Armored Core 6 is an absolute blast to play through, which certainly contributes to players fighting through to the ending. From the combat’s blistering pace to the depth of customization, this is undoubtedly one of the best mech games in a long time. It also has a solid narrative about fighting against the odds for your beliefs and survival.
The delivery is more direct than most works coming out of FromSoftware since its games often keep the surface narrative light. Armored Core has always been this way, even if the latest entry is more dialogue-focused than its predecessors.
Also like what came before, Armored Core 6’s ending come from branching paths depending on missions chosen at key points. It offers two endings on a first playthrough, with a third one unlocked after finishing the game.
I want to return and get the other endings in Armored Core 6, but the one I chose scorched my heart. It’s been a week since I finished the game, and this harrowing conclusion has stayed with me because of how awful I felt after. FromSoftware games tend to include bleak endings chosen by the player, and I feel like a monster.
Burn Raven, burn
My Armored Core 6 ending is called The Fires of Raven, and for good reason. This means betraying Raven’s Coral companion Ayre to side with “Cinder” Carla’s idea to destroy all of Rubicon’s Coral. Coral in Armored Core 6 is a living species with at least human-level consciousness and emotions. Despite its exploitation as a resource, Coral is an intelligent species fully capable of communication. In other words, we are committing genocide.
I started down this route not fully aware of my action’s ramifications, and also because it paid way better. My blissfully ignorant self didn’t think we were eradicating an entire living species. At worst, we would drive all the humans out of Rubicon! Ayre didn’t see it this way and left my consciousness.
To return to those halcyon days when I was innocent and naive, only concerned with fashionable mechs. It didn’t even register why what I was doing was evil, even when Rusty stood against me. He was the fool for not realizing that the Coral should be left alone on Rubicon.
Killing him was when I realized that nobody was surviving this course of action. Rusty had been a generally supportive person to Raven and someone who wanted what was best for the planet. It was too late to turn back time because there was still a massive Coral harvesting machine to destroy.
Rusty’s death hurt, but my heart tore apart seeing Ayre stand against me. She was a comforting presence to Raven, and the game featured several moments of genuine care from her. Since she was a Rubiconian, her priority was protecting her people, even if it meant killing the person she cared for most.
Setting the world ablaze
Ayre isn’t the hardest boss in Armored Core 6, but she took the most tries for me. A part of me couldn’t give it my all. It suddenly hit me that I was the villain because I liked Ayre, and she cared about Raven. She truly believed in them and wanted to build a future where humans and Coral could live alongside each other.
Each line in her fight cut deeper than her laser sword, and I knew Bolt Spearmint wasn’t using an ideal build for this fight. Anytime I could change my loadout to something that’d devastate her, but I just couldn’t.
Not after the first attempt and certainly not after the tenth. Some were easier than others, but in the end, I kept falling because I didn’t have it in me to play optimally.
I was delaying the inevitable. The Moonlight sword was not working for me, and I knew victory was achievable with my VE-67LLA laser lance. Ayre’s death was absolute when I made the switch, and she was defeated on the first attempt.
Her entire species rested on her shoulders, and a single decision shaped her failure. Ayre spent her dying moments still believing in a hopeless dream where humans and Coral could live together before finally letting go. Raven then watched wordlessly as Carla drove the Xylem colony ship into the Vascular Plant harvesting Coral, destroying it and scorching Rubicon. It’s unknown if the protagonist survived the blast, but history cemented them as a monster that began The Fires of Raven.
Some may defend Raven’s actions, but I can’t. Going down this path made me feel like the monster history will remember Raven as.
A heart turned to ash
As a whole, the Armored Core series doesn’t have many happy endings. Armored Core: For Answer arguably has the darkest ending, as one possible route concludes with humanity’s eradication carried out by the protagonist. Humanity may not have been what was wiped out, but doing the same to the Coral is equally as terrible.
I recently wrote about how Armored Core detaches players from the people they kill because they are all behind mechanized machines. The inverse effect might have happened when I finished Armored Core 6. Killing Ayre felt awful, and I think part of that stems from her having as much of a body as anyone else.
Raven and everyone else fought and died in their mechs, and Ayre was no different. Her actual form may have been as a part of the Coral, but she spoke with such emotion that she felt more human than many other characters. She placed her entire trust in someone who betrayed her on an apocalyptic level. The hurt she experiences in the fight feels uncomfortably real because it’s also clear she still cares.
Armored Core can be read as about humanity’s slow crawl to death. Whether over beliefs or resources, the games are driven by extensive conflicts that worsen the world. The player’s beliefs are moot in this series as they go from one job to another, perpetuating a war between two or more awful factions. It’s a different flavor of awful knowing that this latest entry drags another sapient species into humanity’s selfish conflicts.
I don’t know if Armored Core 6‘s other endings are more hopeful. For all I know, there’s one where the principal cast set aside their differences and band together to eliminate the corps, but I doubt it. All I’m hoping for is that I’m less devastated.