Daemon X Machina Review - Big Guns Meet Big Fun In This Mech Action Game
My Arsenal mech suit has a massive assault rifle in each hand that spits endless rounds of destruction at my enemies. I have a shoulder-mounted lock-on missile launcher, and a giant hand cannon and laser rifle on my back, just in case I need them. My processor is upgraded, and my armor is a carefully selected combination that gives me a fast in-flight boost, more durability and improve lock on at the long-range. I spent way too long decided what decals to put on my mech suit, and it’s a fetching black, red and yellow motif because as a diehard fan of a certain Battletech cartoon, that is the only color a mech can ever be. The best part is that every single part of my mech was upgraded by ripping the pieces from the wreckage of my downed enemies. I am fighting in a trophy, a destructive homage to my own might.
I use this mech to churn through a seemingly endless supply of enemy AI, Arsenal suits much like my own, and giant screen-filling enemies called Immortals. All around me, subterfuge and politicking unfold as we move from mission to mission. My life is filled with battles, robots, and some pretty wild personalities, and it has to be said that life is good.
Daemon X Machina, from Marvelous games and industry veteran Kenichiro Tsukuda, is pretty much my favorite type of mech game. We have a storyline that blends fun science-fiction with the kind of overwrought writing that I associate with the best animes. Options for weapons and armor are plentiful, customization means that you can put your own stamp on your Arsenal, enemies keep on coming, and threats keep getting bigger as the games lean hard into the mold of being a fun action romp.
Why Are We Fighting?
Because all giant mech battles need a reason to happen, at some point in the Planets history, the moon crumbled, and the apocalypse began. Specially gifted people, known as Outers, excel at piloting the Arsenal suits that stand between humankind and utter destruction at the hands of rogue AIs and the tower Immortals.
On an individual level, each character has their own reasons for being there. Some are the consummate professional soldier, there to do a job. Others seek fame and glory, while some might be driven to protect their family and loved ones from the pervasive threat of the AIs. In between, and sometimes during, missions you will learn more about the people around you, their relationships, the battles that occur between the different groups of Outer mercenaries as they strive to become the best at what they do. None of it is subtle, and for that I adore the story. From the petulant but incredibly skilled teenager to the battle-hardened and stoic veteran, there is not much done in the way of character development that would be considered new, but it is all done with conviction, and it is that conviction that carries the day.
I am sure some people will find the story and the characters that act it out to be somewhat cliche, but I loved it the way I love old space-opera novels and noir movies. Have we seen these characters before? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy seeing them again, stumbling from revelation to revelation and fight to fight. It’s just good fun. I don’t want to hinge too much on story arcs, because nobody likes a spoiler, but I liked what I saw, and if you are here for a good time then you should, too.
Communicate Through Combat
AIs only seem to speak one language, violence, and so this is how you communicate with them. Their desires are expressed through invasion and destruction, and you talk right back to them using your Arsenal suits. Designer Shōji Kawamori has really nailed down a neat design for the Arsenal suits. They look both tough and sleek, and each change you make to the armor will also change how they look. They bristle with weapons, communicative possibilities in a game where you parley with your enemy through super heated lasers and clusters of missiles.
How you build your Arsenal is up to you, but at its core, the combat in Daemon X Machina is a fun 3D puzzle where you try to output as much damage as possible while absorbing as little as you can. Being able to switch to your Pylon weapons allows for nice tactical variance and adaptability, while the Femto system gives a depth that is sometimes lacking in games where you fight hordes of enemies. You can use Femto, a strange energy that was unleashed with the destruction of the moon, to funnel more power into certain areas of your suit, allowing you to move faster, hit harder, or take more damage than you otherwise could. But this is a game of trades, and you might be a little slower and hit a little softer while powering up your armor.
Movement is important to a game like this, and the Arsenal suits come with a smooth control system, allowing you to position well and fight with efficiency. You can also fully customize the controls, so if something isn’t working for you, you can switch it up to a control scheme that you find more comfortable.
Daemon X Machina is a wave-based action game. There is some variety in how missions play out, and what your objective might be, but for the most part, you will be destroying things. I am perfectly fine with this. You can shoot things with your gun, throw cars at them, or even just out of your Arsenal and fight on foot if you need to.
Both your Arsenal and your pilot are upgradable, leading to some fun choices that allow you to lean into certain styles of play. Do you wish to be hyper mobile or an anvil that your enemies break themselves against? Different armor pieces all come with a range of stats to appeal to the mix/max players out there, making the game surprisingly deep if you wish to embrace it. You can tear weapons from downed enemies, buy and sell your trophies, or research new ones if you like something so much that you want one in each hand.
How It Looks And Runs
Daemon X Machina is not the prettiest game you will play on the Switch, but I imagine there are some reasons for this. The areas you play in can be pretty large, and I get the feeling those massive Immortals put some demands on the Switch’s ability to render graphics. There is also a fun amount of destruction in the game, which feels like a fair compromise giving the nature of combat. Smashing over a towering building while fighting an enemy Arsenal adds a lot to the experience, and gives the whole idea of massively powerful mechs fighting a bit more weight.
While the world itself might look a little rough from time to time, the Arsenals themselves look great, and I never noticed any major slow down even when the screen was filled with enemies and projectiles. I also want to take a moment to mention the game's soundtrack, as some of the songs that play while you are in the mission are fantastic, doing a great job at driving both energy and tension.
There are some issues, however. The enemy AI is not always the best, and I had a few good fights that were undercut by an enemy Arsenal, suddenly deciding that they didn’t want to move, or shoot me. There is also a kind of annoying reaction to meeting the game’s height ceiling, as your Arsenal seems to lose power and drop down for no real reason. Still, any complaints I have are few and far between, and I did enjoy my time with the game.
Exactly how much you get out of Daemon X Machina will vary, depending on how much you like mechs, and how much you like fighting waves of enemies. Personally, this game was a delightful surprise and was a fantastic way to spend my time during a recent stay in hospital. The fun narrative, characters, and action-driven combat were all enough to distract me from my medical woes.
The Switch is having one hell of a year for games, and while Daemon X Machina doesn’t quite rival the likes of the recent Astral Chain or Fire Emblem: Three Houses, I do consider it to be a bit of jewel where I never expected to find one. I didn’t realize how much I missed precisely this type of game until I played it, and I feel the developers have achieved what they set out to do very well. Daemon X Machina is just good old fashioned fun, with some nice twists and systems that do enough to make it enjoyable. It might not convert people who don't like mech games into believers in the genre, but for those who long for a few tons of destructive mech suit to pilot, it is bound to provide some great entertainment.
Disclaimer: This review was written using a game code provided by Nintendo UK.