You know what typecasting is, right? It’s when an actor proves to be great at a particular sort of role and has trouble finding parts for any other role. Jim Carrey, for instance, was a comedian for years before anybody would take him seriously enough to do anything else – whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is more of a thought exercise. From Software’s been a little typecast these days as well thanks to the blockbuster success of Dark Souls, but back in the day they were well known for mech games.
Solid mech games. Mech games like Metal Wolf Chaos XD (which recently saw a fine re-release) that would eventually give rise to newer mech games like Daemon X Machina, which isn’t a From game but is more than a little reminiscent of those classics. Remember Armored Core? Does micromanaging mecha minutia sound like a good time? Good, then chances are you’re going to like Daemon X Machina, too.
The world’s in a pretty bad way. After a collision with the Moon, the AI that humanity relied on decided that it was done serving mankind. It’s up to the Reclaimers, mercenaries who take on jobs to fight the Immortal AIs, to keep things in order. You play as a fully customizer Reclaimer, deciding the appearance and loadout of your Outer – your human body – and your Arsenal – the giant mech you pilot. In the course of your work, you’ll learn more about the Immortal menace and the fate of humanity as well as growing acquainted with your fellow Reclaimers.
Daemon X Machina owes a lot to the classic Armored Core series of games, which is hardly surprising given both games were produced by Kenichiro Tsukuda. You can also this this shared DNA with Dark Souls as there’s a fair amount of control over customizing your Arsenal, gearing it up with weapons, armor and special equipment. Arsenals are capable of full 3D motion, so you’ll need to watch for baddies from above, below and all around. Combat typically involves locking onto foes at the appropriate range before blasting away, though you can also use melee weapons for close-range battle if you’d prefer.
Meanwhile, you’ll need to keep an eye out for ammo pickups and health restoration. When the going gets tough, you can overload your mech to increase damage, defense or speed at the cost of other stats, as well as creating shadow clones of your mech to help out. It all makes for a more arcade-style affair than the Armored Core games, but Daemon x Machina is still plenty of fun. The variety of mech builds available means that if you start getting tired of one strategy, it’s easy enough to try another. There’s other cute touches here and there, like a skill tree system for your Outer involving cybernetic implants that change your appearance, but generally speaking this is a fairly straightforward shooter. That may or may not be your cup of tea – if you want a more plot-focused game or something with more choice beyond how best to shoot things, you’re not going to find that here.
Something you’re also not going to find here: a perfect framerate. Daemon X Machina looks great and plays pretty well, but the Switch can barely handle it and the framerate chokes here and there as a result. It’s clear that efforts were made toward a more stylized aesthetic in an attempt to keep things running smoothly, but all too often that ends up falling apart at the seams. It’s a shame, but things have still improved since Daemon X Machina’s demo and this is still an impressive enough game given the comparatively low specs of the Switch.
Armored Core hasn’t been around for a awhile, but Daemon X Machina is about as close as you can get. If you’re into giant robot battles, you could do a lot worse, especially if you’re into the multiplayer. There’s a lot of potential for expansion here as well; greater integration between story and gameplay would be a nice touch, such as allowing players to join some of the Reclaimer groups they come across throughout the adventure. That said, its wild combat alone is enough to recommend this to any serious mech fan.