Daemon X Machina Review
It used to be common place to see new high-octane explosive mech games on the market at any given time. This genre has been quiet the last several years, but the fan base has been hungrily hoping to see a shining star of mechanical mayhem come back to the market to revitalize the genre. Daemon X Machina is that game and it is the renaissance of mech/action games we have spent years hoping for.
For a game about intense combat, Daemon X Machina carries an intriguing narrative with a wide array of colorful characters to interact with. You’ll start the game as a new Arsenal pilot affectionately nicknamed “Rookie” by the other Outers. As an Outer, your body has been bombarded with the mysterious Femto particles which have altered your genetics and made you highly adaptable through augmentation. This makes you a perfect candidate for piloting an Arsenal; a beautifully customizable mech.
Dark Side of the Moon
Several years prior, a large portion of the moon collided with the Earth and released Femto into the atmosphere. It caused cataclysmic disasters around the globe and mankind banded together to save the people. Consortiums sprung up with different ideas on how best to serve the people and these built into massive corporations. Equipped with Arsenals, Outers quickly banded together into registered mercenary groups which these consortiums then hire out for research, defense, or whatever else is needed. These events also lead to the rise of the Immortals, a rogue-AI faction able to overwrite and commandeer technology in the pursuit of mankind’s destruction. Each mission is a contract offered by a consortium, however other mercs can be hired by opposing consortiums to stop you. While I started out holding grudges against certain mercs, I quickly found myself allying with characters who previously had tried to kill me. It’s a harsh world but being a merc is just another job.
Mercenary groups fit into simple niches like Bullet Works being strict military types, The Western VII as convicts who get reduced time by doing missions, or Immortal Innocence being a kind and well-meaning family who seem to never die. Each character is unique and subtly designed without being huge exposition dumps to try and force you to like them. But enough about the emotional narrative, you probably want to know about the bit where giant robots shoot at each other.
Producer Kenichiro Tsukuda had worked previously on the Armored Core franchise and for those who have been dying to see another entry in the iconic series, Daemon X Machina is all that and more. The Arsenal is fast, powerful, and beautiful to look at. Running on the ground will see you skating at high speeds and able to turn on a dime. It feels incredibly fluid and always keeps you right in the battle. Flight, much to everyone’s joy, can be sustained constantly. You can play the entire mission without touching the ground if you wish and it handles like a dream. During an interview with Tsukuda at E3 he mentioned wanting an open area game to explore the verticality of the space and each mission feels incredibly vast due to this open verticality.
When it comes to load-outs you’ll be able to slot four weapons as well as a shoulder-mounted, high impact weapon, and an auxiliary/support function. Daemon X Machina offers a variety of weapon options, but I personally enjoy having an assault rifle, bazooka, sword, and acid launcher as my standard go to. Swords are particularly epic when getting into a melee battle as you’ll lock swords in a test of strength mini-game to prove your superiority.
Customizing your Arsenal feels great as you’ll always be pushing to get the best out of your machine. Each part contributes to your base stats and their individual abilities, so you can focus on getting exactly what you want out of it. I keep my bazooka and acid launcher on the left arm so I equipped an arm that has high defensive power and increases my damage output for the weapons it holds. The right arm – with my assault rifle and sword – has a much higher rate of fire but its defense is notably lower to balance out. I have been in fights where my right arm blew clean off my Arsenal, but luckily I downed an enemy, ripped their arm off and equipped it so I could keep fighting.
Targeting comes from your choice of head with varying lock-on ranges. While not a typical lock-on system, it instead allows you to auto target within a certain distance. Essentially if the enemy remains in the circle on your HUD, your shots will aim towards them. This seems simple enough but when everyone is moving about like lightning you’ll need those quick reflexes to keep them in your sights. I will say for how intense and awesome combat can be, there are times the AI proves… less than capable. Certain enemy mercs will give you a serious challenge but I occasionally encountered fights where Arsenals were on the ground trying to sprint head-first into a wall. It made for an easy kill, but this happened more often than it should have.
Show Me The Way
Daemon X Machina does have two painful flaws: its menu and its total lack of tutorial. I can head into the factory to craft new armor or weapons and while I can click for a stat comparison, I have no idea what I currently have equipped. This means I have to back out a few times to head into my hangar, see what my equipped part is called and what their bonus stats are, and then head back to the other menu and see if it’s any better. There is also no real guidance on HOW to upgrade and get better parts so it’s a matter of trial and error and poking the game hard enough. You’ll start with standard Legion parts which can then be upgraded into several styles, which can then splinter into different paths and be continually enhanced into different models to get the stat typing you want. It’s a great system but nothing tells you this is how it works.
Your pilot is not just a pilot, it’s a mercenary. You’ll be able to buy new augments and abilities to enhance your Outer, some of which will physically alter their appearance in cool ways. I purchased an energy sword upgrade which replaced half my arm with a bionic one. More importantly, the Outer is a viable part of combat in any mission. You can exit the Arsenal to place traps, throw grenades, or simply bait the enemy. In a two on one battle I took down one Arsenal at the cost of my right arm. I replaced it with his, only for his ally to shoot me down. My Arsenal crashed hard but I jumped out and it came down to me vs an Arsenal at 1/3 health. I lay traps, dodged, lured him in, and I destroyed him. Me. A simple Outer against a giant machine. It was a rush and felt so good.
Daemon X Machina goes beyond the expectations of a mech game with the Outer playing an integral part in tactics and combat. The other Outers you encounter are varied, unique, and have great personalities that shine through their voice acting. Combat is crisp, fast, and beautiful, accented by the stellar rock and metal soundtrack. The customization is phenomenal and the overall experience screams “just one more mission.” With the only downside being its lack of tutorials and occasionally bothersome menu, this is a game still easy to learn, fun to master, and an absolutely intense thrill to play. This is the mech game you’ve always wanted.
**Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher**
- Beautiful Graphics
- Amazing, Thematic Soundtrack
- Compelling Narrative
- Fantastic Controls
- Great Customization
- Lack Of Tutorials
- Unnecessary Menu Surfing
- Occasional Poor AI