boosters and the like, as well as dozens of weapons for both hands and shoulder mounts, players have a ton of options to craft a giant robot to their preferred playstyle. While the first playthrough unlocks a ton of these items, NG+ opens up even more options with new weapons and parts, which do come in handy for fighting the later bosses. AC6 gives players consistent rewards for playing through the game a second time, which a lot of other games don’t do. There may be a Trophy or Achievement to unlock, but nothing has changed in the story and there is nothing new to unlock. It’s great to play through a story campaign as an overpowered “whatever” in other games, but offering players more incentive to play through a second time makes the replayability of a game even better. Players want to get back in, power through the early missions again to unlock that new gun, rocket launcher, or story beat.
Get Ready For A Third Run!
The real kicker that FromSoftware does with AC6, is the third playthrough. The NG++. Once players get through that second run, unlocking a new ending and getting a grasp on even more of the story, the game restarts back to the beginning, just after the tutorial mission again. And now, players begin their third run through the campaign, which does the same thing again, unlocking new missions, objectives, alternate dialogue, and weapons and parts. Some new challenges open up in the Arena as well, but this time rewarding parts instead of OST chips. Some players might get a little fatigued at the prospect of a third run through the game, but AC6 can be beaten quickly enough, especially with a stacked AC unit, and the combat offers such a fantastic experience, that the game just continues to be more fun. It also helps that the new missions and dialogue unlocks in the NG++ run are fun surprises to encounter, and give players more to do, and a bit more variety in the missions themselves. There aren’t a ton of new missions unlocked, but enough at pivotal plot points to add new dimensions to the story. For the players who really want to grind away, replaying every mission, in a Replay Mission menu, and completing them with an “S” rank, unlocks a further “true” ending.
It may seem, on the surface, that FromSoftware is trying to extend the playtime of their game by forcing multiple playthroughs, but that is not the case. With how the story plays out, players need to finish that first run to understand the subtleties and variations in the following playthroughs. The alternate objectives and new missions would have very little bearing on the player in that first play, but after knowing what happens, and interacting with characters through the first time, those new missions and objectives have more meaning and hit harder.
FromSoftware Dangles A Carrot In Front Of Players To Keep Them Going
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon teases and encourages players to continue playing the game after completing it the first time. It immediately restarts the story so there isn’t even a chance to quit from the menu, teases that there is something more going on in the story, and leaves OST chips available so players know there is more to do and more to collect in order to fully max out their AC unit. Often players want a NG+ option just because they enjoy the game and want to do it all again, but this time with everything unlocked, AC6 already knows that and gives players more of the game they just loved playing. More games need to offer this out of the gate. DLC or season passes try to do this, but often by the time those offerings arrive, players have moved on to something new. They will probably go back to play that new content for an old game, but AC6 captures the player from the get-go and keeps them enraptured with this style of extra content.
FromSoftware makes NG+ a rewarding experience with all the new content it unlocks along with letting players feel like an overpowered mech pilot who can tear through enemies on a whim. But, in a traditional FromSoftware style, they still offer enough of a challenge with new enemies to make sure the player checks their ego at the door. More games that offer a NG+ option need to start scattering more content into the game to make those second or even third runs even more engaging. When games cost as much as they do, and more and more gamers must be selective about what they buy, offering up multiple playthroughs and heavy replayability is something gamers look for. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is just such a game that is setting an example for others to follow.
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