I’ve always had an outside interest in mech games without ever actually exploring them. The Armoured Core, MechWarrior and Front Mission series always had a certain allure that tempted me to play them, but the sheer amount of information necessary to effectively control the mechs was a little too overwhelming for me. It’s the concept that really piqued my interest – huge machines piloted by humans, bashing the crap out of one another, what part of that doesn’t sound amazing? So when I was offered to do the review for the Switch-exclusive mech game Daemon X Machina, I finally decided to stop dipping my toes in the water and finally jump in. Now the answer is did I sink or swim? While I can’t say that my time wading around was perfect, as repetition takes a fairly sizeable toll after a while, the customization and overall aesthetic of Daemon did keep my head above water.
The moon has collided with Earth’s surface, devastating humanity and leaving survivors of the event scrambling to survive. A strange energy known as Femto emits from the fragments of the moon, providing huge potential for creation, but with an unforeseen consequence. The Femto manages to awaken a great number of AI-controlled machines, gifting them with sentience and granting them with the title of Immortal. Understandably these Immortals are none too pleased about having been used as tools throughout their entire existence, so once awakened begin to attack their human creators. Luckily the Femto can also be harnessed by humans and used to create huge mechs, known as Arsenals, with the capability to battle against these new mechanised enemies. And that is where we find our voiceless, player-created protagonist.
What an absolute Adonis
I tinkered around with my character, making sure to create a monstrosity of mismatched colours and huge, anime-style hair before scrapping everything and reverting back to the safety of a vanilla looking dude with short hair and light stubble – I really am adventurous. Once that was out of the way, I found myself in an Arsenal of my own, prepping to take part in a test of sorts, in order to see if I ‘had what it takes to be a mercenary’ – pfft, like there is any doubt. In the world of DXM, what’s left of civilisation is run by a number of goliath-size corporations that mine Femto and use it to create increasingly destructive weaponry in order to quell the Immortals. The player, like many others in this world, is a mercenary for hire that is looking to make a buck here and there by taking up contracts from these mega corps to mostly show enemy AI who’s boss.
The test acts as the game’s tutorial, making sure you know the basics of how to pilot your mech. With the test in the rear view, you get your mercenary licence (I’m assuming that’s how it works) and away you go. Straight out of the gate the controls are fairly easy to wrangle. Flying is as simple as hitting jump twice, boosting is a shoulder button that is limited by a stamina bar, so on and so forth. The game eases you into combat situations smoothly and doesn’t bombard you with walls of text straight away, which is a blessing, but later a curse. Certain systems were vaguely glossed over without much explanation, meaning that I was left to my own devices if I wanted to learn how to best utilise what was at my disposal. Once you graduate to mercenary status, you are plonked into a hangar area that acts as your base. From here you customise your mech, buy new equipment and most importantly launch missions. Oh and there is an ice-cream parlour that lets you buy scoops for buffs…yep.
A double scoop for me obviously
Anyway, missions are divided into ranks (difficulties) ranging from E to A that are unlocked progressively as you well…progress. The first few missions are simple, arrive at the mission area and clear the zone of any enemy AI. These AI come in a variety of forms, from fast yet weak drones to slow, lumbering tanks that pack a punch if they manage to hit you. The first handful of missions effectively drew me in, giving me a sense of power as I mowed down droves of machines while making some sweet sweet money doing so. The biggest issue with DXM arose the longer I played however, as the first few missions weren’t just an indication of what was to come, they were an exact copy of what was to come.
As much as I enjoyed piloting my Arsenal, the mission structure became old quickly. The general premise of every contract is to either wipe an area clear of AIs, or to protect an object or ship against said AIs for a certain amount of time. Just as the mission seems to be drawing to a close a ‘new threat’ would arrive, sometimes a corrupted Arsenal, other times a rogue mercenary, either way it very rarely deviated from this formula and that becomes stale a few short hours into the campaign. Missions are short and sharp however, being a perfect fit for the Switch. Whenever I had ten or so minutes I was able to jump in, mess around with my Arsenal, complete a mission and then go back to whatever it was I was doing. Each mission has you partnered up with one or two other computer controlled mercenaries that bring a little bit of life onto the battlefield. There are a number of different mercenary factions that all fight for different reasons and listening to them clash over ideals definitely livens up the fairly lifeless combat scenarios (you are fighting robots essentially, so that’s to be expected). If you fight alongside a particular merc enough times they will become requestable during side missions (for a price of course), which gives you something tangible for sitting through a bunch of dialogue.
Three on one hey? I like those odds
Combat and customisation is absolutely where DXM shines brightest. Whether you want to load up your Arsenal with huge amounts of firepower and armour to become a slow moving weapon of mass destruction, or shed all of your armour and use melee weapons to be a fast moving mechanised ninja, Daemon has you covered. The amount of weapon and armour options available is huge. Destroying other Arsenals in combat allows you to pilfer their gear to make it your own. Procuring equipment this way obviously expands your (pardon the pun) arsenal, but there is also an option in your hangar to create more powerful versions of what you already have. By sacrificing a piece of gear and paying a fee you are able to upgrade the stats of most armour parts and weapons. The balance comes with the time needed for this process to take place. You can send as many parts as you like to the factory to be upgraded, but you will need to complete one mission for them to return to you. So do you slowly upgrade your Arsenal one piece at a time to ensure you still have decent stats, or do you risk destruction by sending all of your best gear off at once? I found that leaving a few lower level side missions as a safety-net for this purpose worked well, but the gamble is definitely still there regardless.
As for combat, it is slick, fast and often pretty frantic. Bullets and lasers whiz past you in every direction while you and your fellow mercs get down to business by taking it to the AIs with a great range of weapons that are a blast to use, sometimes literally. Reliable assault rifles offer a decent fire rate and a respectable range, with shoulder mounted rockets providing a solid option for taking out a multitude of smaller enemies at once. DXM gives you a wide variety of fun weapons to test out and you will be doing exactly that until you find what fits your play style. I had a great time experimenting with different loadouts before I settled on my combination of shield, laser sword, submachine gun and back mounted super-laser (my god that is a set-up). The constant inclusion of new gear is a great way to keep you interested and gives you the desire to play ‘just one more mission to test out my new gun’. If the missions themselves were as engaging as the loot then it would be a killer combination
Preeeetty sure I got him
Once in a while, while scrapping waves of corrupted AI, you will come metal face to metal face with an Immortal. These boss encounters up the scale of the battle massively as most of the Immortals are huge in size, with a myriad of turrets and rockets scattered across their surface. The majority of these fights are simple enough as each Immortal has a number of large, red weak points for you to target. Some take the form of ships and fly around with a menagerie of drones following them, others are lumbering, four-legged fortresses that jump in the air at you like a spring loaded building. Regardless of type, the boss fights never quite live up to the hype set by in-game dialogue. They are touted as the cause of a never ending war between man and machine, devious robots that slay any and all mercs that cross their path, but in the end they present little challenge. True they are more time consuming than any other mission, but that is more due to their large health pool and irritating evasion tactics than genuine challenge. There is a huge amount of importance placed on the Immortals in this world, but their bleeps are far worse than their bite.
Overall Daemon X Machina is a game that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for something that they don’t need to invest too much into. The combat and customisation options are highlights that deserve recognition as they absolutely provided me with enjoyment, but the repetition and general structure of the missions grew tiring so quickly that I did lose interest fairly soon after booting up the game. Where I did enjoy Daemon, I enjoyed it thoroughly so I can’t be too harsh. So as long as you know what to expect I am sure that some of you will have a good time here.
Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher