Daemon X Machina Prototype Missions is a limited-time demo that’s available on the Nintendo eShop and gives fans of games like Armored Core a chance to really dive deep into one of the most ambitious titles for the Nintendo Switch yet. Here are our thoughts.
Since the era of the PlayStation 2, I’ve been waiting for what I could call a true Armored Core successor, one that follows through with what we felt Armored Core was capable of. In the following generation, we were given four different titles, each of them a far cry from the series we’d come to know and love as they followed through with their focus of online gaming.
To say the least, the final two were not well received by long-time Armored Core fans due to their departure from everything that made Armored Core great. For years, the series fell into silence, but in that silence, magic has been happening as former Armored Core developer Kenichiro Tsukuda has been hard at work with Macross designer Shōji Kawamori.
With the two together, something unexpected has been in the works by the name of Daemon X Machina, a Nintendo Switch exclusive that is expected to launch later this year. Luckily for us, Nintendo and the team behind the game has released an official demo for the upcoming title and now, we’ve had a chance to see just how close to Armored Core a single game can be. So let’s talk.
Artistically, nothing’s changed, but graphically – a lot has changed
The reason I bring up the art style first is for a very good reason. Armored Core has always been known for its art style, a pseudo-realistic approach to what their series has to offer. The style translated rather well into the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles and offered one of the best-looking mech franchises to date.
Now, on the Nintendo Switch, Daemon X Machina steps away from that photo-realistic look and trades it in for an anime-style appearance. A beautiful one that works rather well if I were to be completely honest. Everything looks as if it were directly pulled from the Macross universe with Armored Core style designs that work out rather well for the Arsenal’s (the mechs you will pilot) in Daemon X Machina.
Explosions are big, they are beautiful, and the details to everything is almost perfect. Mechs themselves feel as if they were pulled directly from the Armored Core universe and improved upon, blurring the lines of everything we know and love about the series that its a spiritual successor of.
Then you have the atmospheres that feel both familiar and otherworldly due to the looming threat players will face off against when bullets, blades, and explosions begin to light up the sky. It’s a beautiful dance of blues, reds, oranges, and yellows at almost any given time. The real masterpiece here? The atmospheric designs. They are gorgeous and they truly pop compared to what I had been expecting.
Each Order (sorties/missions) comes with a change of scenery. In the Prototype Missions, we only got to see four of these locations, all of them being quite different from the other. In one, we got to see a beautifully detailed ocean of sand that served as a home to one of the demo’s bosses, a giant spider-like tank with massive laser cannons for a head that allowed its back-up drones to deploy from within it.
The others were a variety of industrial sectors and city-scapes. Each as intricately designed as the other and each offering a different approach to every combat situation. I still can’t help but stand at the church from time to time and look at how beautifully detailed the building actually is. The same can be said for the character models – yep, we’re going to talk about those.
Character creation has been highly requested in games like these and Daemon X Machina makes it possible
One of the biggest aspects about games like Armored Core, Monster Hunter, or any game with the slightest amount of character and or armor editing, is character creation. It’s a feature that fans absolutely love and have requested from the Armored Core series in the past.
Characters are fully customizable from the ground up. Their hair, their eyes, faces, skin color, etc, can be fully edited, letting players craft a character to their preference. While character editing options were limited, it’s enough to let players feel comfortable with their pilot who they will see rather often as they play.
The Arsenal’s even have their own forms of character editing and personalization
Along with character customization comes the ability to customize and even modify your Arsenal to your preference. Weapons can be interchanged, allowing you to choose the loadout to how you prefer combat pacing to be. Want to run a shield, a sword and have two rifles as your backups? Perhaps you want to run an Arsenal that’s slow, bulky, but can dish out some serious damage.
All of these options are completely possible. Much of what fans loved about Armored Core remain completely intact for fans to enjoy. You can truly build an Arsenal to what you prefer. Each piece comes with different stats, variables, and even weapon types. Some Arsenals will excel at high-speed combat, utilizing quick missile launches with dual-melee weapon attacks while others may utilize long-range combat with rocks and assault rifles of sorts.
But you might be wondering. How can one figure all this out from a four mission demo? Well, you’d be amazed. There’s more to this demo than what meets the eye. You can obtain multiple parts, allowing you to build a semi-different Arsenal from that of what you would like to see. In a way, this approach to earning parts is something similar to that of Armored Core where very specific parts could only be earned by finding them through certain actions or locations on a map.
Something that may very well happen as well in Daemon X Machina. There is an exception to this rule. Items can be earned by eliminating or disabling other Arsenal’s, collecting parts from their downed suit, and even fighting them more than once in order to unlock those parts. Once the parts are obtained, they are given to you at the end of an Order, allowing you to instantly modify your Arsenal as you please and trust me when I say this – it’s absolutely satisfying.
Combat is almost alien, but also strangely familiar
One thing I’ve always adored about Armored Core was how combat was paced. Some scenarios, combat was at breakneck speeds, allowing you to use your Armored Core itself for speed-based combat, allowing you to get in and out of combat as you desire. Melee weapons, missile launchers, rocket launchers, and giant LAS cannons were an absolute delight.
In Daemon X Machina, not much has changed. It’s still fast, it’s still furious, and it’s a game that comes across as absolutely enjoyable because of those very features we had once grown used to taking advantage of. Just like the Armored Core series, you’ll find yourself using weapons that take up both shoulders or a single shoulder while also alternating between primary and secondary weapons.
One of the biggest improvements from the Armored Core series I’d waited to see was just how fast combat could actually get. As someone who built mobile fliers using dual Moonlight Blades in Armored Core For Answer, one can only imagine how important it was to see one such mechanic to be re-approached. Thusly, it was in Daemon X Machina. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and it doesn’t slow down by any chances.
Regardless of where your STM is or not, your Arsenal is highly mobile whether it’s on the ground boosting or in the air flying and boosting about. It works out rather well and provides a side of one such genre we’d never before seen. With highly-customizable controls, I was impressed with the thirteen hours I spent with the demo since its launch.
No one encounter will ever play the same
My approach to combat was varied. At times, I’d favor the ground, barraging as many enemies as I could with missiles and long-range fire with a rifle before switching to a shield and sword, charging my foes to the best of my ability before bashing and slashing my way through their numbers, but I didn’t expect it not to work every chance it could. Instead, I found myself in a bit of a situation from time-to-time.
I found myself in a position with the demo’s main boss where melee combat wasn’t the wisest. I found myself having to alternate between offensive and defensive measures. I’d find myself targeting the bosses weak points, destroying them one by one, and then moving onto the next acquired target and even working on controlling hordes of enemies in order to prevent getting overwhelmed during that encounter.
Encounters themselves were easy to navigate thanks to the intuitive control designs that are completely customizable and or even allow for gamers to use preset layouts that takes away from the complications of moving buttons around. For what it’s worth, it was a useful feature and allowed me to make better use of my Arsenal during several of the games more difficult encounters.
The demo left us with more questions than it did answers, but that might be good for the game
One of the things about a demo is that it helps represent what players will experience when the full title launches. Storywise, we only got a four mission teaser of what Daemon X Machina has to offer when it launches later this year. But it left me wondering more than any other demo had about several things.
Firstly, I’m curious about online play. Will it feature cooperative play? What about PvP? If either, will there be balancing changes getting made post-launch? What about a post-launch roadmap if that’s even already being planned? Do they plan on adjusting pacing, graphics, design, if anything at all? What about espionage missions where you play as the pilot? There are already systems in place where you can run around as him or her – depending on what you choose.
What about performances? It ran smoothly in both handheld and docked, but I noticed several times that it seemed it was using a built-in dynamic resolution system to cut back the graphics when things got a little bit crazy. Do they plan on emphasizing on that a bit more or is what we are seeing the final stage of graphics and animations? Regardless, I’m impressed with how the game looks, feels, and plays in its current state.
I just hope, when it launches, that there are plenty of us jumping on board and giving this ambitious spiritual success to Armored Core a chance. It feels right at home, just where it is and I can’t wait to get my hands on it later this year.
The limited time demo is currently available on the Nintendo eShop and will possibly feature a short survey for those who give it a try. Daemon X Machina is expected to launch later this year and will arrive as a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.