The Daemon X Machina demo offers an action-packed chance to check out the game’s potential, seeing as it is one of the first mech games to be available on the Switch. Showcasing the fast-paced gameplay, some customization, and a few downfalls, the demo shows much potential to have a new title that may start a new mech franchise that may rival the Armour Core series. In essence, the Daemon X Machina demo is a lot of fun with fast gameplay, but also a few setbacks that will hopefully be fixed by release.
The title does many things well but also has a few clunky aspects that hold it back. Shooting fast-moving enemies can be a challenge, and the developer’s answer to this difficulty is an intuitive lock-on; if the enemy is relatively in the center of the screen, the player’s Arsenal will target them. This feature is handy because it allows players to move quicker. Another wonderful aspect about the game is its completely remappable controls, including a spot for two assist button that allows players to hotkey two button presses to do a specific function.
A particularly disappointing setback is how the flight is handled. One button is dedicated to jumping and ascending, while another disables flight, plunging the mech to the ground. Additionally, the Arsenal will rise or drop depending on movement and the angle one is looking. For example, if an enemy is below the character and the player is attacking while moving, they will either descend or ascend, which can cause countless issues when the level design includes obstacle-heavy terrain. These issues could be mended by more sensible controls, such as having separate buttons to ascend and descend and a double-tap to disable flight, similarly to Dragon Ball Z games’ flight mechanics. Having more control over the position of the Arsenal may make the player feel empowered and more like a pilot of an autonomous mech rather than a bipedal warplane.
Arsenals can equip a multitude of weapons, from special missile shoulder weapons and long-range guns to sword and shields, which offers freedom of play. Some of the automatic weapons will shoot as long as an enemy is within the lock-on portion of the screen, allowing the player to focus on movement. One shoulder equips a power weapon, such as a multi-lock-on missile launcher while the other uses auxiliary weaponry, such as grenades. Furthermore, the mech has storage spots allowing players to bring up to four handheld weapons that can be changed out on the fly. The weapon variety enables players to enter missions with more tools for different situations, allowing scope to take high power but slow-firing weapons for bigger and slower enemies as well as automatic weapons for the grunts. Having four weapons also allows more creativity when switching between close- and long-range.
One feature of the game that the demo nor trailers have delved into is that players can freely leave their Arsenal during the mission. Why one would leave the mech is still unknown at this point as no real information on what can be done in this section has yet to be released. The demo alludes to the player eventually gaining access to a sword later on. Although, the player does have a drone that flies around and assists in combat that is useable in the prototype missions. If the mech is heavily damaged the player can escape staying alive as this was useful against the boss, except the mech was not repairable so the game became slow paced as dying would mean getting the Arsenal back when retrying. Players can revive their NPC teammates when their mechs get taken down but not vice versa in the demo. If the lack of revival for the player is intentional or not is unclear but having teammates be able to revive the player would be a nice addition, helping to show that they care about their whole team, including the lowly rookie.
The demo takes the player through four missions. The first of these is the tutorial, with the next two being objective-based, and the last a boss fight. Between missions, players are able to run around the Arsenal hangar where they can purchase upgrades and make changes. Attaining equipment is rather simple, solely coming from fallen enemies. When inspecting fallen Arsonals on the battlefield, the player can choose one from a selection of components. By making the choice feel more important, players can enjoy an added layer of tension mid-combat. Specific upgrades will cause cosmetic changes to the pilot, giving them more robotic features. These robotic additions are somewhat unsettling, especially considering the primary enemy is a corrupted A.I. “type of lifeform” that assimilates other machines.
Lore is portrayed through a mission briefing before a level begins, while cutscenes and dialogue occur mid-mission to push the story forward. The player assumes the role of a rookie who is working with other mercenary groups taking contracts from an entity known as Orbital. The end goal is to control all areas of the Oval Link and take down the “Immortals,” a self-aware A.I. that is working to take out humanity. The story has a unique tension at play considering the player character’s descent into trans-humanism, as he ironically becomes more and more machine-based in efforts to preserve humanity. These discussions may become something that is pivotal to the story later on. The strange dichotomy between upgrading via machine parts and keeping one’s humanity may be a highlight.
The demo for Daemon X Machina only shows off the basics and, so far, these basics offer a strong foundation for gameplay and story progression. Having the ability to pick up and throw vehicles and objects is a novel inclusion to add more weapons to the player’s disposal. Furthermore, salvaging parts and weapons on the field add to the sense of warfare; when something is destroyed or a weapon runs out of ammunition, then quick thinking and resourcefulness can win a battle. While the movement may not hold up to the cinematic trailers, the game has a solid base to build off.