Daemon X Machina, out September 13, is a stylish third-person action game from Marvelous with a feedback loop fine-tuned for finding fun in blowing stuff up, getting money, and upgrading your mech. The fact that it’s on the Switch makes its snack-sized levels ideal for grinding on the go. The game dishes out chunks of fun anime-style action on funky color palettes. It gets a little repetitive, and the plot is barely intelligible, but there’s still a decent amount to like about Daemon X Machina.
Watch the video above or read my transcript below:
Daemon X Machina is like a game that was glued together by my own personalized algorithm keeping track of all of my favorite anime nonsense. Generic characters who don’t play well with others? Check. Giant mechs? Check. Laser gun in my left hand and a giant sword in my right? Check. Cheesy J-Rock? Check.
After the moon broke apart and devastated the planet, rogue AI-controlled machines launched an attack on humanity. You play as a “reclaimer,” a mech pilot who accepts missions provided by an organization known as Orbital. You carry out these missions with fellow mercenaries from different factions in order to prevent the machines from complete global domination.
The story is so full of technobabble and made-up names and indistinguishable factions that after a certain point, I was grasping at straws for the few words that I recognized. At first, the Ace Combat-style briefings were a delight, but over time, I found myself politely nodding along as I mashed the A button to get through dull cutscenes and pre-mission dialogue that just got in the way of the action. Each super serious pseudo-military briefing is like the line you wait in before a roller coaster. Eventually, it’s worth just ponying up for that fast pass and jumping right on the damn thing. To do that, you can just hit the plus button. They’ll probably talk about the details you just went over during the whole mission anyway.
When you’re at your base preparing for a fight, you can equip your mech with new weapons, paint jobs, and decals. You can spend money on custom parts in the factory or buy them outright. You can also apply money earned on mission to a personal skill tree and customize your character’s appearance, too. You can even buff your pilot via the adorable ice cream shop inside of the base.
Once you’re ready to jump into combat, you choose either “Offer Missions,” which are essentially story missions, or “Free Missions,” which are optional side quests where you can find new gear and weapons. The 18 missions I’ve played so far are usually different variations of the same flavors. Start in a new map with boundaries where you and your teammates are tasked with eliminating all of the AI machines in the area that come in the form of flying drones, tanks, and the occasional enemy mech. Pick up any fallen ammo, rinse, and repeat. Occasionally, fallen mechs will drop parts that you can take back to base with you or swap out right there on the battlefield. Stripping mechs for parts is actually one of the things I love about this game.
Boss fights can introduce some cool new ways to make things go boom. One fight pits you against this huge aircraft that tries to ram into you or hit you with dozens of lasers that you have to dash around to avoid. Another boss jumps around like a crazy crab and tests your ability to maneuver quickly enough to avoid its huge body and its electrical shields while firing off shots at the right weak points.
After completing a mission, it’s back to the base to unravel more of the story and get right back to upgrading and customizing your mech even more. It’s a solid cycle that will keep you busy as you try to rack up more and more money for items and upgrades.
I’m sure that folks who like the grind will find plenty here to chew on. I’m curious to see how teaming up with friends online will be when the game goes live. What I’m not looking forward to is rigging together a Discord call on my phone or computer so we can actually, ya know, communicate with each other. The game offers up a quick little Rocket League-style chat window with premade dialogue options, but you could probably get by with a text thread the way my friends and I used to manage in the days of Monster Hunter.
This game is probably a much better match for people out there who love mech action more than I do, but I am skeptical about how long it’ll be able to hold my attention.