Wednesday, 25 March 2020 03:00

Daemon X Machina Review

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Daemon X Machina is interesting on paper. The title, if I’m not mistaken, translates to “demon multiplied by the machine,” and it’s about contract soldiers who pilot mechs in the name of their various corporations. The missions start out as simple battles against AI, but the plot thickens when you find yourself up against more and more human pilots. In other words, it should be a fun romp flying around in a robot suit, blowing things up to drive a twisting plot forward, but, unfortunately, it’s more like a confusing kaleidoscope of shapes and sounds…

The tutorial tells all by explaining nothing.

As soon as the first mission of DXM starts, you are somewhat assaulted by tutorial boxes, popping up one after the other. Instead of contextualizing things with a narrative tutorial to walk you through the operation of this piece of robotic technology that makes lunar missions look cheap, you’re expected to read and remember the controls all by yourself.

This would be fine if the mechanics were simple, but the keyboard and mouse controls are especially unintuitive. For example, when you pick up items, they default to the right hand of your mech, which is bound to right-click on the mouse. Meaning the usual left-click is the secondary option in this game – why? That was the least of my worries, though – at least I could find the right-click on the mouse. Most of my time was spent discovering and forgetting controls, and that’s not very helpful during fast-paced battles.

Or, what were supposed to be fast-paced battles. Except the mechs aren’t very agile at all, and their guns seem to putter along ineffectually against swarms of enemies. And I know I’m complaining about giant robots not being agile, but contrast this to other titles in the genre that manage to make mech dogfights into a game of reflexes and instinct, with big guns crackling and popping as they chew through your enemies. DXM in contrast makes you feel as if you’re controlling a weak RC car while wearing mittens.

The story is also pretty wild.

By story I mean a parade of people who look like they came out of a random character generator trying to seem badass as they tell you their sole personality trait before promptly leaving. On top of that, each line of dialogue seems like it was strained hastily through Google Translate.

For example, there’s Klondike – a man whose chin-spade is only one among many facial tattoos (the best kind of tattoo). He says brilliant lines in keeping with his poker-card-themed tattoos, like, “Amateur move. Always keep a stone-cold poker face before you pick up a facedown card.” You know, just like that old, catchy saying? About facedown cards?

But Klondike disappears as soon as he appeared to let an entirely different set of characters in clown makeup yell their credos at each other in some semblance of a mission briefing. Don’t worry, though, none of these characters seem to matter. There are so many of them coming and going that keeping up is an impossible task, and the missions themselves have no discernible story arcs anyway.

The end result is confusion, and then quitting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to really enjoy my time piloting a giant robot like I should have – like anyone should, because having fun piloting giant robots is a fundamental right. Instead, I was given a piece of equipment that required too many boring menus to maintain, while the occasional upgrades were too much work for too little payoff. Instead of making me feel empowered, this game made me feel inept. And it isn’t about the difficulty level – that was usually too easy and occasionally too hard – it’s about the clunky way the game plays. It doesn’t use its story for anything, so it all becomes meaningless words and hilarious faces. But hey, on that note, I did get a laugh out of almost every single character…


The Verdict: Flawed

Daemon X Machina needs some work. Its mechanics are rough, its controls are unwieldy and confusing, and its story is difficult to follow. While it’s mildly entertaining to pilot a giant robot, there are other games that pull off the experience more effectively.

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Nicholas Barkdull

Nic is a writer and narrative designer with a PhD in Social Research and Cultural Studies. He thinks real time strategy games are still a valid form of e-sport, that true RPGs should be turn-based (with huge casts of characters), and that AAA games have a long way to go before they earn back our trust. He is the Lead Writer for Pathea Games's My Time at Sandrock, and his work can be seen in Playboy, South China Morning Post, The Daily Beast, and many other places.


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