Axiom Verge is an old school side-scrolling action-adventure game that is inspired from the classic Metroid series of vidoe games. It was developed by one single developer Tom Happ, who spent more than five years on the development of the game. As the work of one single individual, it is a really impressive effort.
Axiom Verge is a Metroidvania game which harkens back to the age of side-scrollers like Castlevania and Metroid. The gameplay in these games revolved around exploring the environment, discovering new powers, backtracking to explore even more locations with these new powers, and usually had boss fights thrown in between the exploration. This formula worked really well and gave birth to some classics in the Castlevania and Metroid series of video games.
Axiom Verge in itself is developed in the same way. Even the game’s graphics have been especially modeled after these classics and result in a nostalgic feeling familiar to those who used to play these games.
Tom Happ has really nailed the gameplay and look and feel of the classic Metroidvania games. The game not only throws new weapons and power at players, there are also some great classic boss fights as well. Exploration is usually satisfying and rewarding for the player, and the boss battles follow an attack pattern that usually doesn’t require much of an strategy for the most part.
It is clear from the get go that we are playing a game that is heavily inspired from Metroid series. The way the maps are drawn as we explore, the focus on science fiction for the world, the weapons and powers, most of these elements are either borrowed or inspired from Metroid series. The gameplay in itself is satisfying enough, although can get annoying with some of the enemies. The game only allows manual saves, which can make it difficult for most of the players today who are used to auto saves in their game. Although, the game is generous enough to provide the players with health restoring points after defeating certain enemies. Players can also upgrade their character’s health by collecting power ups hidden throughout the world.
Axiom Verge begins with the main character Trace working on some experiment in his science lab. Things somehow go wrong and he wakes up in a weird looking mechanical egg. The story in itself is simple enough, and helps in setting up the characters and the general gameplay. Trace begins the game with no weapons and it doesn’t take long to get our hands on one. From there and onwards, players will encounter many new weapons, including some that are fun to use. Trace also gets a bunch of tools aside from weapons including the ability to hack and manipulate his enemies/environment or dig through brick walls.
The joy of discovering new weapons and tools and getting to use them is the best part of Axiom Verge. Each new weapon brings in new ways to dispatch enemies. Tools allow you to explore new locations as well discover some well hidden ones. The game is challenging enough and hence every new weapon and ability is a welcome addition to the player’s arsenal.
The biggest issue with Axiom Verge is perhaps the backtracking and the archaic design of the world map. While it is nice of the developers to try to borrow the design of the map from old school games, it simply results in some frustrating situations where the player has to figure out where to go next from his memory. The big issue is when you try to remember where to use your newly acquired weapon or tool to progress next, and you have no way of knowing except to resort to your memory and hope you remember the exact location.
In conclusion, Axiom Verge is a great indie game that has nailed the look and feel of the classic Metroidvania games. Unfortunately in this process, some elements were borrowed that can often result in a frustrating experience.
Axiom Verge Review (PS4)
Still, as a work of a single developer, Axiom Verge is a remarkable throwback to the old school side-scrolling action-adventure games.