Daemon X Machina is a mecha game coming to Nintendo Switch next year. Nintendo highlighted it during E3, giving players the first look at its vibrant, fast-paced action. We still had questions about the game, and so we chatted with its producer, Kenchiro Tsukuda, at Gamescom. He might be best known for his work on the Armored Core series, but Daemon X Machina isn’t the same game with a brighter coat of paint. Here’s what you need to know.
“There are plenty of games where you play either as a human character or as a mecha, but I wanted to bring the two together and produce a synergy between them,” Tsukuda says. “For example, if my player character becomes skilled with a sword, that skill will transfer over so that when he’s inside the mecha he’ll be able to use swords in his mecha as well.”
You can take your character (called an Outer) out of your Arsenal (the game’s name for the mecha) at will. While leaves you vulnerable, going on foot does have strategic benefits. “It can act as a kind of decoy and get the attention of enemies,” Tsukuda says. “As an Outer, you can kind of lay in wait and ambush those enemies and take them down. There are lots of tactical options like that.” The stock Outer has a drone companion, which can blast enemies. Tsukuda says that’s just the beginning of your potential. In a quick demo, I see the standard Outer fighting against some tank-like enemies. If you level your hero enough, you can actually pick up and throw those tanks from outside of your Arsenal.
That’s optional though, and Tsukuda says he imagines there will be hardcore players who purposefully avoid upgrading their Outers to see if they can beat the game that way. What’s his plan? “I prefer to power my guy up,” he says, laughing.
You can play the game alone or with friends. If you do decide to bring some buddies along, there are some fun ways to express yourself. If you explore the world, you can find special paint jobs and tattoo-like decals for your Arsenals. “Once you find those kind of items, if you’re playing co-op you can all wear the same mark on your mechas to mark yourself as a team,” Tsukuda says.
Arsenals also have five upgrade slots, and one of them is mysteriously reserved for co-op. “I still can’t go into too much detail now, but I can tell you that with the fifth slot you can equip something that will be very useful in multiplayer,” Tsukuda says. “It’ll be something that’s more focused on helping you coordinate with your teammates and helping each other out and increase the teamwork ability of your Arsenal.”
On the topic of customization, Tsukuda wants to give players freedom of expression – with the potential of even modifying Arsenals at a fundamental level. “At the moment, they’re all bipedal, humanoid Arsenals, but we want to allow as much customization as possible, so I am thinking of different ways that we could introduce variation.”
Don’t expect a full Monster Hunter-style experience, but Daemon X Machina allows players to snatch weapons and other items off fallen enemies. “There are regular enemies and there are bosses,” Tsukuda says. “With the regular enemies, some of the enemies do have weapons you can take, and there are some that don’t. In the game, there’s an element of looking around the world for enemies that have weapons you want – weapons and other equipment as well. Some of them have special abilities. If you have a particular kind of need for a particular kind of item, you’re kind of going through the world looking for it, and that’s part of the game. With the bosses, you can usually get the boss weapons as well, but there’s always a specific way that you have to do it. You can either work it out yourself or by working together with friends to find out how to do it – that’ll be a big part of the fun. One difference from something like Monster Hunter or other games like that is that you’re not collecting materials in order to create items, there’s not an element like that. They’re just items and weapons that exist – you can get them, you don’t craft them.”
That extends to bosses, too, which can potentially hold some of the game’s most powerful items. You’re going to have to work for those, however. “There is an element similar to Monster Hunter, in that in order to immobilize the boss you have to attack its weak points,” Tsukuda says. “Attacking the weak points, in terms of what it does and what effect it will have and what it will allow you to do will differ from boss to boss, so each boss will require a different strategy. So you’ll have to learn as you play. Parts of the boss might come off as you’re fighting them, and if that’s a weapon, you can get it and you can use it. But if something comes off and you destroy it, you won’t be able to get it, so that’s something you’ll need to pay attention to. The way we’ve designed it is if you think, ‘I want to get this item from this boss,’ you need to carefully think about what equipment and what loadout you bring into that battle.”
The bosses we’ve seen in Daemon X Machina have been fairly large, and it would be silly for an Arsenal to wield a sword that’s twice as tall as itself. Fortunately, you’ve got science on your side. “If you defeat a boss and take its weapon with you in the process, you would take the weapon back to your hangar and your research guys will make a modified version of the weapon for you to use,” Tsukuda says.
If you look at TsuKuda’s gameography, you’ll see that he’s worked on a lot of mecha games. Why giant robots? “I think what draws me to the whole mecha thing is that it’s like a cool technology that seems like it could realistically actually happen in the future or near future,” he says. “It’s kind of believable in that sense. To use a superhero analogy, we as normal human beings are never going to become Superman, but Iron Man, it could be possible for us to all become Iron Man in the future. If it did become possible in the future, I would want to commute to work every day in a mecha suit.” And there you have it.