Published on September 19th, 2019 | by Zorbz
REVIEW: Daemon X Machina
REVIEWED BY: BAHI
The gaming world is set to receive a lot of AAA love in September, with many big-name developers set on releasing the next iteration of their most popular franchises. In the midst of these releases is Daemon X Machina, a relatively unknown game announced in 2018. Backed by the producer of the most popular Mech series, Armored Core, DXM is adding a little robot on robot action to the mix this month. Can it stand out to compete against our more well-known franchises?
Story/Concept: After part of the moon is destroyed, it’s debris, along with an element known as ‘Femto’, fell to Earth. As a result, Artificial Intelligence fell corrupt, believing humans are a threat that needs to be destroyed. Meanwhile, some humans, known as Outers, have gained powers by the moon’s element, making them prime subjects to defend Earth.
You take control of your custom character (referred to as ‘Rookie’), an Outer who has just joined the mercenaries. You and your fellow comrades are guided on your missions by an AI assistant known as Four while you work together – for better or worse – to protect humanity. Each character has their own unique personality and motive for fighting against the AI (though earning money is the biggest goal) and many like to play by their own rules. This dynamic will no doubt pique the player’s curiosity as you question the motives of some of the characters as well as the organisations that hire you for their jobs. As you progress through the game, twists and turns help keep you engaged, though a lot of the character interactions during the mission brief can feel like a filler episode of your average anime.
Graphics: This game is very visually pleasing. While they obviously can’t compete with the likes of a AAA Ps4 or Xbox One game, the cel-shaded visuals helps tie together the anime inspired story and voice acting. Colours are incredibly vibrant – during your playthrough, you’ll come across mesmerising blue skies, bright sand expanding across a desert, lush green forestry and shimmering red lasers. Characters are colourful and detailed, helping them stand out in an otherwise industrial setting. Explosions from an enemy you’ve shot down or a bazooka you’ve used provide a crisp blast of animated flames and smoke. To say the least, Daemon X Machina is a visual feast and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t be drawn to it.
However, it does appear that more attention was paid to the detail of the mechs and characters than anything else. In-game objects such as trees, cars, and buildings lack detail that helps immerse the player in the world they’re moving about in. I’d rarely stopped playing to explore my surroundings which I found disappointing but given the chaotic nature of the game, it’s easily forgiven.
Performance when docked is very good. When players got their hands on the demo, there was a lot of feedback on the slowdown that occurred quite frequently. DXM has been fine-tuned before release and there’s very little slowdown. Undocked, however, is a different story. I found that a large number of enemies on screen caused the frames to drop considerably. There was also a lot of pop-in that occurred in city environments where you’d find a lot of skyscrapers and trees. If you like to play your Switch undocked, you may have to put up with these faults until (if) a patch is released.
Gameplay: To put it simply, this game is fun. Players control their character at a Hub where they can choose new missions to take part in. The gist of each mission is that an organisation is offering money for you and your colleagues to complete tasks. These tasks can range from defending buildings from being destroyed to eliminating corrupted AI within an area. When you begin Daemon X Machina, you might find these missions to be a little too easy. Don’t become too complacent thought, as your trigger smashing speed will be put to test as you progress through the game. Some missions at the mid-way point can be absolutely frustrating if you don’t adequately prepare for them but luckily you can customise your Arsenal to get the upper hand in a fight. The fighting mechanics are pretty simple. Press LZ for your left-handed weapon, RZ for your right-handed weapon, L trigger for your missiles and R to boost your speed while moving.
This game is packed full of options to optimise how you fight your enemies. Your Arsenal is capable of holding two main, two backup and one missile weapon. There’s a wide range of weapon types to suit your fighting style, from your long-range machine guns, missiles and sniper rifles, to short-range weapons like swords and shields. Your main and backup weapons can be swapped over during your mission to add variety to your battles, and some smart choices can prevent a drawn-out battle in case you’re unexpectedly faced with a boss fight or during a particularly difficult escort mission mid-way through the game.
Remember how that element, Femto, gave powers to some humans? This element is used during your mission to add a splash of colour on the battlefield. Utilising Femto allows you to increase your speed, create a protective barrier around yourself, or add power to your weapons. The most interesting feature of your Femto induced abilities is ‘mirage’. Your Arsenal is able to create a mirror image of itself to draw enemies away from you when things get a little too hectic and they’re also capable of adding firepower when you want to take a difficult enemy down. While it’s easy to forget that Femto exists, you’ll find that it really helps on the battlefield, especially when you’re trying to heal yourself while you’re in an enemy’s crossfire.
While the missions, and particularly the battles, can be fun, it isn’t without its faults. The failure to add a proper auto-lock mechanism means that you’ll be pausing the action to readjust your camera when your more nimble enemies dash out of sight. This occurs far too often and it really affects the fluidity of the battles. While you aren’t scored by how fast you kill AI in the game, you lose your immersion in the action which is just a downer.
Also, when your mech gets damaged enough, you’re given the option to eject and fight on the ground as a human/Outer. Even though your character has some weapons and traps to give you a fighting chance, often times it’s impossible to complete the mission in this state, especially if it requires flying. It feels like wasted potential to what could have been a really cool feature.
When you don’t feel like taking on a mission, you can spend time in the Hub. While it’s pretty bare-bones in terms on interactions with characters or the environment, you can use the money you accrue from your missions to purchase upgrades and abilities. More on this later.
Sound: The soundtrack in this game primarily consists of electronic, industrial rock and metal songs. While the songs sound a lot better when listening to the OST on Youtube, I don’t think it was the best choice to accompany the gameplay and story. The best way to describe it is if the developers were inspired by Devil May Cry’s soundtrack but decided to hire Donald from Accounts to make similar sounding songs, and no one wants Donald from Accounts to be making music for a video game.
I think that a more unique (and fully-orchestrated) soundtrack would have added quite a lot to some of the epic battles you experience in this game. While the music does change during boss fights, the guttural Death Metal vocals become distracting rather than inspiring and a lot of what makes the songs sound great when listening to the OST is drowned out by the sound of bullets and machinery.
The voice acting in this game is surprisingly good although it’s very anime-esque, relying on a lot of typical tropes. Think your emotionless, no BS female characters and that male anime character that always sounds way too enthusiastic when he has no business being happy. If you’re not a fan of anime style dialogue, you’ll really be feeling yourself cringe, but the voice actors have done a fabulous job in portraying their characters (which are meant to be over the top), even if there’s an awkward bit of dialogue or two…or a hundred.
Awesomeness: What adds to the fun in Daemon X Machina is the seemingly limitless amount of customisation available. This game not only allows you to customise your Arsenal mech with new weapons and body parts, but also your Outer character.
There’s an extensive variety of weaponry and armour on hand and you can acquire more of these in two ways. The easiest is to purchase them via the Hub when they become available. The most fun way to acquire them is by salvaging destroyed Arsenals. During your missions, you’ll inevitably come across some rogue AI piloting their own mechs. Once you’ve destroyed them, you can pick their body apart to add to your collection. The only downside to this is that, while you usually have a few options on what you can salvage, you can only choose one part to take back to base with you.
Once you’re back at the Hub, you have the opportunity to change your Arsenal’s weapons or armour. When upgrading your armour, any body parts you salvage appear at the Hangar. Here you can change the arms, legs, head, and chip of your Arsenal to improve how you fight on the battlefield. Each choice you make requires memory and provides additional support to your mech, such as increased speed, damage, stamina and more. The more weapons you get, the more variety you get. As you build your weaponry, you get a good feel of the potential for a diverse playthrough. You can stick to guns, swordplay or have a nice mix.
It’s not just your Arsenal that gets all the fun though. Move over to The Lab and you’ll have the option to improve your character’s abilities. These abilities affect your capabilities while piloting your Arsenal as well as when you’re on the ground. Each upgrade changes the physical appearance of your character. What once looked human may end up looking more like a cyborg by the time you’ve added gizmos and gadgets to your body. Also, like cosmetic surgery in the real world, it’s not cheap so you better save up the chump change you’re given at the end of your missions.
Final Word: Daemon X Machina is an interesting game. It certainly draws a lot of inspiration from it’s Mech-game siblings and from anime. If you’re a fan of both, you can’t go wrong.
Fast gameplay, an interesting story and some memorable characters help tie together a very good game. The short missions make this game easy to pick up and play for a short burst or for a few hours. While it may be overshadowed by better established franchises being released in the same month, Daemon X Machina truly shines on it’s own and is a refreshing change to the standard action games that have been released this year.
Out of 5 Bugs!
Summary: Daemon X Machina is an interesting game. It certainly draws a lot of inspiration from it’s Mech-game siblings and from anime. If you’re a fan of both, you can’t go wrong.