Review: ‘Daemon X Machina’ Has Big Robots, Small Fun on Nintendo Switch


Not that it’s my job to schedule Nintendo’s release calendar, but I’m far from the first person to notice that it feels like Daemon X Machina has been sent out to die. Is it really going to be Switch owners’ first choice in a summer that gave us Super Mario Maker 2, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, and, in one week, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening? Heck, as far as niche Japanese anime action games go, it even has to compete with Astral Chain and its ambitious Platinum pedigree.

Fairly or not, Daemon X Machina really needed to do something spectacular to stand out on Nintendo Switch, and it doesn’t. But on their own terms, these big robots do offer a modest amount of fun.

One thing you’ve probably heard about Daemon X Machina, if you’ve heard of it at all, is the somewhat rough demo they released earlier this year. For whatever reason I decided to leave pretty detailed feedback when I was finished it, and lucky for us the development team made a big deal about responding. This is a game first and foremost about patrolling land and sky as a giant mech. And now just the act of doing that feels better with smoother performance, more responsive controls, more intuitive combat options, and quality of life improvements like not being immediately destroyed when you go out of bounds.

That seems like a weird place to start a review. I could have talked about the story what with the moon falling and the corrupted machinery or the constantly shifting allegiances of the mercenary teams. But the mech minutiae felt more relevant because ultimately Daemon X Machina behaves like a Monster Hunter or Destiny game. Its formula requires grinding through lots of bite-sized missions alone or with teammates to get the sickest loot for your robot. Everything else is basically fluff. That’s why the optimized controls are so crucial. The game just wouldn’t be tolerable if it handled as poorly as like Metal Wolf Chaos or something.

Missions are split between endlessly repeatable free missions and more involved story missions, all separated by rank. You’ll spend most of your time shooting waves of weak but pesky foes, but the game throws tougher challenges at you as well. If you win a duel against a rival mech you can loot their corpse for new equipment. Meanwhile, towering bosses are pretty impressive… until their bullet-sponge nature drags the fight into tedium.

In general the missions favor quantity over quality, even if there aren’t really that many of them. For every clever scenario like sneaking through a base on foot outside of your robot or taking command of your own hulking behemoth, there will be something frustrating and dumb like a vehicle escort mission with poorly communicated objectives. And there’s just a base mindlessness to the gameplay underlining the whole experience. It’s like the recent Wolfenstein: Youngblood in that way.

However the base mindlessness does offer an appealingly blank canvas to test out your different toys. Daemon X Machina has a bunch of equipment to mess around with and your different loadout can radically change your strategy. I have a long-range defensive build that includes a head with improved lock-on targeting, extra energy for creating decoys, a big shield, reinforced chest and leg armor, a shoulder-mounted rail gun, a bazooka for an arm, and another spare bazooka. But if you scavenge the right gear you could make something completely different like a nimble laser swordfighter with extra auxiliary flight jets or a soldier dual-wielding assault rifles. The robots look pretty sweet, too. The environments have a harsh colorful cel-shaded look that’s not very detailed, but the chunky mechanical warriors have cool custom details to spare.

It’s cynical but the act of playing felt good enough to overpower more boring aspects of the overall design. I do wish though that there were more ways to get loot faster. Along with raiding enemies you can purchase gear and build your own in the factory. But all these options are stingy and do little to mitigate fake RPG-style difficulty spikes when the game just decides your enemies have better numbers than you. At least Xenoblade Chronicles X gave you a vast open-world to explore with your mech when you were tired of bad fights.

I didn’t hate Daemon X Machina at all. I’ll probably keep coming back to it for a weirdly long amount of time in-between other games. But in a year full of so many Nintendo Switch bangers, it’s tough to whole-heartedly recommend, at least right now. And not to give it more competition but here are some other cool Switch games to play.

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