Title: Axiom Verge
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, PSVita

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Metroidvania

Players: Single player


Written by Whistler 14th May 2015


















The Metroidvania genre has certainly seen a resurgence as of late, with some great titles like Ori and the Blind Forest, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse hitting the Steam libraries and Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Kickstarter has already been funded within four days. However some of us still crave for the return of one of the genre’s namesakes, well we crave for both, but in this case many cries can still be heard echoed throughout the internet for the prophetic return of Metroid.


This will likely not happen as Nintendo have this thing about releasing their IPs other than Mario, but there is a particular indie title by one Tom Happ that might help soothe that itch in the deep recesses of your cerebral cortex. That title is of course Axiom Verge that first saw its release on Sony PS4, Vita and will hopefully find a home amongst the Steam community. But does this indie Metroidvania have what it takes to stand as a fully-fledged title or is it just chasing the ghost of Metroid’s shadow?



























Axiom Verge practically radiates a Metroid aura in every pixel of its seven to ten hour journey it must be said, from the grim sci-fi aesthetics, the rich variety of abilities and the far stretching labyrinths.
After an experiment suddenly goes haywire our average joe protagonist Trace awakens from an egg-like chamber in an alien world known as Sudra where biological formations are sewn together with mechanical monolithic structures looking like something straight out of the late H.R Giger’s workshop.

Given very little time to even consider breaking down into mass hysteria our hero is guided by the Rusulka, a race of goliath sized machines whose plea needs Trace to plunge into Sudra’s depths in order to set things right and uncover the true plot at hand. While as to be expected with a Metroidvania, the story may be stretched thinly throughout the exploration focused gameplay but its intrigue and mystery keep the player wanting to know more of Axiom Verge’s enthralling enigmas.


Gameplay largely consists of finding your way through the now vast derelict interconnected tunnels, catacombs and chambers of Sudra to complete tasks on behalf of the Rusulka like returning power to life support systems whilst you run and gun your way through the world’s deadly wildlife. Amongst all this you will likely discover secrets like health nodes and damage amplifiers thanks to Axiom Verge’s creative collection of abilities Trace will require in order to further progress.


Whilst staying true to the Metroidvania architecture Axiom Verge adds upon this with some fresh ideas for its array of traversing tools. Ranging from an obligatory laser drill to plow through weak rock or a grappling hook reminiscent of Bionic Commando to a remote controlled drone capable of tunnelling through small crevices, later for scaling hard to reach areas, boasts a modest amount of firepower and even allows you to teleport to its location once the capability is unlocked.



























By far Axiom Verge’s signature ability is the Address Disruptor;

An augmentation to Trace’s rifle that enable him to send waves of information capable of reorganizing ‘glitched’ biomasses and even the very structure of Sudra’s wildlife. Using the Address Disruptor on corrupted matter can provide makeshift platforms or remove obstructions and applying it to living tissue can result in some very bizarre and varying effects. Disrupting a ring worm-like creature had the alien breaking through walls when it use to simply bounce from end to end, or change a cocoon like being repeatedly spawning mobs into a healing stations.

The Address Disruptor coupled with a specialized lab coat that enables Trace to ‘glitch’ through thin walls (assuming there’s sufficient space on the other side) makes for some of the most interesting mechanics I’ve seen in the genre for quite some time now.


That being said though, exploring in Axiom Verge isn’t always a smooth process.

While it’s great that there’s a plethora of secret areas to uncover it becomes an exhausting chore to try and memorize key areas and while connecting the dots for one ability to help you say cross a large chasm are obvious, there were far too many times I found myself lost with no context as to where I should explore next. This became painfully apparent especially once I had gained access to the middle zone ‘’ that acted as the connecting bridge between all of the zones, where a simple fast travel gained late into the game would have sufficed instead I found myself aimlessly running laps around the map. Hoping to stumble upon the next main objective I would search but more often than not would instead find another secret item that led me to another issue.


There is an abundance of augmentations for your primary weapon, the Axiom Disruptor. Starting off with a simple semi-automatic energy fire mode you quickly gain more colourful augments like a close range electrical field blast, armour piercing darts, frost shards and a beam of lightning to name a few. However you eventually end up with so many that you’ll come to realize how useless or redundant some augments are compared to others when you can only switch between three on the fly (anything else you’ll need to go into the menu system to do so).



























It is interesting to note that this project is entirely a one man job, from the gameplay to the very distinct visuals and audio. AV brandishes as I previously mentioned a dark yet colourful imagery in a similar vein to HR Giger’s Necronomicon and noticeable similarities with Metroid.

While there is a distinct variety with backdrops, enemy visuals tended to lack the same quality, often looking rushed or lacking consistency with the universe created.

The musical scoring provided by Mr Happ is certainly impressive considering how far stretched his workload must have already been contain tracks with heavy melodies dripping with atmosphere that certainly leave an unnerving impression or adrenaline pumping electronic beats just to get the blood rushing.


Axiom Verge was an uneasy relationship to start with and I’m not sure how much more I plan to delve into Sudra beyond completing a playthrough but I can’t deny Axiom Verge’s interesting abilities and visual stimuli are still scratching at the recesses of my consciousness.

It still feels like it puts too much effort to recreate that which clearly inspired it, but there’s a lot of love that’s been put into this chilling sci-fi adventure that has made a lasting impression and while I’ll admit at least two of the eight hours I’ve spent was wandering aimlessly you can bet you’ll get your money’s worth should you long for a worthy Metroidvania title.

Just allow yourself to get lost within its world.



Pros:    

Creative abilities,

Variety of backdrops,

Chilling atmosphere,

Plenty of secrets,

Great spreedrun integration.


Cons:   

Lack of mission explanations gets flooded with exposition dumps,

Occasionally lacks more noticeable direction,

Slow to pick up pace,

Occasional lack lustre enemy designs.


Final Verdict,
Axiom Verge echoes a resounding 8 out of 10.

   


Written by,

Whistler














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