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Daemon X Machina – Review
”Don’t worry Coop, I won’t forget our Adage”
“I dig giant robots, you dig giant robots. We dig giant robots, chicks dig giant robots”
”By the gods, I dig giant Robots”
-Provost Coop and Vicar Jamie
Giant robots just won’t go out of style. While they may never be pop-culture giants like superheroes, the fact of the matter is that for as long as there are niche interests, there will always be love (sometimes too much) for giant mechanized humanoids.
Daemon X Machina is game that steeps itself in the Real Robot subgenre of mecha. You play a mercenary who uses their giant robot to complete missions on behalf of three mega conglomerates and fight an army of AI machines. While the game is easily a good mech game, it oftentimes drops surprises so out of left field that it stops it from being a great one.
Like many games designed specifically for the Nintendo Switch, Daemon X Machina looks amazing. Bold colors mesh with Armored Core-esque mecha designs and interesting looking characters to make for a game that just oozes visual appeal.
The bosses in this game all look amazing too, with all of them taking on the form of futuristic vehicles. The faceless, bold shaped designs combine with their purpose-driven shape to give them an almost megaman-level of informative design.
One of the strongest features in this game is the addition of a customizable HUD. The entire HUD is fully customizable via the menus, allowing you to reposition, resize and even adjust the opacity for every item on the display.
All this comes together for a game that just looks good. The environment colors look amazing, and everything’s just the right amount of detailed to not lose your mecha in all the on-screen chaos.
At its core, Daemon X Machina plays really well. The handling of the mechs feel good, and the game’s own integrated lock on makes sure that you don’t need too much precision while you’re zipping around the arenas.
War In The Handheld
The game’s mission structures remind me a lot of games like Monster Hunter where there are story missions which you do once, while you have “Free Missions” to be repeated ad nauseam and co-operative missions to do with either AI partners or friends.
The game’s story missions are particularly frustrating, especially once you start seeing the pattern to them. If the mission is story-driven, there will be a lot of dialogue both before the mission and during it. The start of the mission is particularly bad for this, as often times the game will load you into the mission but just give you nothing to do until the characters finish mouthing off at each other.
The game tries to change it up occasionally, most memorably with a mission where you play as your pilot without the mech. Unfortunately playing as your pilot is such an alien experience as there’s nothing particularly unique for you in that form, the game would have probably been better off without it.
Just Get In The Robot
But when you’re piloting the robot, the game is good. The boosters feel good to use, and there’s enough different equipment to build your mech to play up and down the tank-DPS scale.
Another gripe I have to bring up, however, is with the weapons. While the game has plenty of them, it suffers from a lot of balancing issues. Laser weapons, for example, cost both ammo and Femto (a special resource you generate or pick up) and don’t do all that much more than your standard gun, making them effectively useless.
Limited Blade Works
While my love of giant robots make me want to experiment with all the weapons this game throws at me, at the end of the day I end up using mostly machine guns because they are blatantly the game’s best weapons. Since so much of this game moves at high speeds, naturally a weapon that gets more dice has a higher chance of hitting its target. I’m not sure how I’d fix this, but I feel like there is an answer to be explored on how to fix this.
Melee combat is also uninspired, with not many options for the player who prefers to get in close. Most melee weapons have only one attack, except the light swords which will dash between targets. Again, I don’t know how I’d fix the problem, but I’m sure that there is a solution to make the melee combat feel rewarding to use considering the challenges of connecting to a mech moving way faster than you in the opposite direciton.
The best way to describe the gameplay would pretty much be an A+ on the basics, but falling apart when you add any kind of depth to it. While it gets the absolute basics- flying the robot and shooting bad guys- down, it does start feeling empty if you start wanting any more than that.
Mono Build Fighter
Daemon X Machina has some form of communication disorder. While many of the bosses have cool motifs going for them, one of the most frustrating things you will encounter is a lack of any real way to apply those to your own mecha.
When you unlock the factory, you’ll find that there are some boss weapons, but not nearly enough. The truth is that the game has a second, secret factory which produces more boss equipment. While I always enjoy a good secret in a video game, I feel like the sheer ease with which to miss the secret factory puts it in a dangerous position.
I’m not going to lie and say discovering the secret factory didn’t drastically improve my thoughts on the game. Many of the boss weapons unlocked there are actually fun, from laser drills to giant jet boosters to several greatswords. My only complaint is that once again, I wish there was more.
Fashion X Machina
When it comes to customizing your mech, I feel like the game could have taken a few pages from Gundam Breaker. Eye colors are not customizable, for example, which really makes planning your Fashion X Machina game a lot less fulfilling if ultimately it has to look good with the game’s pre-set red visor.
Most offensively, weapons are not color customizable, either. For whatever reason the game decided this, making many of the coolest weapons look quite the eyesore if they don’t sync with your colorscheme.
Your pilot is customizable, too, with a variety of upgrades that slowly mechanize their body. While this is cool it is also very tedious if you screw up, as the only way to roll back upgrades is to start back at level one, meaning you should be fairly loaded with cash if you suddenly want to change your upgrades.
08th Arsenal Team
Equipment aside, the game also gets quite the mileage out of its cast of mercenary pilots. They exist to be unlocked as supports in Free and Co-op missions, and this can be quite the fun task. However the game doesn’t really explain much to you on how to unlock them, and it seems like their appearances also seem to be entirely random.
Again, while Daemon X Machina’s options certainly aren’t bad, they do feel like they missed a few obvious choices that could have been so much more.
I Dig Giant Robots
As a mecha fan, I quite like Daemon X Machina. The thought of high speed dogfights against other pilots is a seductive one, and the game nails it down quite well.
However, like a date that starts strong only to run out of topics partway through, Daemon X Machina does start to leave you wondering if there’s anything missing from the game as you get to the end.
…But I Also Dig Customization
The game plays it quite safe with its weapon options, with most guns being your standard assault rifle/machine gun / shotgun types, rather than play with the weirder stuff you can do with giant robots.
The shoulder weapons have a bit more variety to them with railguns and laser cannons, but ultimately you do wish there was a little more of each of them.
This Story Isn’t Just For Show
The story for the game isn’t that good, either. It’s charming at the start, with all the mercenaries having their own quirks and dynamics. However, the story seems very intent on being as dramatic as possible, leading to some truly frustrating plot points in the game (further compounded by the earlier mentioned delay of gameplay because of it).
There’s some nice callbacks to Mobile Suit Gundam, though, most notably with two of the characters in the game being voiced by the voice actors for Amuro Ray and Char Aznable.
Considering some of the dialogue said by the characters towards the end of the game and how you unlock co-op partners, I can’t help but wonder if there are iterations of this game with more Persona-like social elements. Some kind of fleshing out of the Co-op partners would have definitely been good, as some of them can be genuinely charming.
Daemon X Machina is by no means a perfect game. While certainly rough around the edges the game excels at its strengths enough to stand on its own two mechanized feet.
I guess the problem with being a niche game is that you will inevitably be taken apart, and have your individual components judged against games that did those well. This happens any time you try to look at the aspects of Daemon such as its hunting and mech building.
Daemon X Machina certainly zooms past the “Good” rating for a game, but to push it into “Great” does require some personal taste assessments on the part of the end user.
For all my gripes though, hunting a giant drill mech with my friends or going 2v4 against a mercenary squad is, well…
Copy Purchased By Reviewer and played on Nintendo Switch In Handheld Mode Primarily