Daemon X Machina makes the player feel like a futuristic mech pilot, but they can never escape a dull story that keeps interrupting the action.
Daemon X Machina is a third-person shooter that puts the player in the seat of a powerful mech as they slice and shoot through hordes of enemy robots. Daemon X Machina has incredible fast-paced action set in one of the most vibrant worlds to ever appear on the Nintendo Switch, but the mech battles are always held by a lackluster story that never stops butting in on the player's fun.
Daemon X Machina is set on a world where the moon has cracked and unleashed red energy known as Femto onto the planet. Femto has corrupted the artificial intelligence of the world and turned it against humanity. The player takes on the role of an Outer - a mercenary who has been affected by the Femto, allowing them to pilot a mech suit known as an Arsenal. The story of Daemon X Machina involves taking on missions given out by the different factions of the world in order to stop the rogue machines from wiping out all life on the planet, which involves interacting with the different mercenary organizations that also operate in the region. The player will often team up with different mercenary pilots on missions, but everyone has a price, and today's friend might be tomorrow's enemy.
The player is given a basic Arsenal to pilot and they can take on missions to battle the rogue machines or other mercenaries. The Arsenals are the highlight of Daemon X Machina and the player is given a great deal of customization over their design. The player's Arsenal can equip a weapon in each hand, a shoulder-mounted weapon, and strap two additional weapons to its back, giving a lot of choice of arms to be used in missions. The Arsenal feels incredible in battle and praise needs to be given to the developers for the control scheme of Daemon X Machina, as the movement of the mech suit feels fluid and it won't take long until the player is flying into the air using a jetpack and switching between weapons on the fly in order to take on a new threat that has entered the battlefield. It's also possible for the player to abandon their mech suit and run around in human form. The controls for the human form aren't quite as fluid, but this won't come up as much, as abandoning the Arsenal and fighting giant robots with a small pistol is tantamount to suicide.
The player is given a ton of customization options in Daemon X Machina, as the Arsenal can equip a wide variety of weapons, such as assault rifles, bazookas, energy swords, flamethrowers, homing missiles, rail-guns, and even acid throwers. The player can also spend cash on their human character, which involves a skill tree that has benefits for both the Arsenal and the Outer form. All of the customizations are done from a small hub - the docking bay for the Arsenal. The hub feels barren and only contains a few NPCs with little to say, and there's a dog who follows the frustrating recent tradition of Nintendo games putting animals in the home base that can't be pet. It might have been more efficient to just reduce the hub to a series of menus, as the developers do nothing interesting with the location given to the player.
The visuals of Daemon X Machina are stunning. It's not an exaggeration to say that Daemon X Machina is one of the most vibrant games on the Nintendo Switch, with an amazing color palette. Daemon X Machina has a lot of variety in its stages, from forests with multicolored trees to ravaged cities to oil rigs above a Femto-poisoned ocean of red liquid. The lighting is equally impressive, highlighted by lightning storms that temporarily invert the colors of the world, and diverse shades of orange from a meteor shower that the player needs to shoot down before it strikes an enemy base.
The Nintendo Switch might lag in its specs but this doesn't hinder Daemon X Machina. The game handles huge levels filled with numerous enemy units and giant robots, never stuttering for a moment. The graphics take a slight dip in quality in handheld mode, but it's not a deal-breaker and the game still looks great as a portable experience. The one issue that players might have at first is with the HUD, as it covers the screen with too much redundant information. The majority of the HUD elements can be disabled in the options menu.
The missions in Daemon X Machina usually involve slicing through hordes of enemy robots, punctuated with encounters against other powerful Arsenal-users with abilities that mirror your own. The player must also face off against colossal Immortal robots in some memorable boss encounters that feel like they belong in a Gothic take on the Star Fox series. The story of Daemon X Machina is told across forty-six different missions which will take the player around 10-12 hours to complete, but there are lots of side missions available that allow the player to unlock more gear and earn more allies who they can call on to help in missions. Daemon X Machina also has a four-player co-op mode that allows players to take on missions together locally or online, but there are no competitive online modes in the game at launch, which is a huge shame, as Daemon X Machina would benefit greatly from PvP missions and modes.
Daemon X Machina has amazing graphics and gameplay, but it's held back by two things - the characters and the story. The main character is mute throughout the game (outside of grunts), which is sadly not the case for the NPCs in the game. The player interacts with numerous mercenaries in Daemon X Machina and each of their personalities feels like title headings from The Big Book of Anime Stereotypes. The characters are one-note and have little in the way of personality outside of their one defining feature, such as being really angry or proud.
The story of Daemon X Machina is equally uninspired and many important concepts are not explained to the player. The bulk of the story is told in emails and talking head dialogue sequences that are prime examples of telling and not showing. The characters in Daemon X Machina talk of the harsh post-apocalyptic cities that they grew up in and of the strange direction that society took after the moon broke, but the player never gets a chance to experience it.
A bad story and flat characters can normally be forgivable if the gameplay is good enough, as most games will let you skip over the story scenes if the player finds them boring. Daemon X Machina is not so forgiving in this regard, as characters never stop talking during missions. The best comparison is to imagine if the codec sequences in the Metal Gear Solid series happened in real-time during gameplay, with the player expected to follow along while trying to concentrate on the game. The NPCs never stop spouting exposition or explaining their character motivations during action sequences and it's a recurring distraction throughout the game. Daemon X Machina will never let the player escape from its story for long.
Daemon X Machina is one of the best action games on the Nintendo Switch and it's a must-buy for fans of the mech genre, as it does an incredible job of making the player feel as if they are in control of a massive war machine on futuristic battlefields. Daemon X Machina is let down by its uninspired story and boring characters that always try and interject on the player's fun, but it's still possible to have a great time with the game.
Daemon X Machina will be released for the Nintendo Switch on September 13, 2019. A digital copy of the game was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.