Daemon X Machina for Nintendo Switch review: Repetitive hack and slash with a disjointed plot

Daemon X Machina
Daemon X Machina (Image credit: iMore)

Recently Daemon X Machina, from developer Marvelous Entertainment, released exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. It's a third-person shooter action game where you take control of a mech suit to battle giant machines that want to destroy humanity. Overall the game hasn't been doing terribly, but it's definitely not a mainstream hit. User scores on Metacritic have averaged out to about a 70% rating. Still, among these reviews there are several die-hard mech suit fans who absolutely love this game. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started playing the game on my Switch. But, I was both happy and disappointed to find that there was more of a plot than I initially thought.

You play as an Outer, basically a mercenary who flies a giant mech suit known as an Arsenal. The game centers around you earning credits by taking on odd jobs to destroy evil machines and participate in political battles. During the course of the game, you'll get paired with several mercenaries from other groups and will learn about the political conflicts happening between them. You can also pair up with other players either online or locally to take on missions together. Overall, this is by no means the best game ever, but it's a decent shoot-em-up game that can give you some fun. Just don't expect too much from it.

The Good

  • Good battle controls
  • Several customization options
  • Awesome music
  • Interesting art style
  • Online and local multiplayer

The Bad

  • Super repetitive missions
  • Characters and plot are odd
  • Strange shading
  • Local multiplayer requires everyone to have their own Switch

Daemon X Machina: What I liked

The first thing you'll do when starting a new game is decide the look of your main character. I was blown away by the number of customization options available to me. You get to choose your gender, hairstyle, face shape, eye color, hair color, outfit colors, and so much more. It really makes me feel like I created a unique character. The best part is, you're not stuck with your initial choices. After you've begun playing you can change the look of your character whenever you're in the hangar between missions. This doesn't just include your hair color, you can also change your gender, the shape of your face, skin tone, or the look of your outfit. Pretty sweet, huh?

There are hundreds of customization options to truly help you make a unique character.

Once you create your character, the game eases you into play by having your first few missions center around teaching you specific skills. Once you learn the main skills, dogfights begin in earnest. I personally find the mech suit easy to navigate, upgrade, and attack with. The controls feel intuitive and comfortable, especially once you upgrade to better weapons. While on the battlefield, you can collect new weapons and equipment from the machines you destroyed, so you definitely want to take the time to scour the battlefield for downed enemies.

Successfully completing a mission gives you a payout, which you can then use to upgrade your main character and your mech suit. After you've earned some credits you can spend them to unlock new abilities on your skill tree. I was surprised to find that some of the choices I made when progressing in the skill tree sometimes altered my character's appearance. You'll switch out your organic arms for robotic ones, or turn your legs into robot legs. I love the glowing facial changes the upgrades bring. The game warns you if the skill you want to learn will alter your appearance, and you can always pay to go back to your organic form if you'd like.

I love the sci-fi environments and the ominous red moon that floats above the sky while you fight. The character designs can be kinda strange sometimes, but it helps set the mood that this is a crazy futuristic time period that your character lives in. One strange thing is that since you're in a humongous mech suit yourself, it kind of feels like you're flying around small scale models of cities. Whenever a ginormous enemy appears it really helps make you feel tiny. Plus these evil robots look pretty cool.

One of the best things about this game is honestly the awesome music. Whenever I hear the strong guitar riffs start up, it gets me excited and ready for my mission. Seriously, I could listen to this music at any point, but it would be especially good during an intense workout or when I need to relieve some steam.

There's one other thing that I'm not sure how I feel about, but I don't hate it. After you've been playing for a certain amount of time, you can access the hangar's ice cream parlor. Depending on the flavors you choose, the ice cream can give you stat boosts during missions. The cutesy look of the ice cream menu makes it feel like you closed out of Daemon X Machina and entered a silly mobile game. It feels out of place, but it's nice having a way to temporarily increase your fighting abilities.

Daemon X Machina: What I didn't like

It didn't take long once I finished the tutorial phase to realize that the main missions were all incredibly repetitive. The game tries to throw in some variation by giving you different environments, enemies, weapons, companions, or objectives within a mission, but it's not enough. I got bored with the game pretty quickly and had to work myself up to play it again once I took a break. Of course, I'm a really plot-driven gamer, so if that's not something that you care about as much this game could be more entertaining for you.

Gameplay is really repetitive and doesn't vary enough to keep you interested long term.

While I like the art direction overall, the shading on several of the characters' faces is hard to look at and many of the scenes look pixelated. It feels like things are rendered horribly and it really distracts me whenever there is a cut scene. Speaking of cut scenes, it really just feels like most of the dialogue between missions is just thrown in as an afterthought to give the game the appearance of a plot, but it doesn't feel organic. This is especially true, during the cut scenes that consist of chat room-style messages instead of animated characters.

Daemon X Machina

Daemon X Machina (Image credit: iMore)

One of the other things that bothers me is how flat the characters and plot are. I know it's strange to complain about that with a shoot-em-up style game, but if you're going to go to the trouble of creating a plot with extreme personalities, you might as well try to make me interested in them. Many of the characters are annoying to interact with, due to the embarrassing things they say and the weird stereotypes they embody. I found myself skipping through the dialogue so I wouldn't have to hear the annoying conversations from these ridiculous mercenaries. On top of that, the storyline is disjointed and also strangely complex. It makes it hard to follow or have any interest in it.

I played several rounds of the online multiplayer to get a feel for how that works. It was fun meeting up with other players and destroying machines together. The connecting process is pretty intuitive and you can specify how many people you'd like to play with. However, when I went to try local multiplayer, I realized that I wouldn't be able to play with anyone unless they had their own Switch and a copy of the game. It would have been more fun if you could have undertaken missions with friends on one system.

Daemon X Machina is not a game you play for the meaningful story line or for the character depth. It's a pretty repetitive third-person shooter that doesn't have a lot of substance. I wouldn't be so critical if this had been a $30 indie game, but for a full-blown $60 game, you should expect more from it. Still, fighting controls are pretty intuitive and it's nice being able to customize your Arsenal and your main character so easily. Plot aside, it's a fun game for anyone who's ever wanted to fly in a mech suit and blow up gargantuan enemies.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.