For those that may not know, I am a massive mecha fan. Gundam, Macross, Evangelion, you name it, I’ve probably seen it. As such, I was very interested in checking out DAEMON X MACHINA when it came out for the Switch. However, as it is a Switch game, the performance was not all that great and was definitely a step down from what I’m used to on PC. Well, five months later, that is no longer a problem, as we now have that very game on PC.
Note: this is a review of the singleplayer side to the game only, I was unable to try out the multiplayer prior to release.
Fun action gameplay. When I play games like this, one of the most common problems I run into is gameplay that is either too simple and boring or games that are reasonably complex, but fall back on cheap gimmicks like bullet sponging and grinding in place of proper difficulty. DAEMON X MACHINA is neither of these, instead striking a very nice balance between the two. This is not a game where you can just spam the same attack to win or a game where you constantly find yourself needing to catch up to the enemy. It’s in the middle, or as I like to call it: the “fun zone”.
For one, enemies are varied enough that you’re actually justified in using more than just the strongest weapon in your arsenal. Some enemies are better dispatched with longer-ranged weapons and some are better handled with a heavy melee weapon. Then there are some cool combat mechanics on top of that, like the mirage (which basically duplicates your mech in place to draw enemy fire), the femto armament (the red glowy stuff around your mech that grants specific bonuses depending on which form you have selected), and the fact that you don’t even need to be in your mech to fight. Yes, you can actually exit your mech at any time and continue the fight on foot. In fact, this is exactly how I finished the final boss after my mech had blown up. And, most of all, the game just feels good to play. Hits have impact, both on enemies and on yourself, the movement is very fluid and intuitive (more on that later), and all the other cool little additions add up to make quite the experience.
Slick movement. A large part of why the gameplay is so fun is that there’s an equally fun movement system to match it. This is a game where you are constantly transitioning from ground to air combat, zipping through the sky while lining up your shots, and dashing out of the way of incoming projectiles. It’s a very movement heavy game with some very nicely tuned movement mechanics to match. Dashing, spinning, boosting, and flying all feel intuitive and aren’t really that complicated control-wise. It feels great in-game and, combined with the fun shooter mechanics I mentioned before, provides for a very cool combo, one that feels right at home in a mecha game.
Great customization mechanics. I love customization mechanics, regardless of what type of game I might be in. As such, I was very happy to see just how much is offered on that front in DAEMON X MACHINA. Not only is there extensive mech customization, but character customization as well. In fact, the game opens with the latter and, while not as complex as a Bethesda game, was pretty fun to play around with. The game’s skill system is tied to your character as well, with unlocked perks permanently modifying his/her appearance. My character went from battle-hardened veteran to some sort of cyborg with no eyes, it was actually kinda cool.
This level of customization extends to the mech as well. You’re able to equip a maximum of six weapons: one for each hand, two holstered on the back, one mounted to the shoulder, and a secondary weapon also attached to the back. The weapons in your mech’s hands and the two holstered on the back can be swapped to and from at any time during battle. These are your assault rifles, snipers, shields, laser rifles, and melee weapons. The shoulder-mounted weapon is your missile launcher, railgun, laser cannon, or any other big boy that can fit back there. The secondary weapon slot is for grenades, mines, and support items. Just in the sheer variety of what you can have attached there’s already a lot of room for customization, and I haven’t even mentioned the armor customization.
It seems like a lot, but it never really felt too complex. As with the gameplay, it strikes a nice balance in being complex enough to allow for experimentation, but not being simple enough that choosing the higher number is always better. I personally did quite a bit of experimentation, with a couple of my favorites being the flamethrower missile combo and that time I went full Barbatos, with mace and all. It’s a very cool customization system overall and ended up being one of my favorite things about the game.
Excellent PC port. Honestly, this was a game that needed a PC version from the start. The Switch is a great console and all, but for an action heavy mech game like this, the Switch wouldn’t be my first choice. Fortunately this is something that the guys over at XSEED recognized, as they’ve delivered us an excellent PC port here with DAEMON X MACHINA. I had absolutely no issues running the game at 1440p with max settings and a 200fps cap, the highest cap available. The game ran buttery smooth at these settings and never really dropped frames, even when there were missiles and lasers and stuff all over the screen. Granted, the textures aren’t really that high-res and the graphics lean more on the stylistic side, but it still looks great regardless.
I also had no issues controlling the game with mouse and keyboard. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve when first starting out with the game, but I managed to get it quick enough and was zipping around and using my various attacks within the first couple hours. They’re completely rebindable as well, so you can change them if necessary. And for those that don’t want to go the keyboard and mouse route, the game also offers controller support, which is also completely rebindable. I tested with both my Xbox One and PS4 controller and both worked well, although the button prompts appear to be Xbox only. Overall though, it is a much better experience than what was offered on the Switch and is definitely the definitive version of the game.
Story issues. While the plot itself is fine, there are a number of issues bringing down the overall story. For one, the game rapid fires its character introductions right at the start, leaving no room for the player to get a grasp of who’s who. It’s like you’re suddenly expected to know who all of these characters are, what faction they belong to, and what their relation is with the other characters. It’s way too much information right at the start, making it hard to fully understand the story until you’re well into it.
However, by the time you’re in the last quarter of the game, some new problems arise. The story picks up pace immensely and the ending just kinda comes out of nowhere. It was like the writers had this longer thing planned out, but ran out of the time to realize it, so they just dumped the rest of their ideas right towards the end. The ending itself is simple enough to understand, but it’s just told in the most convoluted manner and doesn’t leave any lasting impact. Really, the story as a whole just doesn’t match up to the quality of the gameplay.
Repetitive mission design. While DAEMON X MACHINA may have some strong core gameplay, its missions oftentimes fall into repetitive patterns. The vast majority of the missions can be divided into “kill all of the enemies”, “defend or escort this objective”, or “defeat this boss”. There are a few curveballs thrown in there, but aside from those, all the missions fall into one of those three categories. There are some areas of the game where this becomes really noticeable, like towards the end when you have the same type of mission repeated four times in a row. It’s not as a bad as a Musou game — and the core gameplay is fun enough that it doesn’t become too much of a problem — but it would have been cool to see more variety.
For the mecha fan, DAEMON X MACHINA is a solid recommendation. Fun gameplay, slick movement, extensive customization, there’s a lot to like here. It does have some issues with regards to its story and repetitive mission design, but the core gameplay more than makes up for it. And of course, the fact that it’s an excellent PC port on top of all of that just makes it even better. Even for those not into mecha, it’s definitely worth a look.
You can buy DAEMON X MACHINA on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.