Review – Daemon X Machina

I’ve been looking forward to playing Daemon X Machina ever since it was announced from out of nowhere at E3 2018. A high-octane mech game with a killer metal soundtrack on the Switch? Yes please! Despite this, I don’t think I’ve seen a single good reaction from critics and players during the game’s beta stage, as well as when it finally came out a few weeks ago. I began to worry that the game would disappoint me, but after playing, I have to wonder why is everyone so lukewarm towards it. It has some annoying flaws, without a doubt, but I still really enjoyed my time with it.

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I made an EVA-01 of my own. I just had to. I feel complete now.

At its core, Daemon X Machina doesn’t look very different from other more recent mech games, like the surprisingly robust War Tech Fighters. It is a third-person shooter in which you control a giant robot on a big battlefield, flying around and destroying a ton of targets like there’s no tomorrow. In terms of gameplay, I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t innovate that much, but I didn’t mind. What makes it stand out among its peers is its presentation, as well as the fact that you can take this bad boy on-the-go.

Daemon X Machina is the perfect example of why a strong art direction is more important than overly realistic graphics. Technically speaking, the game doesn’t feature the most detailed polygons and textures. It also runs at a locked 30fps instead of the 60fps you would expect. Then again, I didn’t mind.

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Fighting these bad boys is challenging, but oh so enjoyable.

The way the game looks is so good and so damn stylish that I definitely didn’t care about this at all. Its mixture of cel-shaded textures and heavily saturated colors led to the creation of a truly pleasing visual experience. Everything, from the robots you can customize (I made an EVA-01, obviously) to the explosions, is so flashy and colorful that you feel like playing the game just so your eyes can keep on being stimulated. The framerate is always constant, even during multiplayer, which is a plus considering how underwhelming the framerate was during the beta days.

The sound design is also top-notch. What better way to make a high-octane mech game feel even more insane than to add a fist-pumping heavy metal soundtrack to the mix? That’s exactly what the Daemon X Machina developers did and it’s glorious. Between the power chord-heavy, but still somewhat serene tunes of the main hub, as well as the insane trash metal-inspired tunes whenever you’re out there on the battlefield, this game really knows how to make things even more exciting. The voice acting, while also very good, is tarnished by the game’s silly script and uninteresting plot. I just ended up skipping cutscenes whenever I could.

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I’m a one-man real estate nightmare.

The gameplay is where Daemon X Machina falters a bit, even though it’s still entertaining and easy to learn. It’s all about momentum, shooting everything in sight while running/dodging/flying. You can wield one weapon in each hand and you can shoot by pressing ZR and ZL. You boost with R and you can use a special shoulder-mounted weapon with L. The B button also allows for you to fly, while pressing the right trigger allows for you to create a mirage of your robot in order to confuse enemy radars. It features a bit of aim assist, as all you’ll need to do is put your target inside a gigantic reticule for your mech to lock on into it. It’s not complicated, but it does have some issues.

First of all, there is no reload button. I’m one of those people who has the most demonic of OCDs when it comes to ammo in shooting games. Whenever I kill an enemy, I immediately reload. I always want to have a full magazine at my disposal. In Daemon X Machina, that’s not possible. You can only reload once you deplete your magazines and this infuriated me.

Finally, there’s the issue with maintaining altitude. Even though you can freely fly whenever you want to, the game doesn’t provide you with good mechanics for you to maintain a desirable altitude. The B button lets you fly, but it immediately throws you into a very high altitude. You can control that by clicking on the left stick, but instead of just lowering your altitude a bit, like in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, pressing the stick makes your mech go straight down to the ground unless you press B again. It feels unnatural and hinders the momentum of what should have been an otherwise fast-paced gameplay marvel.

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The saturated colors create a fantastic atmosphere like no other mech game has had before.

I still don’t get the major criticism over Daemon X Machina. I ended up having a lot of fun with it, maybe the most fun I’ve had with a mech game in years. It’s a gorgeous game with a killer soundtrack and a fun gameplay loop. If it wasn’t for a handful of issues in its gameplay department, this could have been a Game of the Year contender, as well as the single best mech game ever made. I still recommend it without a doubt. It’s yet another fantastic exclusive for the Switch.

 

Graphics: 9.5

Another great example of a strong art direction being more important than overly detailed visuals, as well as another great example of the Unreal Engine 4 being put into good use on the Switch.

Gameplay: 7.5

While the controls are easy to grasp and the overall gameplay loop is fun, it is a tad slow and the lack of a proper flight mechanic hinders the action a bit. The menu interface is crisp and easy to understand, even with a ton of information onscreen.

Sound: 8.5

Daemon X Machina features a fantastic heavy metal soundtrack that fits perfectly with the game’s high-octane gameplay, as well as actually decent voice acting, even if the script leaves a lot to be desired.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Let’s be honest: you’re not here for the game’s story, you’re here for the action. In this case, Daemon X Machina gets the job done with great action pieces and a nice progression system.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Daemon X Machina is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

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