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Daemon X Machina

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Marvelous
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Daemon X Machina'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 18, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Daemon X Machina is a fast-paced mech action game from Kenichiro Tsukuda. Players can customize their powered mech suit and tackle an array of missions to conquer enemies.

Buy Daemon x Machina

Before Dark Souls took the world by storm, From Software was best known for its long-running mecha combat series Armored Core, in addition to other mecha combat games like Metal Wolf Chaos and A.C.E. Since Dark Souls became popular, the Armored Core franchise has languished, and that's what Daemon x Machina seeks to capitalize on. Armored Core without From Software is a tall order, and the result is a game that captures the same feel, but it has its flaws.

Daemon x Machina is set in the distant future. A horrifying accident shattered the moon and rendered the planet a hellish wasteland where few could survive. As if that weren't bad enough, rogue AIs called Immortals roam the wastelands, threatening the few surviving nations. Mercenaries piloting giant robots are among the few groups who really thrive in this society, and you play as the latest addition to their ranks. Of course, no sooner do you get your feet wet then the fragile society begins to splinter apart in the face of politics and giant robots.

One part of Daemon x Machina that fails is its plot, which is a series of mecha tropes that have been thrown into a blender until it resembles a bland mush. The characters and setting aren't very interesting, but they should be. Even as a die-hard fan of mecha, I was bored more often than I felt engaged, despite cameos from some of the biggest names in mecha anime and a deluge of inside jokes. Don't play this game for the plot, even if you're a mecha fan.

The idea behind Daemon x Machina is that you're in control of a giant robot, and your goal is to beat the living daylights out of other giant robots. You can equip multiple weapons on your robot, including two hand-mounted weapons, a back-mounted weapon, and two alternate hand-mounted weapons. Laser weapons run off your internal recharging engine, and physical weapons require ammunition that can be restocked by beating up enemies. You can even eject weapons mid-battle to swap in something new.

Combat is all about working around enemy mobility and speed. High-power weapons are great, but you need to know when and where to use them. Sometimes a good machine gun is far more effective than a high-powered bazooka. Melee weapons have the best accuracy but involve getting up close and can also lead to button-mashing clashes against similarly armed enemy forces (at least in offline mode). The game isn't punishing, but learning how to best work the mechanics to your advantage is key to defeating enemies and earning the best loot.

Daemon x Machina has some pretty neat features. You can get a lot of cool gimmicks for your mecha, including decoy illusionary mecha to fight alongside you, extra boosters, and even remote weapons that automatically attack enemies. You also have the ability to shift your Femto (the magical particle that the robots depend on) to improve your speed, defense or offensive power at a moment's notice. Once you feel comfortable, it feels like you're adjusting your robot on the fly. You can customize your mecha in a ton of ways, so both melee-heavy combat and long-range snipers are perfectly viable, but some builds excel when you have partners along to draw the enemy fire.

When everything comes together in Daemon x Machina, it feels amazing to zoom around the battlefield, swap out weapons, and take down giant behemoths. The game has a learning curve, and at first blush, it can feel pretty awkward. This won't feel too out of place to Armored Core fans, but if you're new to the franchise, be prepared to learn to walk before you can zoom around like a Gundam pilot.

The core gameplay loop is simple: go into mission, beat up robots, collect parts from downed robots to improve your mecha, and repeat. The game is well paced enough that you can advance comfortably by only completing the main story missions, but there's plenty of bonus grinding that can be done to unlock some of the better weapons. If you want to have the maximum amount of robot power, you need to earn it.

Thankfully, you don't have to do that alone. The game supports up to four-player co-op, which you can use to take on some of the giant walking doom tanks that represent the greatest challenges. This is where I imagine most players will spend the bulk of their time. Cooperative gameplay makes the game shine and allows you to use more esoteric builds, knowing your allies are going to back you up. There's not quite enough of this content to give the game the length of a Monster Hunter World, but it captures the same feel of working together to take down something far bigger and deadlier.

Daemon x Machina is a difficult game to judge in terms of visuals. In some ways, it reminds me of the upscaled remasters of handheld games like Gravity Rush and Kingdom Hearts. It doesn't look bad, but it feels sparse and empty, and despite that, it sometimes feels like it's doing more than the system can handle. When things are going well, it looks amazing and captures the intense feel of high-speed mecha combat. When things aren't going well, it looks bland. Screenshots don't do this game any favors, and the early game gives the worst impression. The soundtrack is solid, and the voice acting is good, but the Japanese version is clearly the way to go, as your supporting cast is voiced by some of the best mecha voice actors.

All in all, Daemon x Machina is about the best that one can hope for from an Armored Core fill-in. It isn't quite as good as the highs of the tragically sleeping franchise, but it's on par with the average. If you like mecha, customization, and blowing up stuff, and you have a tolerance for the learning curve of the controls, then Daemon x Machina will keep you happy. At the end of the day, you get to pilot a giant robot and slash up enemies with a giant lightsaber, and who doesn't love that?

Score: 8.0/10

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