Daemon X Machina is mostly about the satisfaction of making minor adjustments to tackle a much bigger problem. Faced with a quadrupedal robot the size of a city park, do you focus on defense to survive it, or offense to take it down as quickly as possible? Stay grounded to access his abdomen or fly far above most of his range? Use fast firearms to make up for losses inaccuracy, or carefully align a massive bazooka and every shot? This is our Daemon X Machina Review.
The game is at its best when you diagnose a mission and customize your armored mech suit. Most of Daemon X Machina is spent in combat, but it’s the moments between missions where these crucial decisions are made where the game finds its identity.
Daemon X Machina Review: About
- Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
- Developer: Marvelous Inc., FIRST STUDIO
- Publisher: Marvelous, Nintendo, Xseed Games
- Genres: Third-person shooter
- Release Date: September 13, 2019
Daemon X Machina Review: Official Trailer Video
Daemon X Machina Review: Gameplay
As the newest mercenary surrounded by veterans, you are quickly labeled as ‘the Rookie’ – a name that keeps you well beyond the deserved name as you rise in the ranks and even most of your peers. The mercenaries are pilots of armored mech suits called Arsenals, their actions controlled by a centralized artificial intelligence that oversees their missions against Immortals – AI robots that have gone rogue against humanity. But you are still mercenaries. Even if you’re apparently on the same team against the immortals, you’re doing it all for the money, and often your goals conflict with your colleagues from other merc groups.
The pace of the fighting varies significantly by type of encounter. Smaller enemies swarm the battlefield and require a rushed crowd. Rival mechs often turn into air snails, especially as melee clashes jump to a sudden bud-pounding event to overpower your opponent. And the huge Colossi are each unique encounter with their attack patterns and weaknesses. Your backup weapons equipped with the pylons offer a bit of flexibility, but your Arsenal is not a Swiss army knife. No build could be prepared for any battle type, especially in late-game as enemies can absorb much more damage.
The variety of these combat types requires different gear to match, and it is the tinkering part of the game that is strangely most satisfying. Your Arsenal has a variety of customization options, including two primary weapons, two backup weapons stored on the rear masts, shoulder-mounted equipment, and auxiliary equipment, without even changing the interchangeable head, body, arm, and leg sections and the ability to paint and decal the whole rig. It is similar to building a Gundam model except that you can go out and control it against hordes of enemy robots.
However, the wealth of customization options hits a stumbling block when it comes to fighting the other mercenaries. Weapon options range from slow-moving bazookas to acid guns and swords, which are perfect for dealing with both standard enemies and Kolossi. But as the game progresses, battles against other mercenaries are much more common, and most weapons are not suitable for them. Like your own Arsenal, enemy platforms are airborne and extremely agile, meaning most of your options are just too slow.
These mech-on-mech battles come with a considerable chunk of anime melodrama. The cheap voice actors and dialogues are utterly endearing enough not to be distracted from the excellent world build as the characters and relationships reveal more about the history and nature of the conflict. The story throws you into the deep without much explanation, but you slowly get used to the different mercenaries and their different philosophies and goals.
As you build awareness of these mercenaries in the story, you also gain them as recruiting allies. That allows you to take them on side missions, although it can be frustrating at times that you can’t target your allies at a specific target. Their help comes at a price – sometimes a price that’s even higher than the actual payout, in which case you run a net loss to make the mission a little easier for yourself. However, this is fine because money has limited usefulness in the game’s economy.
You can buy parts in a shop or manufacture them in a factory, but the ones you find on the battlefield are generally better anyway. Most of your money goes instead to small, passive upgrades to your Arsenal and humanoid avatar – called an Outer, because of course, even your actual human body is defined in the context of being outside your Arsenal. You can pay a little money in a place called the ice cream parlor for a buff with one mission, or pay significantly more to develop an upgrade tree.
These upgrades make you look less and less human, which is thematically similar to transhumanism elements in the main story. However, your inhuman appearance is never responded to, so your choices do not reflect the bigger story, and it remains superficial. Instead, your upgrades and the accompanying cosmetic changes are just a matter of weighing whether you mind if your avatar looks less like you intended when you made them.
Likewise, the story comes with less punch than it should be. You’ve fought so casually with other pilots and with such regularity that when the bet spins life and death, it’s not reflected in the gameplay. You still shoot the enemy until their arsenal becomes inactive, but then a video shows them dying instead of retreating. It’s a disappointing buzz considering how much I loved the various factions and their happy groups of weirdos.
DXM gets a boost of longevity through its cooperative online game. Missions range from upgraded versions of the Colossus boss battles to the inclusion of other sets of mercenaries. The lobby system and chat features, while simplistic, do their job well, and it’s cool to see your hangar space fill up with your teammates’ mechs as they join. Your rewards for co-op missions lean into the best part of the game by providing a constant path to get new loot, such as armor parts, weapons, and mod attachments.
Strangely, however, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way to change your gear or gear when you’re in the multiplayer lobby. If you want your rig to be well tuned for a multiplayer mission, you either have to choose the equipment and then narrow your search criteria very narrowly, or deal with a wider build.
The missed story potential and minor issues with mech-vs-mech combat and multiplayer gear mean Daemon X Machina review just falls short of its potential, but the basics are strong. As a total package, it is on the verge of greatness; it just needed a little more time in the store.
Most of Daemon X Machina is spent in combat, but it’s the moments between missions where these crucial decisions are made where the game finds its identity.