Daemon X Machina Preview
By Phil Myth
Daemon X Machina was the surprise lead on Nintendo’s E3 presentation last year. It certainly looked cool, with its cel-shaded art style and airbourne fighting mechs taking down hulking mechanical giants, but we didn’t really learn a ton about it. Thankfully, the demo that dropped on the eShop following February’s Nintendo Direct now allows us to take a closer look at this new IP. Upon closer inspection, Daemon X Machina is a bit of a mixed bag.
You start off with a character creator with a decent variety of options - though hopefully there’ll be a lot more in the final build. This customisation will later extend to your mech as well - known in-game as your Arsenal (this was a little confusing at first as I thought the game was initially referring to the weapons I had available. More on that shortly.)
Once you’ve styled your hair and added a little guyliner, you can take part in the assessment mission, which essentially serves as a tutorial. This lets you get to grips with controlling your Arsenal. One button launches you higher into the air, whilst another allows you to boost around the desolate terrain.
As you’re jetting about, waves of enemies show up for you to blast into tiny pieces. The right trigger fires the weapon in your right hand, and the left trigger uses whatever’s in your left hand. It’s quite a cool system, as you can equip a shield to one arm for a little extra defence, or go dual-wielding and really unleash hell. You also have a shoulder mounted cannon that can launch missiles at locked on enemies, which is useful for taking out clusters of baddies.
Unfortunately, shooting stuff doesn’t feel all that satisfying right now. There’s little to no kick, despite your weaponry being mahoosive, bullets barely seem to have any impact, and while defeated AI disappear in a pleasant explosion, it doesn’t always feel like you’re the cause of that.
On top of that, it can be hard to keep track of some opponents, especially the more mobile ones. The dual-stick aiming is fairly standard, but I found myself desperately wishing for gyro controls so I could more precisely track what it was I was trying to shoot.
Stuck In A Rut
This lack of mobility also hindered my enjoyment in other ways. Flying about taking down smaller enemies was decent enough. But when larger waves appeared, or more advanced foes entered the fray, I felt like a sitting duck. My Arsenal just wasn’t speedy and nimble enough to avoid the barrage of bullets headed my way, and coupled with the (by comparison) lethargic aiming, I’d often lost a substantial amount of health before I figured out where I was being shot from and could manouevre myself to return fire.
As you progress through the game, you can acquire upgrades for your Arsenal that not only increases your firepower, but your boost speed and mobility too. Getting further into the game then, may allieviate some of these annoyances, but they’re incredibly off-putting early on, which makes me wonder if people will stick with it long enough to get to that point.
That striking artstyle has it’s drawbacks too. Whilst very cool in more serene moments, it sometimes made it difficult to make out enemies when things got a little more frantic - especially at a distance. I found myself relying on the blue squares that signified a lock on, and shooting at hollow blue cubes just isn’t as fun.
That said, the boss battles are hugely enjoyable. Taking down a giant robot (known as an Immortal in this universe) who tried to aim kicks at me as well as swinging a massive sword, was an exceptionally cool set piece. The reduced mobility of that mega-mech made me feel a lot more nimble by comparison. Dropping to the floor to run underneath and power shots at his weak points, before taking to the sky to avoid his counter swipes, locking on from above and unleashing a load of missiles in reply felt awesome. It’s a real shame that feeling isn’t replicated throughout.
Likewise, the presentation is also a bit hit and miss. As mentioned the cool, arcadey artstyle can be very pretty at times, but it can also make it very hard to pick out smaller ships that are firing at you. The cast of characters are also fully voice acted, though they run from natural-sounding and engaging on the one end, to hammy and cringe-inducing at the other. The latter probably aren’t helped by the script, which also swerves wildly from believable to laughable.
Work In Progress
So far then, Daemon X Machina shows some promise, but has a fair few wrinkles to iron out. It’s at it’s best when you’re seamlessly moving from target to target, dropping out of the sky to knee-cap a giant robot before launching back into the air to blast opposing Arsenals. But this mobility isn’t guaranteed at all times, and the lethargic nature of both your Arsenal and the aiming, can make for a frustrating and simply unenjoyable experience at times. Here’s hoping it can be fine tuned into a more responsive endeavour by the time the game launches fully.
Phil is the co-founder and editor of Nintendo Village, and also writes, hosts and produces P Myth Gaming. He has been a Nintendo fanboy for as long as he can remember and owns every home console bar the Virtual Boy (one day... one day...). His favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.