Daemon x Machina Review: A Mecha Anime Fan's Dream

Mecha games are an increasingly rare subgenre, and it's splintered even further when it comes to how they play. You can either get a granular experience where each piece of the mecha is broken down with stats, or you get something that's more of a flashy affair that emphasizes style but lacks the customization options of the former. Daemon x Machina sits somewhere right in the middle of these two extremes. Bringing flashy combat with a healthy amount of customization, Daemon x Machina is the game mecha anime fans have been waiting for.

Now this comes with a caveat, however, as mecha anime fans are all too aware that an easy pitfall to find a series in is that there can be almost too much going on. There's an inherent forgiveness necessary to fully enjoy what's being offered.

The game takes place in a dystopian future long after the moon collided with the Earth. A strange new energy known as Femto starts bringing Artificial Intelligence to life and sets them on a destructive path against humanity. Players are part of Orbital, an organization with several groups of pilots who use Arsenals (the mechs of the franchise), who head out into the world to take down Immortals⁠—machines that have gone rogue.

Playing the game itself involves customizing your Arsenal with various parts that you can either upgrade, purchase, or loot from fallen enemies before setting out into missions. With each mission, Arsenals are dropped into an area full of either tank or flying enemies and most of the time it's a rinse and repeat kind of thing as you're supposed to just clear out all enemies to end the mission. Sometimes you're defending a tower, but most of the missions begin to feel the same.

Each mission is separated into ranks, which offer a steady incline of difficulty. Unfortunately, rising difficulty here means that there will just be more enemies to take down rather than involve much strategy. There are some occasions where players will face off against other Arsenals, and the giant Immortals, that take more of an effort to take down. These missions are a huge bright spot, but are too few and far between. The missions wouldn't be a huge issue if Daemon x Machina really was able to explore the grand story it so clearly wants to tell.

Daemon x Machina has an anime-esque plot with tons of colorful characters with distinctive personality traits, but it bites off far more than it can chew. Because the narrative is delivered in short cut scenes or dialogue boxes in between each mission, fans are only privy to a small bit of the world-building each time.

This is fine in theory, but new factions or characters are continually introduced over the missions in random batches. It's hard to dive into character motivations or even care at all about what they're doing when there's a potential for a character to completely disappear for a great amount of time and suddenly ask you to care that they're involved in a life-or-death situation.

With all that being said about the narrative around it, Daemon x Machina is still incredible. Gameplay is slick and fluid. While its heavy use of the triggers might seem strange at first, it becomes second nature pretty quickly. Boosting feels great (and made even better with a refillable stamina meter) and there is a wide variety of weapons and builds.

No two Arsenals will be alike, and you can cater it to your preferred play style. Want to be a speedy mecha dual-wielding katanas? Want to be a slower, but powerfully destructive tank? Want to just shoot an enemies from afar with bazookas? You can do that! The stats get a little more granular the more you customize, and even more so when it comes to the player character itself, but there's a wealth of options for those who truly fall in love with the game's rhythm.

At the end of the day, that's really the main draw. While the entire Daemon x Machina package does not hold up strong against scrutiny, it's really nailed a feeling. It's a perfect title for Nintendo Switch's handheld mode where you can just pick up and play a few missions before it starts to run its course. Like some mecha anime, it's better to just sit back and enjoy the cool things happening.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Daemon x Machina is now available on Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.