Mecha titles are a strange breed. On one side they’re ripe for video game representation, offering the power fantasy of stepping into a tank on legs, while on the other hand, it’s been some time since we’ve had anything to play in the genre – in the West, that is.
Our unnamed protagonist pilots a hulking bipedal tank called an Arsenal, existing in a world decimated by a collision with a moon – the residual radiation from which has left the game with enough justification to throw some vibrant reds into the skybox every now and again, while cities are barely standing anymore, ripe for being crushed underfoot.
Despite some better than anticipated voice acting, the whole theme of “who can you trust” feels particularly played out after just a few short chapters. Thankfully, while the plot may be predictable and staid, Daemon X Machina’s sense of style certainly isn’t.
You may know Daemon X Machina as the heavy metal infused title that kicked off Nintendo’s E3 conference in 2018, and we’re pleased to report its lost none of its album-cover meets anime aesthetic. The soundtrack is rammed with guitar licks and crunchy distortion, while the visuals are all vivid colours and solid lines.
Mecha designs are particularly good, landing somewhere between eastern and western designs, while also offering plenty of firepower with which to go to war. Arsenals can carry a weapon in each hand, one on each shoulder, and two in reserve. They can even remove weaponry from fallen foes to be able to restock or switch up their approach mid-battle, while melee attacks involving laser swords remain a highlight.
All of these would be redundant without smooth controls and Daemon X Machina offers impressively fluid movement for controlling a vehicle three-stories tall. Arsenals can boost, fly, and generally unleash hell from any angle. Many small drone-like enemies move quickly, but the mech’s forgiving auto-aim helps take them out once they enter your larger-than-average crosshairs. In fact, your Arsenal controls so responsively that it often feels like high-level future tech.
That isn’t to say it’s an easy ride. Boss battles remain a highlight of Daemon X Machina, offering the chance to take on behemoth machines that feel closer to Monster Hunter in some aspects than Armored Core. These can be breathless encounters where you spend much of your time dodging as opposed to dealing damage. They can also go on for some time, which makes the Switch’s sleep mode ideal.
The main issue many will have with Daemon X Machina will be one of over-familiarity. At its (Armored) core, this is a fairly straightforward third-person shooter. The campaign’s story is unlikely to be what drags you through, and you’ll be relying on the game’s impressively dense customisation suite to offer reasons to return to the battlefield.
Thankfully, it’s more than up to the task. Daemon X Machina eschews some of the mech genre’s borderline fetishistic issues of weight ratios and the like, instead allowing players to simply build a cool looking death machine. This is a smart move, allowing newcomers to sidestep the hurdles many struggle to clear web onboarding, while still offering enough granularity in terms of visual and loadout customisation to ensure players have plenty to tweak.
The campaign will run you close to twenty hours, but there are co-op battles to engage in, too. These up-to-four player skirmishes offer more of the same (including bosses), but can be taken on solo, too.
Daemon X Machina won’t be for everyone, and it feels a cop-out to say “fans of the genre” will enjoy it. With that said, if you’ve been longing for something fresh in the under-represented giant robots side of things, its suite of hulking mechanical monstrosities and the ways they make things explode give the Switch yet another shot in the arm.
Daemon X Machina is out now on Nintendo Switch for £39.79