I played through the original demo for Daemon X Machina a few months ago and had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it seemed like a deeply customizable mech game set in a unique world. On the other, it was visually rough and the gameplay felt kind of loose. With the new “Prologue” Demo, I’m much more optimistic about the game as we approach its release date on September 13.
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The World of Daemon X Machina
The Daemon X Machina Prologue demo puts you in the shoes of a new “Outer,” a mercenary mech pilot in a futuristic world in which AI have turned against humanity. The moon exploded, you see, and that both summoned gigantic hostile creatures known as Immortals and granted some percentage of humanity superpowers. You’re one of the latter, fighting the former. Using your Arsenal, you’re tasked with fighting back against the AI corrupted by the Immortals.
But it’s never that simple, is it? This is a world very much still in the throes of capitalism. You’re told early on that while Outers are the single most important resource in the world, your value will be reassessed if you cost your employer too much in robot repairs. This is a future divided into massive nation-states, each employing its own mercenary teams to further its own ends. Some of these teams are idealistic, others are just in it for the money, and still others simply love blowing stuff up.
The story is told through fully voice-acted (though not animated) conversations between Outers as well as your guide, the AI Four. The first few missions see you go from completing your placement tests to being involved in some kind of conspiracy, as you’re introduced to a range of unique and compelling characters. My only complaint about the narrative thus far is that dialogue cutscenes unexpectedly and abruptly cut into the action several times.
The world of Daemon X Machina is a pleasantly colorful one, and the visuals seem to have been greatly improved since the last demo. Characters, landscapes, and mechs all have a unique, neon-soaked anime look.
Arsenal Piloting for Fun and Profit
Of course, this is primarily a game about getting in a giant robot and blowing stuff up. And doing that feels pretty good! The last Daemon X Machina demo felt kind of floaty, like you weren’t having much impact on the world. And while this is definitely still a huge mechs doing flips anime kind of big robot game, the Arsenals feel pleasantly weighty. Strafing around the battlefield on your jets like you’re at a robo roller rink just feels great.
The demo missions have you mostly taking out corrupted AI tanks and drones, which aren’t much threat. You just point in their general direction while firing and you’ll wipe them out in a series of explosions. Things get trickier when you have to take on other Arsenals. Here you get access to tricks like Mirage, which lets you set up a decoy to draw fire. Or you can pick up cars, streetlights, and other pieces of the environment to bash your foes with. Who do you think you are, the Hulk?
Since you’re constantly dashing and flying around, auto-aim is pretty much necessary, and it feels fine for wiping out smaller units. I do wonder how later battles against Arsenals will play out, though, as doing damage pretty much boils down to keeping your enemy in your sites and hoping you destroy them before they do you. None of the battles in the demo felt particularly difficult, and I’m curious as to how the difficulty will scale.
Your Own Personal Mecha
Customization is a big part of Daemon X Machina. You can buy and salvage new Arsenal armor and weapons and equip them to alter your machine’s stats and give it different abilities. This seems like it could get really complicated really quickly, and the game doesn’t really explain the myriad stats attached to each part. Hopefully the full release will walk you through all of it, because there seems to be a lot going on.
Swapping out parts doesn’t stop with your Arsenal, though. Because this is the future, you can not only change the cosmetic attributes of your character whenever you want, but also install upgrades. These aren’t in the Prologue demo but were featured in the earlier one. If you want the best mods —superpowered legs or better-than-human eyes, say — you’ll have to sacrifice parts of your human body, changing your character’s appearance. It’s not clear whether this will have any mechanical or narrative effect, but it’s kind of a neat touch.
And yes, you can get out of your Arsenal whenever you want. I didn’t have to in the demo, and it’s not clear in which situations it would be useful, but the fact that you can get upgrades to your movement and attack capabilities while on foot suggest that it’ll play some role in the full game.
We All Scream for War Machines
This demo also introduces the Ice Cream Parlor. Yes, the ice cream parlor. Because if you were about to face death in the eye while piloting a war machine against the implacable alien enemies of humanity, wouldn’t you want a scoop of mint chip first? Eating ice cream gives you temporary stat bonuses. Eat enough and you get a stamp for free ice cream.
It’s kind of weird! It feels like it was imported from another game at the last moment. Maybe the ice cream company will turn out to be involved in some kind of futuristic robo-conspiracy. Or maybe mech pilots just love rocky road. So have another triple scoop with me.
Daemon X Machina is still kind of a mystery to me — there’s so much we don’t know. That said, this latest demo is promising. I want to spend more time in a world where mech pilots are pigtailed nihilists and gruff old dudes who love ice cream. We’ll have more when the game launches next week.