Game Reviews

Daemon X Machina Review

Mech combat with style and substance, but only for some.

by Kyle Hanson

One of the best aspects of the Switch’s massive success is how willing Nintendo has been to invest in smaller, less represented genres. The ability to take games on the go and general enthusiasm has led to well-supported releases across the gaming spectrum. This seems to be the case with Daemon X Machina, a mech-action game that otherwise might have gone unnoticed by the gaming populace at large. With that added attention comes an extra focus on how the game appeals to this wider audience though, which is where the game struggles the most. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre or just want a cool mech game to play around with then you won’t find much that disappoints you in Daemon X Machina on Nintendo Switch.

Daemon X Machina crafts a seemingly huge scifi world, but the story isn’t a major component of the experience. The Moon has crashed into Earth and chaos has reigned ever since. You play as a mercenary who helps defend against rampant AI machines that have begun decimating the populace and the military infrastructure. Once this premise is setup you mostly move on taking missions as they become available and interacting with your fellow mercenaries either NPC or online. That’s not to say there’s no plot here, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense and the game seems to understand that so it ignores it until much later in the experience, in favor of getting the player into the action right away.

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And that action is what you signed up for when you picked up a game with a giant lightsaber wielding robot on the cover. Players will hop into their mech, called an Arsenal here, and do battle against waves of enemies both large and small. Missions flood in one after the other offering new locations and mechanics all while players are able to finetune their Arsenal to their desires. And this is where Daemon X Machina falls into some traps.

If you were expecting this game to shirk the typical mecha genre confines and deliver a streamlined action experience you’ll be a bit surprised the moment you open a single menu in Daemon X Machina. The game is full of options, menus, and other things to tinker with. Simply looking at what you have equipped on your Arsenal and deciding on how to change its gear and weaponry can feel like pulling up some Excel spreadsheets, rather than customizing your awesome giant robot. For genre fans who’ve grown accustomed to this style of deep technical mechanics it’s a treat, but if you wanted something more akin to Zone of the Enders you’ll be slightly upset by what you see.

Daemon X Machina never really takes its time to ease players into anything

The combat itself isn’t quite as complicated, featuring simple to understand lock-on mechanics that make you feel like you’re always contributing to the fight. But simple things like changing weapons can be a frustrating mishmash of control ideas that take awhile to figure out completely. Thankfully almost every mission can be played from start to finish in under 15 minutes, so even if you feel overwhelmed you’re just a few battles away from relaxing back at base.

Once there though you might not feel fully capable of booting up the next mission. This is mostly because Daemon X Machina never really takes its time to ease players into anything. Even the HUD is an extremely crowded affair, and though you can customize it the info you remove is valuable once you understand all the myriad mechanics on offer. However, the game doesn’t help you grasp that. Instead it throws words, mechanics, and concepts at you right out of the gate and waits for you to figure it all out, or for you to dive into the large help text section.

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If you do get ahold of these things then the missions let you really put them to good use. There’s a nice variety here with standard combat against enemy AI units, fighting other Arsenal mechs, gigantic boss battles, or a few others. Tack on a decent suite of multiplayer options and those who get into the game will have plenty to dig through. It’s just unfortunate that the opening few hours aren’t more streamlined and focused. Further work could have also been put into easing players into the deeper mechanics, as many will feel bombarded out of the gate and end up ignoring otherwise useful gameplay elements.

In contrast, the presentation can’t be faulted too much beyond the overly busy visuals at times. The graphics feature a really cool cel-shaded style to them. All of the mech and enemy designs are delightful, filling this already interesting world with even more interesting pieces of tech. More story development would have helped here as well, cementing players into the world in a more real fashion. Even without that though, Daemon X Machina will certainly please with its style.

The Verdict

Mecha genre fans will find a lot to love in Daemon X Machina, but those hoping for more mainstream appeal might want to stay away. The game features an overabundance of options, mechanics, and customizations that will give it longevity, but only if you clear the initial hurdle set in front of you. Once you do though, there’s quite a bit here to enjoy even if it isn’t wholly new or unique beyond its style.

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Daemon X Machina

  • Available On: Switch
  • Published By: Nintendo
  • Developed By: Marvelous First Studio
  • Genre: Action
  • US Release Date: September 13th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Switch
  • Quote: "Mecha genre fans will find a lot to love in Daemon X Machina, but those hoping for more mainstream appeal might want to stay away. The game features an overabundance of options, mechanics, and customizations that will give it longevity, but only if you clear the initial hurdle set in front of you."
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