Daemon X Machina Review – Half Beautiful, Half Boring

Oct 10, 2019
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GAME INFO

Daemon X Machina

September 13th, 2019
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo
Developer Marvelous First Studio

Style can only go so far. A good sense of aesthetic can really carry lesser games, but there's a limit. Every time I play Daemon X Machina, listen to the music, watch a mech glide through the air, I can't help but smile. It looks striking, and the music really is a cut above when it counts. Daemon X Machina is absolutely aesthetically pleasing to look at and listen to, and that makes me wish I weren't playing, for perhaps watching would've been a better way to experience the game.

Daemon X Machina is a game with some fun ideas, a great sense of style, and poor execution in so many aspects. This just might be the widest gulf in quality I've seen in a modern game between its aesthetics and music and what it's like to actually go hands-on with the game. It's such a disappointment because this is clearly a game that was worked very hard on by a very dedicated team. It has been given the love it deserved, and the end product just doesn't appeal to me.

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You play as a brand new mech pilot and can create your own character. You'll quickly find yourself in the Hangar, where you can take on missions and alter your mech, and then the game truly begins. You can select missions from a control panel in the Hangar, and once one is selected, away you go. Most missions come with a more-than-healthy dose of dialogue between characters that just appear and disappear as you take on missions. It comes out of nowhere, suddenly you must listen to minutes upon minutes of dialogue. It's nice that they took the step to record English voices for everything, but the dialogue halts the pacing and is never very interesting.

The characters that appear are eccentric in that typical anime fashion but they are just not interesting. The pieces of dialogue you listen to feel disconnected from anything else, and although these characters fight alongside you in their own mechs, you feel zero connection, almost like they are simply hovering voices that come and go while you focus on combat. These are the most annoying and superfluous characters I've come across in a long time, and if you manage to find any of them endearing, I'd love to find out how that came about.

Once in battle, that strong sense of style hits you once again. Boosting around the stage, flying, shooting enemies, using your weapons, all of it feels a bit awkward at first, but once you master the controls it feels perfectly natural. Although, it's clear this game isn't intended to be played on default JoyCon, as evidenced by HORI releasing a Daemon X Machina JoyCon Pro peripheral for this game to be played on the move. I played on a Pro Controller, and very rarely in handheld mode, which ensured the controls felt comfortable.

It looks and feels great to boost around a stage through the air, or on the sand with it kicking up behind the feet of your mech. This looks and feels cool. And it's a shame that when enemies show up it feels less so. Combat is just not particularly good. You will be using both triggers to shoot the weapons in your arms, which you can alter and customize in the Hangar, and then the left shoulder button to access shoulder-mounted weapons. Again, this can feel weird to control at first, but it ends up feeling fairly natural. The problem is just shooting at enemies.

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You get close to enemies, depending on the range of your weapons, aim roughly in their direction, and fire. Fire. Fire. Hold the triggers. Keep firing. They die. This is true for a majority of the enemies in the game, and it's pretty boring unless there's a lot of enemies, which is when weaving and dodging through bullets while destroying enemies feels nice. The only other time combat changes up is when huge boss mechs appear, requiring focusing on weak points while dodging massive attacks. The idea of massive puzzle-like bosses to find the weak spots of and fight is great, but in practice, it's, again, more frustrating than you want.

That's my experience throughout Daemon X Machina. Every time I'm impressed with an element of the game, like the music, I get let down by a boring Hangar. When out on a mission enjoying the freedom of flight, I have to focus on some lame enemies that are either frustrating to fight, or far too easy. Aesthetically it's a game I adore, but when playing, it's a game I abhor. And it's been difficult to reconcile those two halves. If you have any reservations about this game yourself, it's probably worth missing out on.

Review code provided by the publisher.

5.5

Daemon X Machina can really look visually stunning and sound amazing. But when playing the game, I just can't shake a feeling of disappointment. Daemon X Machina can be beautiful and ugly, and only the biggest mech fans will be able to look past the less flattering half of the game's visage. Great music and a great sense of style can't mask the fact that this game feels either boring or frustrating to play.

Pros

  • Great aesthetic style
  • Some excellent music

Cons

  • Mechs are awkward to control at first
  • Environments are very bland
  • Boring or frustrating combat
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