Easily in the upper echelons for ‘Almost Interesting Games of 2019’, is MARVELOUS!’s Daemon X Machina. During Nintendo’s landmark Direct of 2019 we were given a glimpse into the not-so-distant future with the – Daemon X Machina: Prototype demo. So is this ‘prototype’ a success, or does it fall at the first hurdle?
Unfortunately Daemon X Machina gets off to a rocky start with a fairly mixed bag in terms of graphical quality. Almost immediately I noticed the slough of low res textures harshly contrasted with high definition character models. It almost looks like this was an up-scaled PS Vita game. Heck, I would even go as far as saying the graphics are somewhat reminiscent of Digital Devil Saga – a PS2 game.
Once you are in game you are assaulted with an overwhelming drabness that just oozes from the world. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the graphical style just did not hook me. Polygonal environments, low quality enemy models and a barren colour scheme just add to the already poor presentation. And then you have the Metal Gear Solid-esque codec sequences. This is the final nail in the visual coffin for Daemon X Machina unfortunately. It just comes across very dated.
Luckily for MARVELOUS! however, graphics are not everything because the gameplay on offer is certainly something that has potential. You are mercenary in control of a hyper powered Mech – Gundam Wing style. Daemon X Machina grabs the corpse it left in the previous metaphor, and injects it with a hefty dose of adrenaline. The moment you get your hands on your Mech and jump into your first battle everything suddenly just clicks. You blast forwards using your thrusters, firing a salvo of missiles and a hurricane of bullets destroying battalions of enemy forces. It is glorious to control, and previously poor visuals suddenly become less of an issue as the brilliant animations and destructive power of your Mech burn a hole in your retinas.
The rest of the missions in the Prototype demo have you fighting other Mechs (much more exciting than popping rounds into tanks), defending cities and probably the most interesting mission – killing a boss. If the bosses in the main game continue in the same manor as this one, then we will be in for a treat. The boss in question takes up your entire screen, fires lasers that could probably destroy the moon and forces you to fly above, around and under it to destroy. It is thrilling to say the least, and a true highlight in an already heart-thumping demo.
As you complete your missions, you are rewarded with money and loot. Money is used to upgrade your pilot with mechanical enhancements, whilst loot is used to alter your stats, appearance and load-out of your Mech. Each piece of equipment will change how your Mech operates, with weight being the most noticeable factor. The heavier the Mech, the slower it moves. The trade off is usually an increase in defence of course, but you also have to factor in your Mechs available resources to run all the additional systems etc. It is an interesting balancing act that has a lot of potential if it is fleshed out in the full release.
Weapons are wonderfully destructive and varied. Everything from shoulder mounted missile launcher to machine guns, to pistols to swords. Each weapon class feels very different and powerful. Laying waste to a battalion of tanks with your missiles before leaping into the air to carve an enemy Mech into tiny pieces with your sword is endlessly satisfying.
The demo comes packaged with 4 missions and should take you about 1 hour to complete. The meat of the experience is replaying missions for additional cash and loot however. In total, you can get enough equipment to craft 3 Mechs if you dedicate to the grind. This increases the time played to 3-5 hours, which is very hefty for a demo. Of course, this does go into the realm of repetition with only 4 missions.
Overall, my initial impression of Daemon X Machina was one of disappointment. However the more I played, the more I fell in love. By the time I had finished it, I was itching for more. It absolutely looks and feels like a handheld title, but at least half of the comment is not inherently negative. With enough polish added to the game, Daemon X Machina could be a killer title for the Switch, so I am excited to see how this one pans out.