Title: Daemon X Machina
Version Tested: PC
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA
Official Site: Daemon X Machina
Release date: February 3, 2020
Where to buy: Steam
A very specific group of people will unreservedly love Daemon X Machina. There are only so many games about mechs released every year. There are only so many Anime games put out every year. Anime Mech games are even rarer and the audience for this specific intersection of concepts has been starved for quite some time. Everyone else’s enjoyment will be more qualified due to some minor flaws here and there.
More than any game in the last five years, Daemon X Machina revels in the trope of, “everything goes wrong just when things felt like everything was over.” Most missions have a fairly mundane pretext of clearing out some low level, robotic enemies or scouting some empty area. At some point during this pretext, usually, once the player has spent a good portion of their ammo, the real action pops off. An enormous mech or squad of smaller mechs comparable to the players shows up. This is when the game really shines. When the player is backed into a corner and forced to fight their way out using all the tricks they’ve learned from playing so far. In this phase of battles, Daemon X Machina is an incredible experience. Giant boss mechs stomp, leap and rocket across the map filling the air with missiles and energy blasts that force players to dance their smaller framed mech around while desperately trying to stay on target. The fights with smaller mechs become even more hectic as up to six mechs boost across the landscape and flit around the sky frantically trying to blast each other. It’s unfortunate and frustrating that so many other aspects of the game can’t quite match this experience.
All this action is in service of a fairly rote Sci-Fi Anime tale which is told in a particularly stilted manner. The game is constantly interrupting missions to be certain that players are seeing what is being said over the mech’s radio channels. Most mission briefings are followed by not so brief chat between the pilots going on the mission. Most of the characters in the narrative fall into some Anime trope or another. Most of it is voice acted and written adequately well. It’s just a very “Peak Anime” story so those with a low tolerance for this style of storytelling will find little to like here.
Rough Around the Edges
Daemon X Machina is a game designed for Nintendo Switch and ported to Steam and it shows. In terms of visuals, this means the game’s art style does some serious heavy lifting in making things look good. Everything has a 3D Anime feel to it that works well with the story material and has loads of style. The sound design and music are just mediocre. The Anime Intro Rock heavy soundtrack will wear out it’s welcome with some players especially. Daemon X Machina’s Switch roots also show in the area of optimization. The game crashed to desktop twice during the review playthrough so players easily frustrated by bugs should be warned. Daemon X Machina is a game that loves mechs for people who love mechs. Every piece of your giant humanoid fighting machine can be fiddled with, replaced, and customized. Players can even pose their mech and take screenshots on a variety of backgrounds once they’ve found a configuration they like. Like a lot of systems in Daemon X Machina, there is a catch. To find new parts for their mechs players need to loot downed mechs during missions. In theory, this is a fine idea but in practice players either need to take time out of the already hectic battles to drop to the ground, get a finicky button prompt to pop up then hint through a menu of parts for the choicest bits.
The game does give players a few seconds at the end of each mission to fly around and loot but at that point, the process has the same effect as just putting up a list of all the available parts and limiting the number players can take. This is ultimately the only way to get new parts. There is a way to research parts but the options for this system are gated by what players have picked off the battlefield. The system makes getting a mech ready for the increasingly difficult missions of the game frustrating rather than rewarding. This system is the place where Daemon X Machina’s lineage from the Armored Core series of games shines through most clearly. The game’s developer, Marvelous Inc., is partially made up of folks who worked on the Armored Core series before From Software eventually stopped making them. A lot of the clunkiness of the gear system to say nothing of the tacked-on feeling pilot only missions feel like ideas that were brought up in the development of Armored Core but were cut for one reason or another. A lot of these less than optimal systems don’t really detract from the game in the broadest sense but, instead, contribute to a slightly rough around the edges feeling of the game.
The game’s online component is a more positive aspect of the game. Players can play through the mech combat version of Dungeons or hunt for bosses co-op as well as square off PvP. As with most smaller games, the main challenge of the online portion of Daemon X Machina is finding people to play with.
Verdict: Games like Daemon X Machina are getting rarer and rarer as the expense of game development gets higher and higher. The B-tier of gaming has slowly been absorbed by the indie space as triple-A developers make fewer and fewer games as time goes by. Daemon X Machina would have been the star of the ancient Blockbuster games rental section or GameStop bargain bins. Now, the best it can hope for is a good showing during a Steam sale. Worth trying out if you’re a fan of the genre or if you can pick it up at a discount.
- Frantic action
- Great Style
- Diverse Customization
- Clunky loot system
- Stilted Storytelling
- Optimization issues
Stephen Krusel, known as Sven Kroosl to some, has played video and tabletop games since 1987 and has written about the gaming industry since 2008. He has yet to be convinced that Final Fantasy Tactics is not the pinnacle of gaming.