The skies are red with pulsing energy, essential resources continue to dwindle, and the AI who formerly served mankind now seek to destroy it—yet still the last remnants of humanity fight amongst one another for money and power—using you as their pawn for their own monetary gain.
It is time for our species to evolve in the latest Nintendo Switch exclusive, Daemon X Machina. In this exciting third-person mech shooter, players take on the role of an Outer, one of the many mech-piloting mercenaries who serve the four Consortiums and are tasked with eliminating the corrupt AI—referred to as Immortals—that threaten to kill the remainder of life left on this post-apocalyptic version of Earth.
As a mecha enthusiast, I have been eagerly awaiting Daemon X Machina’s arrival since it was announced because of its heavy inspiration drawn from one of my favourite mech shooters of all time, Armored Core. I don’t blame FromSoftware for leaving this niche sci-fi franchise behind as they continue to pump out SoulsBorne games, but I’m thankful that some of the team from the old days reunited under the banner at Marvelous First Studio to deliver a spiritual successor sporting awesome mechanical designs from series veteran, Shoji Kawamori, and a bold new art style.
The core hook of Daemon X Machina’s gameplay revolves around the Arsenal, which is the player’s modular mech that they can freely customize with a huge pool of available weapons, limbs, and processors. I may not be a huge fan of racing sims, but this level of customization in Daemon X Machina feels just as detailed as outfitting a sports car in Forza for an off-road rally race. For example, my Arsenal at the beginning of the game was a simple jack-of-all-trades tank, but by the endgame chapter, I had traded in my mech’s durability for immense speed and an increased fire rate. I also upgraded the processor so I could have enough power to carry multiple assault rifles and a huge missile rack across its shoulders.
However, the catch is that in order to obtain all of these parts players need to shoot down other Arsenals and salvage them out in the field. This system feels similar to Monster Hunter’s carving mechanic, but thankfully it’s easy to work around the RNG loot pool so you’re not constantly replaying the same missions for hours in hopes the part you deeply desire drops. Players can trade in their duplicate parts to the factory and upgrade them into more powerful models, which can then be purchased outright anytime at the shop with the credits they obtain from missions. I really enjoy the balance between these three components because there’s never a drought of new equipment to obtain, players are always working towards upgrading their Arsenal and testing out different configurations.
Marvelous also did a great job of taking feedback from players who tried out the early demo, including myself, and put in the work to improve a lot of the quality of life issues that were hampering our enjoyment. This includes simple stuff like text size and visibility of enemies, but the team also put time into adding gyro controls, custom control layouts, and tweaking other gameplay elements that either slowed down the action overall or didn’t provide enough information to the player. As a result of these efforts, Daemon X Machina is a stronger game, sporting a noticeable boost in speed along with a higher degree of control.
Daemon X Machina’s campaign was an enjoyable ride overall, with the setting and background lore being the most captivating elements of this otherwise trope-filled tale. I particularly enjoyed the build-up from the beginning of the second act of the game for its nice pacing and variety of objectives to accomplish that kept the action feeling intense throughout. Sadly, Daemon X Machina’s final act rapidly loses this building momentum and feels roughly put together, with many of the parts I enjoyed from previous missions being traded in for a series of one-dimensional boss battles and in-game info dumps between pilots to close out the experience.
Despite a poorly executed ending, Daemon X Machina still manages to pick up the pieces with a wide gamut of highly replayable optional missions that players can enjoy offline or online with up to four other players. This is where I had the most fun playing Daemon X Machina because the team at Marvelous designed these missions with the portability aspect of the Switch in mind. Any of them can be tackled within ten minutes easily, but each one manages to deliver on giving players a great dose of action and adrenaline as they use their highly customized Arsenal to wreck both pilots and Immortals alike to the sweet tones of heavy metal music.
As is common with many Nintendo Switch games, Daemon X Machina runs at 30 FPS whether its played in TV Mode or portable Mode. The hardware manages to hold the frame rate steady for a majority of the time, but when the action gets very intense or when there are a lot of effects flooding the screen, it’s not uncommon for the game to drop into the low 20s for brief moments. While I did prefer playing Daemon X Machina in portable mode the most, this is one of the few games I’ve experienced that’s just as much of a battery sucker as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so be sure to bring along a battery pack if you expect to be gaming for a while on-the-go.
Daemon X Machina is a great mech action game that’s comparable in quality to the best entries in the franchise it’s heavily inspired by. I love the detailed customization and the wide variety of builds available at player’s fingertips, I just wish the team had a couple more months in development to create a fantastic final act to their story. Thankfully the game still has legs to move with a rich catalogue of optional missions to experience during a daily commute or a relaxing evening with friends online.