Mech games come along every now and then, and many of them fade into obscurity. Aside from a select few like the occasional Gundam game or Zone of the Enders, it’s a tough genre to sustain. A big part of it is usually the overly complex controls, and many also have confusing narratives. The team at Marvelous First Studio tries their hand with Daemon X Machina, even getting a helping hand from Nintendo for publishing. How does it stack up to others in the genre? Welcome to your battlefield.
The story of Daemon X Machina isn’t exactly simple, but it’s not overly complex either. A moon collides with the planet and a chemical called Femto has corrupted artificial beings to turn against humans. Special mech pilots known as Outers work to become mercenaries to fight off Immortals in a growing war. The mechs in question are called Arsenals, and the custom player character is recruited by Orbital, a facility formed to combat rogue AI. Utilizing various mercenary groups, much of the story involves drama and tension between them.
Players will meet several characters from the mercenary groups, likely finding that most of them are not good people. Of course, some will become allies, and others will respect you as you advance in your missions. Overall, many of them have their own agendas, which you’ll discover as the story unfolds. The story mostly gives the game an outlet to make Monster Hunter-like missions, sending players out to defeat AI foes and collect parts to upgrade their Arsenal. Much like Monster Hunter, players can even play certain missions in online multiplayer. Other missions, known as “free missions”, allow players to recruit their favorite AI partners.
Missions tend to be fairly short, with occasional missions taking a bit longer due to more challenging foes. These enemies can raise the difficulty pretty high out of nowhere, offering a bigger challenge that players might not expect. When you face off against your first big Immortal, it’s much harder than anything else before. Missions are assigned by ranks, though that doesn’t really determine the difficulty. Most missions are pretty easy, but the boss battles make it a struggle to survive. Ammunition doesn’t even become an issue until you fight an Immortal with a ton of health. At that point, you’re scrounging off the smaller enemies to maintain a supply.
Luckily, practice makes perfect, and Daemon X Machina can be mastered thanks to surprisingly fluid controls. Like most mech games, there’s a lot to take in, but given a little practice, your Arsenal will move about the map with ease. Arsenals can hover across the ground or fly around in the air, even having a boost with a cooldown. Each hand can hold a weapon, be it a firearm, a sword, or even a shield. Players can even equip a shoulder weapon as well as spare weapons on their back. It takes some getting used to, but Daemon X Machina actually offers a lot of flexibility. This is made even better thanks to the ways players can customize their Arsenal.
Players can utilize the Hangar, the hub area of the game to not only modify their Arsenal, but even alter their Outer. Upgrading your custom character allows for the use of new skills on the battlefield. These modifications are cybernetic, so it actually affects the physical appearance of your Outer. If players really don’t like it, they can reverse the process, though they lose all their skills. It’s an interesting decision, but it adds a bit more depth to the typical mech game.
Playing online is surprisingly pretty seamless. Players can create or search for a room to join with up to four players. Each player will be able to hang out in the hangar and prepare for the mission at hand. When everyone is ready, they’ll embark and take on the mission for credits. These quests tend to go by much faster, especially when players with endgame equipment join. Either way, it’s an effective and quick way to earn credits to help out with the main campaign. In my experience, I didn’t even really experience any lag, which was a pleasant surprise.
Graphically, the game has high points and low points. The cel-shading does well to give it style and the Arsenal designs are pretty awesome. Upon closer inspection though, the textures can be pretty low resolution, aliasing issues are abundant, and the models often share a lot of the same motifs. Environments, while stylish, also grow pretty bland and repetitive. It’s a good thing missions are so quick, but even then, the game could use a bit more variety. At least the music is good, feeling similar to games like Zone of the Enders. The voice acting, on the other hand, ranges from good to downright irritating. With so many characters, you’re definitely going to have a voice you don’t enjoy hearing.
Overall, Daemon X Machina does what it sets out to do. It delivers a fun, albeit repetitive mech game for the Nintendo Switch. It gives a bit of flexibility with the mech customization to add depth, especially for the mecha fans. If you’re not a fan of the genre, then you may feel like a fish out of water here. The controls are simple enough to grasp, but after a few story missions, you might not want to keep going. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed my time with Daemon X Machina, and I hope it finds its audience, because it’s a pretty good game, despite a few flaws.