When I first heard about the Axiom Verge, many were comparing it to Super Metroid or even Metroid Fusion. Developed by Tom Happ, Axiom Verge puts players into a new and strange world called Sudra. This strange mysterious world holds lots of secrets, interesting characters, and lots of dangerous foes for players. During my playthrough, Axiom Verge holds up extremely well with its gameplay, story, and sound design but also has some small faults that can be overlooked which is arguably an amazing indie title.
Axiom Verge starts in the present day at a science lab. Here we are introduced to Trace, a scientist experimenting when suddenly something goes wrong. The science lab explodes and leaves Trace wounded. Suddenly he is awoken in a chamber on a strange world. What follows is a story that has many twists and turns that kept me engaged in what is happening in the World of Axiom Verge. The best part about this is that developer Tom has managed to craft his own Universe in Axiom Verge that remains interesting during the game. While the story does not focus too much on its characters or their motivations, they are still interesting and have motives that I can both agree and disagree with.
The story and lore can be expanded upon by collecting documents that are hidden throughout the world. These give a deeper insight into the history of Sudra and its citizens. Although collecting hidden documents may not be for everyone as they can be a little hard to find and understand. Sometimes they are written in a different language that the citizens of Sudra used. This is an aspect I enjoyed of Axiom Verge and it reminds me of Metroid Prime, scanning the computers and environments to get a better sense of what is going on in the world of those games. Axiom Verges story is what you make of it and exploring the world of Sudra will give the player a deeper experience.
In Metroidvanias, the gameplay and overall world design go hand in hand. Collecting new weapons, upgrades, or abilities to reach different areas or take on harder enemies is the core of Axiom Verge. There are a lot of weapons in Axiom Verge and they are very diverse with each offering a different way to engage with enemies. I didn’t find all the weapons useful to engage with but I can appreciate the differences they showed.
Getting new abilities in Axiom Verge kept the game fresh to engage with. Obtaining the ability to phase through a wall, or jumping higher, getting a grappling hook all helped me get to different areas or obtain upgrades and progress the story. Not only that but some of them, like getting a lab coat to move quickly through enemies to hurt them, changed the way I interact with the world and the enemies. Moving to a newer area would test my wit and my brain about how to progress through it using newfound powers.
One of the most unique abilities is a drone that the player shoots out of the weapon. This drone has a drill-type weapon and can crawl into small spaces and destroy some walls. It can also be used to disable a door blocking your path or, getting another ability later in the game, the player can shoot the drone far into the air and reach a place the player can. This drone became essential and provided different ways to reach different places throughout the world.
Upgrades are important in Axiom Verge and I found that finding them was a bit easy but there are plenty to collect. You can upgrade your health and weapon range as well as weapon damage. Axiom verge relies on the player to do the exploring in the world. The enemies can be really tough in some areas and players will need to use their wit for the first half of the game to engage with them.
There are boss battles in Axiom Verge and they are a hit and miss. I think most of them were rather easy to beat. Two bosses require the player to just jump to dodge his attacks and then continue firing at the weak spot. One boss, I was even able to shoot his weapons and destroy them, which allowed me to stand on a platform and just shoot at the weak point destroying the boss. Others were a bit tough and their weak points were not as easy to find as some others. I did find the last boss to be a bit easy with a certain weapon I obtained. Overall boss battles are a hit and miss. Some challenge you while others may be too easy if the player picks up the right method to attack them.
One major gripe I had with Axiom Verge is the lack of direction given to the player. Perhaps I am spoiled from games like Metroid Fusion, where you were given a mission directive and told to go to a specific spot on the map. While you had to move through unknown terrain to get there, you knew what direction to head in. Axiom Verge only gives the player a general knowledge of what they need to do.
One ability the player gets in Axiom Verge is a Disruptor. This is an attachment and when fired it can change the traits of an enemy. Each enemy reacts differently to the disruptor. They may move slow, not cause any damage, or go from being hard to destroy to be vulnerable to your weapons. There was even an enemy that replicated my movements and fired its guns when I did. This gun can also be used to make platforms appear or remove walls to access a different area.
There is one device you get called the codec. It allows you to input codes into the game to remove a wall to obtain a new weapon or upgrade. Finding these codes was challenging and I didn’t fully understand what it did or where the codec would modify the environment. This required me to search outside the game for information on how to properly use this ability which was a bit frustrating.
The music in Axiom Verge is great. There is even a soundtrack you can buy with the game in certain stores. The music definitely makes you feel like you are in a sci-fi world that is asking to be explored. I would sometimes find myself humming to some of the tunes myself.
The sound effects are good and sometimes a bit annoying. The boss’s noise when they get hit or see you for the first time can be a bit loud and annoying. Some of the enemies make really loud ear-piercing noises which can be annoying as well. However, not all of them are as annoying. I really enjoyed the weapon sound effects and liked the phase ability effects. They felt sci-fi enough to make me feel like I was using an ability that is from a future-driven world.
Axiom Verge is one of my favorite indie games of the past generation. It has the feeling of being like Metroid but solidifying its own identity with unique gameplay ideas. The story kept me interested to a great extent and I am really curious to see what will happen in the sequel. While some players who are familiar with Metroidvania games will enjoy Axiom Verge, those who are not as familiar with the genre will have a difficult time enjoying the game.