How Was the Daemon X Machina Prototype Missions Demo?

Giant robots mean it is always worth a look...

Daemon X Machina (or DxM as I’ll refer to it) was easily one of the most exciting announcements last year for Switch. Featuring Armored Core alumni and a great looking style, it seemed like the kind of mech action game we haven’t had in years. Last week, Nintendo released a “Prototype Missions” demo to showcase a small portion of the game. Having now played that demo I still like the style and there appears to be a bit more story than I was expecting, but there is just something about the gameplay that is cause for concern.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. DxM features a fairly robust character creation tool that should make the vast majority of players happy either with default options of the level of customization that have available. The same applies to the mechs themselves, though more of that will be available in the main game. The story revolves around some rogue AIs that have taken control of powerful military hardware and are using it to wipe out the human race. We, as newly recruited pilots, are now tasked with joining the fight to save humanity. I got a real Metal Max vibe from this, but that’s okay because I thought that story was kind of cool despite being super weird. Hopefully, DxM can end up having the same effect.

Cool, so far we have some robust customization options and a potentially decent story, a solid start for any game. Where things get dicey is when you actually start playing the game. The core gameplay is fine. Locking-on to enemies is easy enough and, as long as you keep enemies in your weapon zone, you can fire away without worry. Flying around is fun and gives you an added layer of mobility. You can cruise around at ground level, taking cover and firing when the opportunity presents itself, or you can take to the skies and strike wherever you so please. It is a fun dynamic that gives flexibility based on the enemy you are fighting, some of which can be pretty difficult. Rank and file enemies like tanks and drones are simple enough to deal with, but opposing mechs take a great deal more fire and named enemies with actual character pilots can quickly destroy you if you aren’t careful.

My biggest issue with the game comes from performance. It isn’t an issue of major frame drops or general bad performance, more an issue of sluggishness. The game is probably(?) running at 30FPS, to be expected on Switch, but it feels much slower than that. We have a combat system designed to be fluid but is hampered by this overall slow feel of the game to the point where it doesn’t feel smooth. It is hard to explain exactly, it is just something you pick up on as you play. Some players will not take the time to notice, but I caught it right away in the tutorial which had only a handful of enemies on screen and nothing special about the environment. This issue is persistent in both handheld and docked modes, so I guess you’re getting the best experience regardless of how you choose to play, so that’s something.

It is a shame that the game runs this way because I had fun playing it. No, DxM isn’t mechanically groundbreaking, but it is a satisfying mix of ideas with a great sense of style, and that will be enough for most players. If nothing else, this demo has properly tempered my expectations. It is easy to make a game look amazing, but I’d rather know what I’m getting into after a demo like this than be disappointed (again) when a game doesn’t live up. Daemon X Machina will in all likelihood be a big success for the Switch in 2019, but hopefully, we can see some improvements to the game’s performance between now and its summer release.