It’s been a while since we’ve had a mech game in the same vein as the Armored Core series. I greatly enjoyed them when I was younger so I jumped at the chance to give Daemon X Machina a try. And while it succeeds being a worthy contemporary successor, it also has some weaknesses that keep it from being a great game.
In Daemon X Machina you take a role of the prototypical new recruit. You can design your character’s face from a pretty broad set of options and overall, I was impressed by the variety. I had a decent amount of fun just messing around in the character creator for a while. You can also change your suit colors, but can’t modify your body type other than selecting male or female. I understand why this way done to keep the models consistent but it would be have been appreciated. Once your character is done you are immediately suited inside your mech, referred as Arsenals, and off you go.
The game starts you off as a new mercenary involved in a fight between sentient AI and other mercenaries. The story of the main game was nearly incomprehensible to me and you’re bombarded with different characters and not given time to get to know them at all. These other characters are often poorly voice acted and reduced to single gimmicks, so it was hard to care about or connect with them.
The single player campaign - and I am being honest here - isn’t interesting at all and falls flat on its face in many areas. I was genuinely disappointed by it in a lot of ways. It introduces many entwining factions and organizations but offers very little backstory and made the game a bit of a mess to me.
But really, the gameplay is the meat and potatoes of it all, right? I am happy to say that the giant robot combat is a lot of fun. Each stage takes the form of missions provided to you as a mercenary by the various factions employing your services. Some of these can be extremely short, and once you’ve become acquainted with the game, they tend to last less than ten minutes. The gameplay has more arcade-like feel to it rather than deep immersion. You can speed across the the battlefield in seconds, making them feel small, and enjoy automatic enemy locking with both missiles and rifles. This gives you time to focus on piloting the mech rather than fussing around with aiming. All in all, it feels like a game you could find inside an arcade in Tokyo. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
However, the story is plodding (or perhaps not, maybe just the characters are so awful that it just felt that way) and the battlefields don’t feature much variety. After a while things begin to feel samey and the enemies are easily dispatched due to their dumb AI. Things get shaken up a bit during the human-to-human combat missions but even they are easily dispatched mooks. The monotony of it all begins to take a toll after Mission 15 or so. There are some truly awesome set pieces involving humongous robots, laser swords, and other science fiction mecha tropes, but the majority of the single player campaign isn’t very memorable at all. Many basic missions don’t require much more than hover-shooting in a place for a while.
So where does the fun come into play? Well, much of it is in the deep mech customization system. Your Arsenals are fully customizable from top to bottom and it’s very cool. You can salvage parts from fallen Arsenals, buy them in the shop, or earn them as mission rewards. You can also upgrade systems, weapon specifications, and even your in-player avatar with cybernetic enhancements.
The single player campaign is a bit of a wash, but your experience depends on what you want from the game. Daemon X Machina excels at playing against skilled human opponents and taking the time and care to customize your arsenals. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I don’t think it will be a game I want to play again, at least not for a long while. I’m glad I played it, though. I needed that giant arsenal-sized hole in my heart filled once more, at least temporarily. Also, there’s a really bizarre ice cream-based mini game. I’m not sure what they were thinking with that one.