Daemon X Machina review

Fire up those Arsenals because it’s time to protect the world from a sinister AI threat. First revealed last year, Daemon X Machina is at last ready to launch this Friday. A brilliant new IP from Marvelous, Daemon X Machina features high-octane mech combat alongside bright, colorful visuals and a delightful cast of characters. Though it has a few small dents in its armor, Daemon stands out as one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve had on the Switch thus far.

High-intensity firepower

The story of Daemon X Machina is set in motion when a portion of the moon blows up, raining a mysterious resource known as Femto down upon the world. This new element affected man and machine alike. AI became corrupted and started a war against humanity. Outers, humans who obtained special abilities as a result of Femto exposure, have taken up arms against the machines, piloting giant mechs known as Arsenals in their quest to protect humanity. You are one such Outer.

Being a mech game, combat lies at the heart of Daemon X Machina’s gameplay. Structured into a series of missions, these scenarios range from destroying waves of enemies to defending a target from being blown up to taking down the biggest, most colossal machines I’ve ever seen. Though they seem varied on the surface, at the end of the day, these all boil down to raining destruction on those who oppose you.

Daemon X Machina preview

That’s not a bad thing though, as Daemon X Machina’s combat is fun regardless of who your enemy is. Daemon gives you a war chest of weapons to play around with, actively encouraging you to try out different loadouts. These weapons range from the more conventional swords and assault rifles to crazier ones like acid guns and flamethrowers. You can bring a total of six weapons onto the battlefield in any given mission — two primary weapons, two backup primary weapons, a shoulder weapon, and an auxiliary weapon. My typical loadout consisted of an assault rifle, a bazooka, and a sword, both for when melee combat was more appropriate and as a backup in case I ran out of ammo for everything else. Clearly, Daemon X Machina is friendly to a multitude of diverse play styles and strategies.

The combat’s fast-paced nature can make it hard to accurately aim without stopping, but the handy lock-on mechanic keeps this from being more than a trivial issue at worst. Behind the winning combination of weapon choice and aim assist, Daemon’s combat maintains fluidity throughout, ultimately crafting an absolutely exhilarating experience.

Daemon X Machina preview

Daemon X Machina also gives you the ability to fight your foes on foot. You can do this either by landing your Arsenal and ejecting out of it, or having your Arsenal blown up and jumping out as a last resort. As the game wasn’t designed around this style, it’s a little lacking, but the little that’s there is well-done. I was able to finish off a small handful of enemy Arsenals when necessary, saving me the trouble of restarting the entire mission. However, I can’t really recommend going on foot unless absolutely necessary.

A better-than-expected story

For the most part, early missions don’t have much impact on the main story. The early game instead focuses on introducing you to your fellow mercenaries. At the time, I was concerned that the story would be a nonfactor, so I was pleased to eventually see Daemon’s story shift from character development to a more cohesive plot. The character development winds up being more important to this as well, so it was not time wasted.

Finely tuned difficulty balance

For the majority of missions, the difficulty balance of Daemon X Machina felt just right. There were certainly missions I had to replay a few times, but at most, it never took more than two or three attempts to succeed, and nothing felt truly impossible, except for the insanely challenging final boss fight, which I still haven’t quite conquered. Whether it was the heart-pounding tougher missions, or the simplicity of cutting loose and wreaking havoc on the easier ones, I had a blast throughout.

Daemon X Machina review

If you’re a fan of customization, Daemon X Machina has you covered. Tailoring your Arsenal’s equipment extends to your armor too, as you can swap out your head, body, processor, right and left arms, and legs. Each weapon and armor piece affects stats such as lock-on range, flight speed, and damage, and it can be quite easy to get lost in the numerical side of this feature if you really dive into it. Though I wound up sticking with the same loadout through most of the game, I never felt penalized for trying out new weapons or armor when I wanted to.

An empty overworld

As fun as Daemon X Machina is, there are a few drawbacks. First, the hub area feels very bland and empty. As it’s presented, it feels like a huge missed opportunity to engage more with the game’s world. As such, I had no desire to do anything in the hub world besides proceed with the next mission. The overworld is populated by a dog (which you can’t pet—what the hell, Marvelous?) and a few maintenance workers, none of whom you can actually talk to. An active, vibrant hub where you can chat with your teammates and get to know them would have kept me from constantly rushing to the next fight. The empty shell we got instead only feels like wasted potential.

I noticed a few hang-ups here and there as well. Most came as a result of using the Mirage ability, which creates a clone of yourself to fight alongside you at the cost of draining your resources. Almost every time I used this ability, the game would freeze for around a second before resuming the action as normal. Though just a small bug, it got to be fairly annoying over my playthrough — fast-paced mech fights have little room for technical hiccups and slowdown.

Artificial unintelligence

Even more importantly though, for a game predominantly centered on its combat, the AI can be a little on the dumb side. For one thing, I was often able to bait the enemy mercenaries into ground battles, thus removing the fun and the challenge of fighting mid-air. Other times, I’d break away from a fight to go grab health, only to find that the enemies would completely ignore me. While I was appreciative of this at times since it prevented me from dying, I think it was generally way too easy to disengage from a skirmish.

Lastly, the game softlocked once due to bad AI. In the second-to-last boss fight, my Arsenal had been destroyed, leaving me to fight in the inner ring of the arena on foot. My opponent, meanwhile, was moving around the outer ring of the arena. Because of the height of the wall separating us, I couldn’t jump it to fight him, and he refused to come to my side to fight, thus forcing me to restart the entire battle. Hopefully, an update down the line can fix some of these technical problems.

A brilliant new title, marred by a few small issues

Overall, Daemon X Machina is a wonderful new IP and you wouldn’t go wrong picking it up, especially if you’re a fan of mech titles. Though it’s a little slow to start, and there are definitely things it could do better, once it picks up you’ll find high-octane action, a diverse cast of characters, and a story full of intrigue and depth. There’s nothing quite like it on the Switch that I’ve seen thus far, but I’m hoping Daemon X Machina will pave the way for more.

Release Date: Sept. 13, 2019
No. of Players: 1 – 4 players
Category: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Steven Rollins
Steven has been involved in video game reporting for over five years now. In his spare time, he can be found speedrunning or watching as much anime as he possibly can.

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