Daemon X Machina PC Review – Entertaining Mechas?
Platform: PC(reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Publisher: XSEED Games (PC)
Release: 13th February 2020
Mecha games, a genre with many fans for its rather niche appeal but still unknown to many. With the surprisingly heavily advertised Daemon X Machina’s Switch launch and timed exclusivity deal though, Marvelous and Nintendo tried to push this title quite a lot with its promising style andfast combat. And now with the recent PC launch I decided to give it a look myself.
Story-wise, Daemon X Machine delivers a pretty standard end-time setting. Playing as a so-called Outer, a supposedly new kind of human that appeared after the big calamity called Moonfall, it’s our job to deploy from the orbit and eradicate the hundreds of AI-controlled structures and units gone rogue.
Yes, forgetting most of the names, especially for the tinier lore events is almost a given and honestly, it’s not all too important at all. While most of the story is told through stiff cutscenes or speech bubble dialogues, the whole affair isn’t too intense either and primarily serves as the framework for the missions themselves. Here and there Daemon X Machina tries to open up some more interesting conflicts with the introduction of different mercenary team members who all want to have their own conflicts but… except the idea being there and some of the girls featuring nice designs there’s not much depth to any of it. Considering how long some of the story sequences are though, there’s also never the right balance anywhere and many things end up dull or boring.
Foremost, Daemon X Machina is definitely focusing on its gameplay. The base gameplay consists of a mix between your standard mecha affair of, well, controlling a mecha, dodging enemy attacks and destroy everything. Similar to many more dynamic titles in the genre, the mechas can fly and also dash for quite a long time, in order to offer a more dynamic experience. Combined with the lack of many destroyable environment objects, the game is definitely focused on more personal fights between you and other mechs, padded with the occasional “destroy all grunt” missions for the needed variation.
Now, this would have been all good and well but I have two central complaints about the whole “feeling” of the game:
For one, the 1v1 or 1vX “duels” never feel quite fair or convincing, which is a combination of both the rather subtle, if not lacking, hit feedback on all ends and the lack of many actual non-hitscan weapons. Often I don’t even realize I’m getting hit from somewhere because the whole feedback often just consists of a bar going down without any camera shake or impactful sound effects. Most of the time the weapon effects work sufficiently well in communicating hits if the target is in sight, it just gets quite confusing when it’s rotating around you.
Speaking of rotating around, in a game so focused on its interesting movement, I was surprised many weapons aren’t that dodgeable, at least in my perception. So duels often become more of a mix between constantly dashing and having the better weapons or aim. Unfortunately, dashing or the movement in general doesn’t feel perfect either, mainly in terms of how velocity carries over. I’m all for fast mechs but Daemon X Machina seemingly didn’t know if it wanted to convey how heavy those metal machines are or simply deliver fun gameplay. As a result, whenever you land on the ground or stop dashing or jump up after dashing, the mech loses most of its speed, making these transitions feel heavy-handed and simply not fit in. Because, if I simply dash around, build up velocity and become nearly untouchable while I traverse the map in a really satisfying speed, it’s a ton of fun. I just wished for a great movement as a whole and not only a good air OR ground feeling.
Still, the mission and level design is otherwise pretty fine. Don’t expect any super original stuff but you have your defend, destroy, survive and all the other classic types in here. Since Daemon X Machina is set in a dying world, most of them are in destroyed cities, ruins or desert areas that offer enough space for dashing around. From time to time there are also boss battles which are pretty fun to be honest, mainly due to their size and how satisfying it feels to dash around them, evade their attacks (since those are pretty ok communicated) and so on.
Though, the reason Daemon X Machina is actually working better than the sum of its parts is the overall presentation and variety when it comes to customization of the mechs. The overall artstyle itself really workes great with the red deserts, mechs, lighting effects in more closed areas and movement. If everything comes together perfectly in a visually interesting level, the game feels and looks great, it really does. Sadly, many levels reuse assets or structures, making them feel same-y and the art style suffers from the many daylight levels without any real visual identity. Luckily the port itself is pretty flawless, running on a stable 144fps on fullHD on a 1070 and I didn’t encounter any crashes. While it doesn’t offer a huge setting menu, most rather niche ports don’t and the basic to advanced PC needs are included.
The only really great thing is the customization, which offers a wide variety for each mech and its 4 weapon slots. For one, there’s pretty much every weapon type you could wish for, even though the katana and shield don’t really feel that great. No matter what you choose though, the mech always looks kinda cool or interesting. Especially with the amount of cosmetics and so on, it actually surprised me how well the game kept its identity in its most important aspect: the mech itself. Needless to say, rocket launchers or big, multi-hit weapons also look great through the stylized explosions and actual hit feedback.
Daemon X Machina is a pretty decent mecha game, all in all. It has its many stiff, wonky aspects and kind of doesn’t know what it ultimately wanted to arcade-y or realistic but it’s still fun. Especially the ground movement feels great most of the time, the many customization options for the mech offer everything you may ask for and it’s one of the most unique looking titles in the genre. So, if you want to give the game a try because you love it visually or simply want a decent mecha game, it’s the right title for you.
[A Review Code was provided by XSEED Games]