How Metroidvania is it? Perfect Fit. Some people even argue that it's not different enough.
Primary Challenge: Exploration Focus, Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: This game was played on Steam
Buy Axiom Verge if you like…
- Super Metroid
- Well-Designed Critical Path with hundreds of secrets
- Multi-Layered storytelling
- Techno Chip-tune music
- Intricate Pixel Art Backgrounds and sci-fi creatures
▼ Review continues below ▼
Axiom Verge gets a lot of comparison to Super Metroid. I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. Yes, it’s a Metroidvania, and yes, there are a ton of similarities. But I think the things that make it different are pretty vast.
I think the one thing that surprised me the most is the story presentation. It’s a pretty typical sci-fi where a lot of philosophical questions are asked about ethical situations that would arise from advanced technology, but I think Axiom Verge proves that the Metroidvania format is a great way to tell that kind of story. You can explore post-disaster aftermath and learn from the environment details what might have happened. This makes it fun to theorize about anything the story doesn’t tell you blatantly, but even if you’re completely blind to these things the story told through dialog and cutscenes is quite interesting – at least it was to me. I don’t think it’s quite as masterful at the environment-based story telling as a few other games, but I think it still does it well.
The graphical presentation may be one of the weaknesses that keeps it from being on top with the likes of Dark Souls and Hollow Knight in this regard. At points the art is beautiful and I was awed by it. Other times it’s only the chipset tiles the likes of which you might have seen in the original NES Metroid. Occasionally the color pallet causes the background to mesh with the foreground, but it wasn’t common enough to make it a major complaint.
Where there are no flaws though is the music. It’s perfect. It captures that feeling of disturbing loneliness that Metroid 2 and Super Metroid had. Sometimes it’s upbeat techno, but at appropriate times it gets dark and unnerving. It really hit home on the final stretch to the end of the game, sending chills down my spine for that last confrontation the game had been building up to.
For the most part, controlling the main character Trace feels good. It’s maybe not the best sidescrolling shooter I’ve played, but there are a ton of weapons to play with and they all have infinite ammo. This is one of the things that sets it apart from its Metroidvania forefather (er.. foremother…brain?) I played the game on Hard Mode, so I drifted back to the first and third weapons you find for most of my playthrough simply because I favor burst damage as part of my playstyle. But I did give most of the weapons token usage as I came across particularly tricky enemy types to deal with.
A lot of enemies – especially in the endgame – it seemed like the best strategy was to trick them into a corner and hit them while they couldn’t reach me. The game has a signature mechanic that lets you change the nature of enemies though so there is a decent amount of strategy involved.
I think my biggest complaint about the gameplay and combat is the dashing mechanic you get later in the game. You control it by double tapping in specific directions and there doesn’t seem to be a way to map this function to a button. I discovered that I apparently double tap a lot when I’m moving around, so I found myself accidentally crashing into enemies as a result. If you mastered this movement though you could theoretically dodge most of the attacks enemies can throw at you, making the combat a lot deeper than I had the skill to play it. But, I was always able to find a way around the need to dodge thanks to the arsenal I mentioned. Every boss has a “Trick” to them similar to Zelda bosses (though less dependent on found items.) I found basically all of them – and the combat in general – pretty fun as a result (complaints about the end-game enemy strategies aside.)
What makes this game the most joy to play is how masterfully it uses the Metroidvania format. There isn’t a ton of possible sequence breaking, and the game has a set path (You can’t fight any of the bosses out of order – as far as I know.) But it’s incredibly satisfying to explore around and find the many surprises this game has to offer. No hand-holding and interesting puzzles to solve to get to different areas made this game sweet enough that I could hardly put it down. This is truly a Metroidvania that is not to be missed.
Enemies are best defeated by cheesing level geometry rather than through mechanical mastery
Some tricks using the optional Grapple Hook get pretty challenging, but for the most part platforming is incidental to traveling
Highly rewarding with a wide variety of gameplay changers to find (Not just upgrades to HP and Damage)
Some obtuse secrets involving a passcode system as well as some good cerebral exploration
Narrative has some interesting philisophical implications, as well as interesting ambguity, that is if you can follow it.
Absolutely gorgeous pixel art at times, and other times kind of flat and drab duplicated tile-sets.
The Chip-Tunes really get you psyched up for boss fights, or unnerve you when exploring the world's lonely depths
Two difficulty modes, and a ton of different weapons to play around with, but besides that not much else to do after one play
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