Millions of Elden Ring players faced a humbling experience last year on their journey to Stormveil Castle, where they met Margit, the Fell Omen, one of the game’s first bosses and an early test of skill. Margit is tough, presenting a roadblock to progress for Tarnished still relatively new to the Lands Between.
Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon players will endure a similar drubbing when they face the machine AA P07 Balteus, arguably the true first boss of FromSoft’s new mech game. What makes Balteus different? The previous boss-level mechs players encounter include the tutorial-style AH12 HC Helicopter, which can easily be defeated with a few staggers and strikes from the starter energy blade; and HA-T-102 Juggernaut, which gives you a computer-controlled ally and very clear instructions on how to beat it.
The battle against Balteus, however, is full of surprises: It has a regenerative shield, you have no cover whatsoever, and, oh yeah, it fires somewhere in the realm of 10 million homing missiles every few seconds. When it’s not raining rockets on you, Balteus is pulling out a massive flame sword and batting your AC like a pesky fly.
Yes, fly into this.
Image: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco via Polygon
While Margit, the Fell Omen may be the major test of strength that makes or breaks Elden Ring players, there’s no Sorcerer Rogier or Spirit Summon that can aid AC pilots in the battle of Balteus. Nor can players take a quick detour over to Murkwater Cave to acquire Margit’s Shackle. Balteus is sink or swim, and it’s the moment that players are forced to learn Armored Core 6’s omnidirectional movement, how to best take advantage of staggered opponents, and how to optimize their mech’s assembly.
The bad news is you must learn how to use all of Armored Core’s toolkit. The good news is that once you’ve learned what Balteus has to teach, you’ll be prepared for everything to come. It (mostly) gets easier from here.
Balteus can be beaten, of course. Overcoming it requires learning to read its attack patterns. And it requires aggressive tactics — despite your best instincts, one of the best ways to break its shield or Attitude Stability is to fly right at it: Absorb some of that missile fire, kick Balteus in the face, and blast it with a shotgun at point-blank range.
8 things to know before you start Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon
Players don’t have the option to grind XP and overlevel their way into becoming more powerful than Balteus. Your best option is to practice, replay missions for cash, and invest in new AC parts and weapons. Most importantly, don’t “overheat” yourself; give yourself some rest. Don’t do what I did: fruitlessly engage in three hours of failed Balteus attempts in an effort to hit a review deadline.
Yes, Balteus is a “skill check.” A gatekeeper. It is a severe difficulty spike, one of a half-dozen such difficulty spikes in Armored Core 6. But it is doable. And after having honed your skills, upgraded your AC, and faced greater challenges on Rubicon, you should return to Balteus and battle it again — you’ll find it’s not the impenetrable steel wall it once seemed.