In Daemon X Machina, you find yourself in a world where the moon crashed into Earth.
Anyways, after this happens, things get a little weird. Complex AI systems go haywire and wreak havoc worldwide, so talented mercenaries – known as Outers – along with their giant mechs – known as Arsenals – are tasked with taking care of these hostile AIs.
The mercenaries are broken up into distinct factions, each with their own motivations. Some battle with a fervent sense of duty towards the remainder of mankind, while others are mainly just interested in collecting a paycheck.
Navigating this world of massive evil robots, killer AIs and competitive mercenary groups is your purpose. Welcome to Daemon X Machina.
Narratively, it’s no Zone of the Enders…
Having just come off of Astral Chain, you would think that I would have more of a tolerance for whatever “plot” Daemon X Machina wanted to throw at me. I certainly wasn’t expecting an involved, cinematic experience like God of War or The Last Of Us, but just some general crust to keep the otherwise gooey and delicious contents of the world of Daemon X Machina somewhat plausible.
Sadly, despite my low expectations, it still managed to miss the mark.
The first missed opportunity is the fact that your character, a notable “rookie” to the world of mercenaries, doesn’t really take a stand in terms of where they think they should fit in. It could totally have gone the way of Fire Emblem – Three Houses and given you a general overview of the various mercenary teams and respective bonuses before having you decide, thus providing you with a more dynamic narrative based on whether you place money before honor, or peace before profit.
Instead, you feel like you’re doing “ride-alongs” with a lot of the mercenary groups, especially in the early stages. You get a sense for their various quirky personalities, though some of them are downright annoying, but don’t take the opportunity to pick a side.
From there, the story proceeds to attempt some semblance of unraveling sci-fi shenannery, but really only ends up tying itself into a narrative knot. There’s no real answers to the core questions around the evil forces at work, and even when there are answers, they’re buried within cutscenes marred with poorly fleshed-out characters.
I will say that a familiarity and comfort with anime narratives and archetypes will likely soften the blow, but those unaccustomed to over-the-top melodrama when it comes to mech battles may find it too much to bear.
Do My Eyes Deceive Me?
You know the old riddle about the two men at the gate? One claims he only tells the truth, while the other insists he always lies? Well, here we go –
Daemon X Machina has great graphics.
At the same time…
Daemon X Machina has bad graphics.
Know what I mean? No? Okay…
The aesthetic of Daemon X Machina is familiar for anyone who loves mech games. It’s a similar approach that we’ve seen since the 90s, with less textured worlds and builds, largely focused on what’s immediately ahead of you for the purpose of targeting and combat. Environments are largely an afterthought, but the massive mechs you end up fighting have a particular beauty to them as you contemplate how best to tackle a foe the size of a football field.
These two realities exist side by side – a broader world that feels like it was pulled from the late 90s, early 2000s arcade scene, and a level of detail in movement and combat that could really only be attained in the last few years. It’s enough to ultimately leave you disappointed in the visuals, especially compared to titles from recent years.
Showing Up To Kick Ass And Chew Bubble Gum…In A Mech
Sub-par story and middling aesthetics aside, I know why you bought this game, you giant robot freak. You wanted to strap in and get to work blowing stuff up, didn’t you?
Of course you did. Thankfully, Daemon X Machina‘s saving grace is that when it comes down to the brass tacks – the combat is crisp, addictive, and crazy fun.
Your shoulder buttons control your various weaponry, as well as an auxiliary weapon you can control with Y. Movement is pretty straight forward as well, with general movement assigned to the left stick, a dash built in on the right trigger, and free flight and jumping assigned to B.
When it comes to dealing out death and destruction, you start out equipped with a standard rifle, and in the course of the first handful of missions, gradually expand your weaponry. Locking on happens automatically – targets that come within range are targeted by your helmet, and as you upgrade your equipment (more on that in a minute), the lock on process becomes a bit faster and more potent.
You can outfit your mech with machine guns, rifles, missile launchers, beam sabers and much more – turning your Arsenal into the mechanized death machine of your dreams. This is another element of the gameplay that is executed solidly – customization. There are multiple layers of choice in outfitting and designing your Arsenal, as well as the pilot.
The missions you’ll go on will range from taking out hordes of AI to tackling a single threat. Other missions may be solely investigative in nature. Regardless, Daemon X Machina knows that you’re going to have the most fun when you’re on the battlefield, so it makes it pretty easy to hop from one mission to the next. That being said, there were a few missions that felt too short. It seemed like my fellow mercenaries were barely finished explaining what a hassle a job would be when I launched an array of missiles into the final target and saw that beautiful MISSION COMPLETE message.
I know lots of people have been awaiting Daemon X Machina, and if what they were waiting for was a fun, mech-centered action title, I’d say it largely delivers. However, the weakness of the story combined with hit-and-miss visuals may be enough to damper the overall experience. You may want to wait to pull the trigger on this title until the price comes down.