The age of mech games has long passed, and to many, the genre is looked back on with a sense of longing. The thrill of piloting a hulking death machine feels like a hazy memory from a long-forgotten night of one too many jager bombs. I was a massive fan of the old Mech Assault and MechWarrior games and am a sucker for anything involving mechs. Needless to say, I was very excited about playing Daemon X Machina.
Seeing the game in action, I couldn't help but grin. Getting to customise my mechs paint job, I was overcome with joy at the sight of my purple and green mech (Shinji ain't got shit on me) boosting across the sky with a massive machine gun in each hand. Seeing the dust blow around the feet of your mech as it skates across the landscape is an absolute joy to behold and feels incredibly responsive. The whole game controls beautifully, and combat is so fast and frantic that you're rewarded for your death-dealing with a kaleidoscope of colourful chaos. Flying towards a group of enemy drones, releasing an opening salvo of homing missiles and following up with the one-two punch of a shotgun and machine gun combo is so immensely gratifying and rewarding throughout.
Getting to the combat, on the other hand is something else entirely. I hope you like your awesome with a big equal heaping of cringe because the story and characters in Daemon X Machina are just the absolute worst. I hate every single one of them. From their whiny delivery to their cliched dialogue and stereotypical personalities, they gave me new levels of appreciation for just how unlikable characters can be. Characters will talk for what feels like hours about absolute nonsense. You'll encounter characters who muse on how they just wish they would die, and how maybe they'll get lucky and everyone will die in the next battle. The next minute you'll encounter a character so warm and fluffy that she insists that sunflowers are the best breakfast in the whole wide world. I'm obviously paraphrasing a bit here, but it really is that bad. If it weren't for the excellent soundtrack and sound effects, I likely would have played through the entire game on mute.
Between missions, you'll head back to base. it's here that you'll customise your mech form a vast range of armour and weapons. If your idea of a wild night is having a cup of decaf and making a budget spreadsheet in Excel, you're going to go wild for this game. Each piece of gear has a monstrous list of qualities with numeric values; you'll have to equip gear with such small differences, you may wonder if its worth your time. I personally loved this about the game and took great satisfaction in min-maxing my load-out depending on the mission at hand. You can also save builds for easy swapping depending on what the situation calls for. While you're back at base, you'll be able to sell unwanted equipment, customise your mech and pilot, and purchase stat boosters. Oh, there's also a dog at the base, but you can't even pat the poor fellow.
The story missions can feel very similar with a handful of variations being used often. You may have to protect a building or target of interest from waves of attackers, or you could have to clear a particular area of attackers before facing a giant boss. The pace of combat is blistering, but using both the analogue sticks and the gyro aim option, I found myself blowing opponents out of the sky with relative ease. Coming up against other mechs was a constant high-point as my enemy and I boosted around each other high above the battlefield, alternating between close combat melee and long-range shooting in a beautiful ballet of bullets and effects.
I mentioned giant bosses earlier, and these guys are a sight to behold. They smash across the map taking up the majority of your screen. Fighting them involves utilising the ground and sky equally to avoid their varied attacks, all the while targeting their classic video game-red weak points. Some of these bosses present a massive challenge and may see you dying a few times before finding the right load-out for the job. You may even need to go and clear a few side missions to get some better gear and improve your combat prowess. You'll often be joined by your fellow crew members on missions, but they don't feel too important for anything other than distracting the odd enemy.
When it comes to graphics, DXM is a mixed bag of gorgeous effects and dull levels. Characters look like the nightmarish byproduct of a punk Tron mannequin fetish. It looks great when your blazing across the landscape, firing off all of your weapons with buildings crumbling around you, but as soon as you stop moving, it all looks very 'ten years ago'.
It's easy to look past any graphical anomalies when the action is delivered with so much panache. Intense firefights feel like an awesome action scene from your favourite anime, with a plethora of special effects, explosions and bullets flying across the screen in a gorgeous display of mechanical warfare. The soundtrack and sound effects also deserve particular note. Battle music thrums in the background while explosions and the sound of sci-fi weaponry hit with good impact. It's just frequently punctuated by terrible voice acting.
Daemon X Machina satisfied my mech cravings in all the best ways. Optimising my battle bot for particularly difficult excursions left me feeling completely in control of nailing the perfect build. While the story and its characters grated on me to no end, I came for mechs and MARVELOUS! has delivered precisely that with aplomb. If you go in expecting a compelling story and characters, you'll be left woefully unsatisfied, but when good mech games are the equivalent of a gaming unicorn, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to grease the gears and take to the skies once again.
+ In-depth customisation options.
+ Awesome effects and colour use.
+ Massive screen filling boss fights.
+ Great sound effects and soundtrack.
- Missions can feel a bit samey.
- Incredibly unlikable characters.
- Levels look barren once the action stops.
- Why have a dog at base if I can't pat it...