Marvelous Entertainment’s Daemon X Machina (Nintendo Switch, released 9/13/19) hopes to fill the giant robot-shaped void left in our hearts from all those hours spent playing classic Mech combat games in the mid-90s and early-2000s. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Moon has been torn apart and the sky stained red with “Femto,” players must survive as mercenaries charged with defeating AI-controlled machines that seek to take over the world. Player characters are known as “Outers” who use their combat skills to control “Arsenals.” These fully-customizable mechs allow you to equip various armor and weapons to conquer each individual mission. Daemon X Machina also offers co-op mode with up to four players to “destroy titanic bosses.”
At its core, Daemon X Machina fully focuses around giant Mech customizations. Players are able to set loadouts for specific missions and upgrade each individual part of their Arsenal. Skins, decals, and weapon configurations all contribute to an overall sense that each loadout is uniquely yours. The design system is fluid and easy to navigate. I could literally spend hours perfecting the appearance of my Arsenal before getting into any real combat. Hats off to you, Shoji Kawamori; your Mechs are stunning.
I also love the art style of Daemon X Machina and it seems well-optimized to run on the Switch’s hardware. I had no frame drops or skips when in battle and character/mech models all were very well rendered. The red ambiance to the world also gives the game a sense of grit.
Where Daemon X Machina falls short is in it’s repetitive gameplay and lack of a compelling storyline. Most missions center around hunting down AI-controlled ships/mechs/radar turrets, protecting buildings, or fighting other mercenaries. There is a lack of variability that would otherwise keep my interest. Missions fluctuated between frustratingly difficult and too easy. Many missions left me feeling like I was holding the trigger while auto-aim lock targeted the next wave of enemies. Each of these missions was either preceded/interrupted with a cutscene introducing stereotypical characters and a hint of a story. When introduced, other mercenaries had underdeveloped personalities and really gave me no sense of investment in the story.
Ultimately, Daemon X Machina left me wanting more. Smooth gameplay mechanics and a unique ambiance do not make up for repetitive missions and underdeveloped characters. Storylines feel forced instead of flowing. I’ll think of this game as a full-priced proof of concept for Marvelous Entertainment and hope they release a sequel with either a BOTW-sized open world or more attention paid to a key set of characters that build steadily through the game. If I’m going to invest any more in the franchise, I need to be invested in the story. At this point, play the free demo. You’ll scratch the itch to fully customize a giant robot without a dent in your wallet.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
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