There’s an unfortunate lack of mech games these days, but, thankfully, Daemon x Machina has filled a bit of the void left by the extended absence of Armored Core. This formerly Switch exclusive recently released on PC, bringing the game to a broader audience. Upon its launch on Switch, Daemon x Machina didn’t make waves, but with a PC release, perhaps it’ll find its niche.
We’ll mostly be concentrating on the improvements found in the PC release of Daemon x Machina in this review. I played the Switch version, and it was underwhelming. This game is a cross of the methodical mech construction of Armored Core and the speed and visceral combat of Gundam Wing. As such, the Switch didn’t have the specs to keep up with the multiple enemies flying around the screen, and the hundreds of projectiles streaking across the relatively large levels.
Fortunately, the PC version of Daemon x Machina turns the game from a blurry, sometimes laggy mess, into a beautiful and smooth masterpiece of mech combat. It doesn’t do anything to fix the spotty narrative, but seeing this game at 4K and a steady 60 fps gave me a new appreciation for it.
Daemon x Machina PC Review | Like Nier: Automata with more mechs and less philosophy
In brief, Daemon x Machina is like Nier: Automata-lite. The moon has crashed into the Earth and released a new source of energy called Femto. Unfortunately, this cataclysm has also affected robots in areas filled with Femto, changing them into vicious killers. These robots can self-replicate and also create new, giant robots called Immortals, which are typically a few city-blocks worth of bombs, cannons, and missiles.
You play as an “Outer,” a mercenary who has been exposed to Femto and gained unique abilities. You have to complete missions for a series of consortiums, all who have objectives that are at odds with each other.
The narrative doesn’t make a ton of sense, and it’s overly dramatic in an anime sort of way. The constant dropping of new concepts, huge cast, and large amount of organizations make it feel like a particularly confusing episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. However, unlike Ghost in the Shell: SAC, the payoff for keeping track of all this info isn’t really there.
Fortunately, the mech combat is fun enough to make up for the overly convoluted story.
Daemon x Machina PC Review | Armored Core-lite
The big draw to Daemon x Machina is building an Arsenal mech and then using it to fight. The mech customization here isn’t quite as deep as Armored Core, but the system is reminiscent of that iconic series. You can switch out heads, cores, arms, legs, shoulder weapons, handheld weapons, CPUs, etc. All of these parts have stats that affect your mech as a whole, and there’s enough of them to keep you plugged into the gameplay loop.
You can buy Arsenal parts or grab them off felled enemy Arsenals. You don’t get much to work with at the beginning of the game, but as time goes on, you’ll get a respectable inventory of weapons and Arsenal parts. Eventually, you’ll figure out what sort of build you want. You can go with a slower, heavily armored, artillery mech, or build a lightweight melee-centric model and everything in between. Fortunately, you can also save loadouts and have builds pre-made for different missions.
Daemon x Machina PC Review | Better on PC
The gameplay is really where Daemon x Machina benefits from being ported to PC. The increased resolution and framerate makes a lot of difference, and I noticed a lot of details I missed when playing on Switch. A lot is going on most of the time when you’re on-mission in Daemon x Machina, and the Switch sometimes has a hard time keeping up. However, on a moderately powerful PC, you can enjoy all the explosions and fast-paced action without any blurriness or slowdown.
This game is highly stylized, and with the increased resolution, it takes on an anime quality, which looks beautiful. The textures can seem a bit undetailed or blurry at times, which is probably a result of being ported from the Switch, which maxes out at 1080p.
I played Daemon x Machina for review at 4K 60 fps on my LG B8P OLED TV, but the game supports up to 240Hz. It’s not a highly competitive game, but I’d bet it looks even better at 1080 or 1440p and a higher framerate.
Daemon x Machina PC Review | Who needs a mouse?
Playing Daemon x Machina on PC with keyboard and mouse is relatively workable. Unfortunately, it suffers from “Japanese PC port syndrome” when it comes to menu controls. The menus must be navigated with keyboard only, which is annoying and shouldn’t be an issue in 2020.
I used an Xbox One controller when I played Daemon x Machina for review. This method mirrors the controls on the original Switch version, so it was easy to pick the game right back up again.
Daemon x Machina PC Review | A port done right
The Daemon x Machina PC port didn’t have any bugs or optimization issues that I could detect. The game is an excellent fit on PC, and aside from some of the free DLC missing, it’s the definitive version of the game. Seeing how well this game runs on PC really illustrates some of the weaknesses of the Switch, and it makes me wonder if Daemon x Machina would have been better off targeting the PC for its initial release.
If you love mecha and miss Armored Core as I do, Daemon x Machina is the game for you. It has some narrative issues, but the tight gameplay will keep you wanting more. This is one of the big sleepers of 2019, and you shouldn’t let it pass you by now that its on PC.