Humanity is fighting for survival. After the moon was torn apart – a cataclysmic event referred to as the Moonfall – mankind had chosen to harness advanced AI to rebuild the world. That renewed sense of hope was soon lost after the arrival of an evil machine race known as the Immortals – mechanical monstrosities that soon turned the AI against them. The result was an endless war between man and machine, and, in Daemon X Machina, you must play your part in fighting for the future of mankind.
After tinkering around with this latest Nintendo Switch exclusive’s exhaustive character creation system you will first wander into a hangar to be greeted by Four, an AI construct that serves as the liaison between Orbital and Outers like you. You are the newest recruit to the Reclaimers, an elite group of mercenaries that leads the fight against the Immortals alongside other consortiums.
Daemon X Machina’s opening hours can certainly start to feel overwhelming. Not only is terminology bandied about as if it’s something that you should already intricately know, but you’re introduced to so many characters that it’s hard to remember who’s who. Given time, your brain will start to connect the dots. But, the developer’s pursuit of deeply layering the game’s lore can – while being a commendable effort – prove to be a struggle when trying to wholly comprehend its intricacies.
That likely won’t come as a concern to those that simply want to gear up in their armored Arsenal suit, customize their weapon and armor loadout, and work their way through Daemon X Machina’s many missions. Piloting your powerful mech, you will charge right into the action to unleash your payload into rogue AI and Immortals alike. However, these aren’t your only enemies, as other human consortiums will often confront you in a constant battle for territorial control.
Your time will be spent completing Offer Missions and Free Missions – one progressing the main story while the other sends you out on repeatable missions with multiple objectives, often for greater rewards. While the game does support both local wireless and online multiplayer, it’s worth pointing out that you can only conquer the story alone – which, inevitably, feels like a missed opportunity.
With Armored Core series producer Kenichiro Tsukuda at the helm, it won’t come as a surprise that Daemon X Machina excels in delivering stylish, fast-paced mech-based combat. In your fearless search for the secret behind the Immortals, you will clash with enemies on the ground and in the sky. There is a tremendous sense of weight to your Arsenal’s movement, with the chance to use a stamina-draining boost for extra speed and maneuverability. Locking on is as simple as placing an enemy in your sights, resulting in the cuboid cursor turning blue to indicate that your target’s locked in.
VP Recovery Tanks scattered on the battlefield can be used to restore your Arsenal’s health, which is needed to avoid repair costs being taken from your earnings. Whereas Femto, a resource with mysterious energy, can be used to activate powers that can boost your combat power, create a copy of your Arsenal to distract your enemies, and others.
Daemon X Machina’s general gameplay loop sees each of the missions that you set out on reward you with weapons, armor, and valuable credits – with the chance to salvage more equipment from your fallen enemies. With weapons assigned to your Arsenal’s left arm (ZL Button) and right arm (ZR Button), between missions, you can head to the hangar to play around with your loadout.
There are more than enough weapons to choose from, whether that be handguns, assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, combat shields, and more. You can also equip more weapons to your Arsenal’s shoulders and pylons – letting you unload heat-seeking missiles to hunt your enemies or carry weapons that you can switch to mid-mission. Your choices, on the whole, are limited by how much Memory they use – an effort to make sure that your mech isn’t completely overpowered to maintain the game’s balance.
As you unlock more weapons over time, the breadth of your salvaged collection impresses. Although, it’s easy to feel buried by it. You can sort your weapons using parameters such as their Damage, Effective Range, Reload Time, or Precision Rate, but, as you start to accumulate weapons of the same type, it becomes far more difficult (or perhaps clumsy) than it needs to be in working out which is the best choice. This could have been sorted with weapon ranking, which would also help make it more accessible to those less familiar with the genre – even as a method of simply working out which weapons should be sold.
There’s more to do between missions, whether that be developing new equipment in the Factory, performing surgical body modifications, or wandering into the Ice Cream Parlor. Eating different ice cream combinations will let you receive temporary bonuses to your abilities, as well as a loyalty stamp that will reward you with free ice cream. Whereas the body modifications unlock permanent bonuses and alter your Outer’s appearance to slowly make them look more like a machine, which can be reverted if you change your mind.
It’s hard to find fault with the Unreal Engine 4-developed game’s visual spectacle, that, stylish and slickly presented right through from the menus to the missions that you set out on, is a far cry from the faltering Prototype Missions demo. Whether choosing to play docked or in Handheld mode, I only ever saw the framerate skip on occasion when the on-screen action became busier than usual.
Daemon X Machina easily secures a spot as one of the best-looking games on Nintendo Switch, with a glorious soundtrack to boot. With the sky now drenching the world in a kaleidoscope of red light thanks to the moon unexpectedly fracturing, the anime-infused art direction that has been created around this idea is bold, color-packed, and helps to make the game stand out from the crowd.
That’s not to say that Daemon X Machina isn’t without its problems. The time that it takes to unlock weapons that not only suit your playstyle but have more impact in combat is longer than necessary. I still wonder why the player doesn’t have access to a wider range of basic weapons to start, to then be rewarded with more powerful versions through progression. That tedium bleeds into the missions, which, while throwing different objectives at you, aren’t differentiated enough from one another to become repetitive – especially in longer play sessions.
There’s much to applaud about Daemon X Machina. The third-person mech action game delivers an experience unlike any other on Nintendo Switch, thanks to the striking mech designs and red-drenched world merging with combat that can readily thrill in the game’s many large-scale encounters. However, shortcomings such as the convoluted plot and repetition let it down – holding it back from reaching the brilliance that Marvelous nearly achieved.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo