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Armored Core 6 looks like the best management sim of the year

With a thought-provoking resource management system, Armored Core 6 is going to unexpectedly scratch the same itch as The Sims and Cities Skylines.

Armored Core 6 resource management: An AC mecha leaning forward, set against a blurred background of Cities Skylines. Above the mecha is a green diamond from The Sims series.

FromSoftware is synonymous with punishing and mechanical experiences, but the weirdly underground Armored Core series has always approached this from a different angle. Sure, you’re still up against gargantuan foes, but you’re not a measly human with a sword at the foot of a giant – you’re a giant too, and a metal one decked out with high-powered weaponry at that. Instead, the challenge has often come from how you manage the power at your disposal, and AC6 is no different. In fact, Armored Core 6’s resource management makes it one of the best management sims of the year. That’s right, move over Cities Skylines and Frostpunk, I’m all about Armored Core 6.

Now, you wouldn’t immediately think of Armored Core 6 when you think of the best management games. After all, it’s a genre dominated by top-down games and inordinate amounts of menus and tabs, like Frostpunk, Cities Skylines, Factorio, and The Sims – none of which are action-packed shooters with mechs. Well, that’s just because you’re thinking about the genre too narrowly! Armored Core 6, and the series as a whole, is all about resource management, despite putting you in the pilot seat of a metal behemoth with missiles.

Each of the Armored Core 6 missions will reward you with varying quantities of money for your exploits, as well as bonus for your performance rating. ‘We’re rich!’, you cheer as you see a lump sum of 200,000 Credits hit your account. Well, be prepared to lose a lot of that money, not to taxes, but to expenses because you unloaded your full supply of grenade launcher ammo and took unnecessary damage. Yes, that’s right – fighting to survive in AC6 comes with a cost.

At the end of every mission, you’ll have repairs and ammunition to restock which will all be deducted from your pay. Say goodbye to that upgrade you wanted, or a new piece of kit from the Armored Core 6 weapons list. So, this leaves you in a tricky situation if you want to avoid AC6 being oddly relatable: how can you save money so you don’t end up in debt? Well, clever resource management is how. Armored Core has secretly been a management sim all along, and that’s why it’s arguably FromSoftware’s most intricate experience.

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Generally, you’ll want to be reserved when it comes to how much ammo you spend and how frequently you repair your mech, struggling on for as long as you can to avoid running out and having run up a bill. However, in spite of controlling an AC armed to the teeth, these aren’t easy games. The total Armored Core 6 length is longer than you think, and getting through all those missions will inevitably offer a massive challenge, tempting you to head into the Assembly to bring out the big guns like the DF-GR-07 Gou-Chen grenade launcher or the BML-G1/P31DUO-02 dual missile launcher. Yet, every shot you fire now is not just one less that you might need later on, it’s also going to eat into your potential profits.

Taking this up a notch is FromSoftware’s usual penchant for massive bosses with even bigger damage spikes, and the Armored Core 6 bosses are no different. Throughout the story missions you’ll have to take down several bosses, but you often have to reach them first. So, do you use your resources liberally to reach the boss unscathed, or do you carefully account for every single shot out of your Ludlow machine gun to save ammo at the risk of taking more damage? Either way, it comes with a cost at the end of the mission.

In reality, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, you are a hulking metal beast and FromSoftware wants you to feel as such, but not without also flexing its muscles in creating challenging experiences that make you use your brain as much as your thumbs.

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This added element makes Armored Core stand apart from most traditional action games, and the soulslikes FromSoft is renowned for. You’re not just saving your healing or mana potions until the next campfire, at which point they will be freely restocked – you’re weighing up the cost of every shot fired and received. Sure, it’s not quite as involved as true management sims, but it provides just enough depth to immerse you in the harsh, cold universe of Armored Core. Need I remind you that the player character – bearing the unique ‘name’ 621 – is an augmented human indebted to major corporations? Yes, the profit you make is used to buy your life back, so keep that in mind next time you want to go guns blazing.

With such rich world building, not just through the narrative but also through gameplay features like resource management and even mission rewards, Armored Core 6 could be one of the best games of 2023. Following on from Elden Ring – one of the best RPG games ever made – is a hard task to rise to, but Armored Core 6 is equally as immersive and intense.