One of today's more intriguing games was Daemon X Machina—a new mech action game with designs by Shōji Kawamori (Macross). Introduced during this morning's Nintendo Direct, it looked fun and interesting, but offered few details. I finally learned more this afternoon, and as I discovered, its mech pedigree runs even deeper than I first supposed, as many of its developers worked on Armored Core.
Armored Core, of course, is FromSoftware's long-running mech action series. It's known for its hyper-detailed mechs, grim future, and customization that has you obsessing over arcane details like heat sinks and sensors. It has a loyal following, but otherwise it's not especially well-known outside of mech circles.
An Armored Core sequel has been rumored for ages, but has failed to appear, so a breakaway group headed by former AC developer Kenichiro Tsukuda is stepping into the fray. His vision can basically be summarized as "Armored Core with destructible environments," and while it doesn't have quite the same amount of crazy customization as FromSoftware's games, you can still carry a host of weapons, from laser swords to bazookas. You can also unlock new mechs, pick armor, and customize for durability, mobility, and more.
As with Armored Core, missions revolve around "Orders," which are mercenary missions that will earn you variable amounts of money. The orders you choose will determine how the story progresses as well as your allies. The money you earn can subsequently be put toward new weapons.
All of this will be familiar for Armored Core fans. What differentiates Daemon X Machina, apart from its much more colorful palette, are its aforementioned destructible environments. This mainly applies to the buildings, which you can send tumbling down upon enemies if you get the timing right. You can also pick up cars and throw them, rip out sign posts and use them as swords, or pick up weapons from fallen enemies and use them.
The result is an environment that feels more dynamic despite appearing fairly small. Tsukuda also wants to have hidden items on top of buildings, encouraging you to explore and make use of your surroundings.
So while Daemon X Machina is in many ways a spiritual successor to Armored Core, it's still going its own way. I remarked that the colorful graphics, which resemble those of No Man's Sky at times, make it seem like he's going for a broader audience than AC's core group of mech nuts. He told me, "We deliberately made this easy to get into, but there is depth to the gameplay as well."
I believe him. Armored Core games were nothing if not deep—sometimes self-defeatingly so. A more balanced approach is definitely welcome.
Tsukuda intends for Daemon X Machina to be a full packaged game—not an eShop game—and is working on the Unreal Engine. Asked what kind of multiplayer options it will have, he said, "We're thinking about ways for everyone to play together, but we'll introduce exactly how we plan to do that at another time."
I'm currently reserving judgment on Daemon X Machina, as it currently looks pretty early, but I like the idea behind it. Mechs seems to be on the rise again thanks to the success of games like BattleTech, and it's been forever since we've had a proper Armored Core. I very much welcome a new game like this—especially one with this sort of aesthetic.