Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Digital Version (eShop)
No. of Players: up to 4 players
Release Date: September 13, 2019 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
When it comes to the Nintendo Switch, there is by no means a shortage of genres, however, for there was a time where high octane action of the mech variety, was sorely missing. Thankfully, its absence wouldn’t be felt for too long as games of this particular genre soon should their face and just in case these smaller titles didn’t satisfy the demand completely, E3 2018 would soon change things.
Revealed during the event and having started development back in 2017, Daemon X Machina was showcased as a vibrant shooter, heavily featuring mechas and it reeked of the Armored Core games and there was a good reason why.
Serving as the producer for Daemon X Machina, is none other than Kenichiro Tsukuda, the very same Kenichiro Tsukuda who acts as the producer, for the Armoured Core series and from the time of its E3 debut to the eventual release on the Nintendo Switch, awaiting fans didn’t have to wait for too long as it was out within fourteen months.
Still, Tsukuda isn’t the only big name present as Shoji Kawamori of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross fame, is on hand with his tasty mech designs that are pure eye candy.
“When the moon tore apart, the sky bled red with light, ushering in an apocalyptic new age…and to survive, you must fight.”
Assuming control of a mercenary that almost everyone refers to as “Rookie,” players must undergo a series of missions, doing whatever it takes to defend Earth from the enemy forces known as the Immortals, comprising of corrupted robots that are waging war against humanity.
War is never easy and victory on the battlefield will require putting trust in those who fight alongside you, even if they are just in it for the money, but hey, at least you’re equipped with your very own arsenal and the more you commit to customizing it, the better your chances are of survival.
Who knows, you might just live long enough to discover a larger plot? Are the various consortiums to be trusted? What is the truth behind the Oval Link? Do any of the mercs from the Western VII have any redeeming qualities? What’s the deal with Femto? For answers to these questions and more, you’re going to have to take up arms Rookie.
Much like the Armored Core series, Daemon X Machina is centered around a silent protagonist, who works as a mercenary and pilots mechanized robots of destruction, except this time around, they’re not called Armored Cores, they’re arsenals and those who pilot them, are Outers.
Now, provided you’re good, the majority of your time with Daemon X Machina, will be spent with you flying your arsenal around a battlefield, however, players will be able to eject and run around as their Outer and blast at any enemy they see.
Furthermore, because they possess their own health bar and stamina gauge, should your arsenal get blown up, you can hop out as your Outer in an attempt to finish off your current mission and, provided you unlock the skill to do so, can even repair your arsenal as well.
Back to being good though and remaining in one’s arsenal, gameplay comprises of completing the main goal to complete any mission you undertake, with some missions offering side goals, which could ask you to complete the given mission in a certain time limit, or have a certain amount of health left over by the mission’s end.
The majority of the time, missions will task players with either destroying all presence of the enemy threat, taking down a particular enemy such as a colossal Immortal in the form of Nightmare, escorting a train to safety or defending a building.
Regardless of what the mission goal is, however, one thing you can count on, is you’ll need to fly around the battlefield, taking out any hostile you see both on-screen and on your map, using all manner of weapons you happen to be carrying.
Thus, provided you’re all decked out, ZR will fire your right weapon, ZL fire the left weapon, L commands your shoulder weapon, which can be anything from heat-seeking missiles to a laser cannon, with Y being used for your auxiliary equipment.
For jumping and flying, B is your best friend, whereas R can be used for boosting, but be warned, it will consume stamina, but don’t worry, stamina replenishes by itself. Then of course, you can use the directional buttons to access weapons you have equipped to your left and right pylons, handy to have when your main weapons run out of ammo and you can even cycle your Femto arms, for an extra leg-up in battle.
Majority of the time, you can get lucky and defeated enemies will drop ammo, or you can defeat arsenal type enemies, which once downed, you can liberate one piece of arsenal from them and either use it in battle, provided you have an empty space or send it back to your base for later.
There is a life bar, which once depleted, will result in your defeat and whatever you do, do not stray too far from the mission area as that too can get your arsenal destroyed, and so can landing in water. So, always be aware of your surroundings, don’t drain your boost completely and if you wish to descend, press the left stick.
Should you press the right stick, however, provided you have progressed far enough into the game to unlock the function, this creates a mirage. A mirage is an arsenal based on your image and weapon selection, which can be called to help you turn the tide of battle. They do not have a health bar of their own, but they do require Femto, so just as soon as your Femto bar depletes, or you press the right stick in again, they will vanish, but don’t worry, as long as your Femto gauge keeps filling, you can keep summoning them.
Outside of missions, the gameplay is less involved as the rest is really mission selecting, sitting through briefings and manoeuvering around the game’s hub as you carry out customizations.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
While both Offer and Free missions, make up the majority of Daemon X Machina’s main game content, when not out on the battlefield, players are free to explore a small hub world where they can gain access to an ice cream parlour and purchase temporary boosts, or head over to the lab.
With the lab, players are able to alter the appearance of their customizable avatar, change voice and use their hard-earned credits to unlock new skills via the skill tree and modify the player character, in a manner of their choosing.
For instance, although I had no qualms with using the Outer during battles against smaller enemies, the majority of my gameplay was spent blasting enemies to hell in my Arsenal, so a large part of the body modifications I pursued, was with my arsenal in mind (Who needs an extra grenade when I don’t even use the ones I have?).
Still, it’s not just the main protagonist who is customizable though, as players have free reign to do up their arsenals and equip them with any weapons they were able to successfully procure from the battlefield. You can also choose which body parts you wish your arsenal wears, with each bit of kit offering their own stat boots and durability and seem even enabling you to use attachments.
Then, once you’ve got your arsenal equipped with the weapons you want, it’s time to make it have the colour palette you want and while you can gussy it up in a range of colours, you can unlock patterns and scan new decals to stamp all over your beloved arsenal.
Now, as enjoyable as the customization is, I’ll be honest, after making my arsenal sport a colouring befitting Samus Aran’s gunship, I never properly tweaked my arsenal again, as the only thing I did halfway through the game, was to give it a couple of decals and job done.
For anyone who does put the time into their arsenal and wishes to have multiple load-outs, you can create a fair amount of pre-sets and you can test your newly equipped arsenal if you need to, and provided you don’t sell all your excess equipment in the shop, you can always head on over to the factory to buy and create new pieces of equipment, using weapons and body parts you no longer require.
Then of course, if you’re willing to throw extra money at Daemon X Machina, in addition to some free DLC, there is plenty of paid DLC for the game that enables players to get new skins to alter the appearance of their current arsenal, as well as new outfits for their Outer, new decals and there’s even new emotes as well.
I personally didn’t get caught up with the DLC, but for those who are gung-ho for Daemon X Machina and keen to get stuck into everything, there’s plenty there for you to purchase and if you’re still hoping the main game has a bit more content for you to enjoy, you’re in luck.
In the months that followed after its release, more content was added, for free and this includes a new multiplayer mode that supports both local and online. With co-op play, players can team up with others to complete missions, go head to head with versus play, set up chat communication, access their friend list and view their player rankings for all their hard work in multiplayer.
Regrettably, I did not get to enjoy multiplayer as much as I would have liked, as I actually had difficulty trying to find someone to play against, especially on 1 vs. 1, but at least with local, as long as you have someone in your immediate vicinity to play with, you’re good to go.
Then to round things up, there is also an exploration mode that also supports online and local play and with it, players can embark on exploration-focused missions with others, where they must traverse difficult facilities and destroy the roughness arsenals that await them in the depths of the facility.
With the likes of Rio Hamamoto and Junichi Nakatsuru onboard as composers, Daemon X Machina consists of a soundtrack that was heavily “injected with a lot of rock and metal elements,” however, while there are some moments where players can get the time to enjoy the musical musings, expect a lot of dialogue and I mean, a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with having plenty of voice acting going on in a game, but there is a lot of it and if you take the time to listen to every single line, you’ll get to know each one of the game’s many characters all the more.
Furthermore, some of the characters who sound flat, no, it’s not because the actor voicing them didn’t commit as much as they could have, but because some of the characters themselves are intended to come across that way.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
As far as the visuals go, Daemon X Machina wields a rather colorful palette, which was intentionally chosen, so as to make the game come across as looking unique and “visually appealing.”
One thing its artists did in particular, other than attempting an art style they could be very expressive with, is mess around with using the color black for shading, which in turn resulted in a comic book-like look.
Admittedly, I adore the worlds and environments Daemon X Machina has to offer, some of the character designs come across as being a tad excessive for anime, but it’s a well put together package that does its artists proud, however, there are performance issues afoot.
While Daemon X Machina looks cleaner and sharper when docked, I personally found it hard to look at and tolerate, whilst playing in handheld mode and although some issues were fixed with patches, there’s still framerate drops and shutters, which when they occur, can be off-putting when in the heat of battle.
Worse yet, because Daemon X Machina is no longer a console exclusive since it’s available on Steam, although there’s not much difference graphically if you’ve yet to buy, the PC version has a much higher resolution (up to 4K,) which makes everything pop all the more and makes the dialogue focused briefings, a lot more enjoyable to endure.
Oh, and as for the framerate, although Daemon X Machina does a decent effort of running well, never properly reaching 60 fps, considering the fact the PC version has a default set at 200, let’s just say that the Switch version can not offer you the same silky smooth mecha action you deserve. Yes, Switch does offer you on-the-go gameplay, but it does come at a price of a downgrade that you will notice if you go from the PC version to Switch or vice versa.
At the risk of getting a lot of hate, I’m going to come out and say it, although I liked the action, I did not care for Daemon X Machina’s story at all. Every character has a story to tell and there was just so much talking, whining, shouting and protesting, that even though I read everything, I just didn’t care for it. I especially dislike how rushed things feel nearer to the end of the game’s main campaign.
Sometimes less is more and with everyone wanting you to invest in their story, Daemon X Machina’s main plot suffers as a result and the storyteller in me was not amused. Still, I did rather enjoy that one particular mission, where you are asked to show up unharmed.
If you do as asked, get ready for a lengthy monologue and if you don’t, well, be sure to bring everything you’ve got because you’re going to have a three-on-one battle on your hands and your enemies will not play fair and because of the amount of lag I got during this particular gunfight, I opted to return to base and pursue the pacifist route.
In fairness, that decision was based on the fact I was also out of all ammo, had no means to restore health and was not armed with a melee weapon. So, if I didn’t back down when I did, I probably would have survived for a few more minutes at most before being destroyed.
Whilst the action gets a little too repetitive too early in the game and the overall story pulls players in all sorts of directions before trying to come full circle near the end, despite its faults, Daemon X Machina is an enjoyable shooter that comes across as feeling like a rebooted Armored Core game but packaged under a different name.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review.
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This post was written by Solid Jack