Fun fact: There isn’t a single problem in life that cannot be solved with a giant robot. Long line at the supermarket? Long line of blood under your mechanised bootprint is the solution. Kaiju running amok according to the holy scripture of Pacific Rim? A few hundred tons of awesome augmented by elbow booster rockets will solve that problem.
Has the moon been shattered, its remaining fragments colliding with our beloved planet and setting off a new extinction event that allowed homicidal artificial intelligence to rise up and begin a war against humanity for dominance over our fractured hellscape of a world? Once again, that’s a dilemma that can easily be solved by throwing a few iron-blooded orphans at it.
That’s also the exact problem facing humanity after a lunar calamity dribbled sizable chunks of destruction like a cosmic Hulk Hogan unleashing an atomic leg drop. That’s where you come into the story, a fresh-faced rookie with everything to prove and a mechanised suit of armour with which to get the job done.
I think, because Daemon X Machina’s story is nothing short of baffling. Beyond the initial setup which has the barest of bones, there’s a wider story unfolding between yourself and a cast whose assorted call-signs and actual names sound like someone threw multiple darts at a thesaurus and wrote down the results. There’s a mad algorithm of personalities at play here, stoic warriors juxtaposed against the menace of fist-happy thugs and anime princesses with a bloodlust for AI genocide.
As one of the Reclaimers caught up in the political games of several factions (Bullet Works! Western VII! Immortal Innocence! I swear I’m not making these up!), it’s up to you to fight back against the machine factions and prevent humanity from being wiped out, even if that war brings you into conflict against your own teammates and other mercenaries.
It’s a tale that feels as if be right at home in a new Mobile Suit Gundam or Macross series, one where the nature of war is questioned, philosophy is ejected along with spent ammo shells and loyalties are tested in the crucible of battle. It’s also completely secondary to progress within Daemon X Machina, because once you’ve decided to skip past several pages of entirely inconsequential narrative that is littered with barely explained technobabble, you get to the real armoured core appeal.
Daemon X Machina plays like a wishlist of big mecha power fantasy, a collection of ideas and gameplay mechanics that have been pulled from several decades of genre titles and woven into one complete package. This is a game that isn’t just focused on giant robot on robot carnage, but about applying a layer of speed to your efforts to paint the screen in a series of colourful explosions.
Here is where Daemon X Machina truly shines, as battles feel fast, fluid and frantic. Taking on an army of drones is no sweat for even the most average of pilots, and once you’ve tuned up your skills to create an arsenal frame to match your style of attack, the smoothest of control schemes will aid you in being a genuine threat on or above the ground. It’s fun stuff, as the pylon system allows for a pilot to quickly adjust their strategy on the fly. Prefer long distance carnage? Equip a sniper rifle to swat down pests at a distance and keep a shotgun close in your other hand to keep rival pilots at bay.
Prefer to dig in and finish a job up close and personal? Various melee options will have you swinging hard quicker than you can say Barbatos, while flamethrowers, shock guns and submachine guns will pepper the steel hulls of enemies with righteous justice. Boss fights, as sparse as they are, add another layer to the action, encouraging you to use your arsenal mech to survive against a towering behemoth of steel and hate for the fleshy ones pestering it.
Outside of battle, you’ll be working on your arsenal and modifying it with the spoils of war while also tinkering with add-on parts that define what your mecha should be. If brute force is your answer to everything, you can equip heavier armour to your arsenal that sacrifices some speed for a thicker hide, or you can go in the opposite direction and engineer a mech that trades the safety of steel for a speedier output on the battlefield. Combine that with inherent frame abilities that allow you to spawn a doppleganger in combat or amplify your shields, and there’s a lot
It’s a deep cycle, of fight and flight mechanics as you battle against overwhelming odds and literal giant enemy robot crabs on cyber-cocaine…but it’s not a very interesting one in the long run. Daemon X Machina’s gameplay loop is a simple one: Sit through a lengthy briefing with your fellow teammates on Offer Missions (Free Missions are replayable excursions that offer more leeway for how you approach them), head into a zone that usually ends with you taking on arsenals from another faction because reasons, rinse and repeat.
There’ll be loops thrown at you occasionally, such as a mission where you have to shoot meteors out of the sky or navigate through tunnels as you sabotage equipment, but the overall cycle of action never truly pushes you towards challenging content. Defeating drones, taking on rival arsenals and heading back to base to delve into more of the bonkers story quickly creates a rhythm, but it’s one that feels as if its all style and no real substance.
Visually, Daemon X Machina looks superb…provided that there’s not too much action on the screen. Even in docked mode, the game stuttered like King George VI giving a speech whenever there’s too much action on the screen. With explosions erupting, several destructible building being dropped and the battlefield littered with cannon fodder, Daemon X Machina often struggled to maintain a steady pace.
It’s not game-breaking stuff by any stretch of the imagination, but it is annoying to miss out on delivering a crucial killer blow just because a dropped frame messed up your timing. Even with those faults and a repetitive nature to its mission structure, Daemon X Machina still has plenty of charm loaded into its fun-seeking missiles. It’s the kind of game that we just don’t see enough of, and with Armoured Core’s Kenichiro Tsukuda calling the shots while famed mech designer Shoji Kawamori puts his own touch on the visuals, it’s still more than scrumptious enough to satisfy certain cravings.
Last Updated: September 11, 2019