Axiom Verge is a 2D, retro-styled metroidvania game, with a heavy emphasis on the Metroid part. Like most metroidvania games, you explore a large and connected world doing things like platforming, shooting enemies, getting powerups, and getting new abilities that will help you solve puzzles, beat bosses, and generally progress in the game. There are also a good amount of secrets and some interesting story bits thrown in. The overall story is confusing and mysterious, which helps add to the alienated vibe of the game as well as making the plot more interesting. Without spoiling anything, the basic plot is that you play as Trace, a brilliant scientist that gets caught in a lab explosion, loses consciousness, and winds up in an unknown place. It’s up to you to figure where you are, what happened, and how to get home.
As mentioned, the gameplay is mainly platforming, shooting, exploring, and some mild puzzle solving. You can find a good variety of items if you look hard enough. You can get powerups to increase the damage, size, and range of your weapons, as well as expansions to your health. There are some passive powerups mixed in with tools that will give you new abilities, helping you progress through the game. There are some interesting notes you can find scattered throughout the world that will give you more bits and pieces to the mysterious story as well. However, the coolest part is that you can find a lot of cool weapons. A few are required to get through the game, but many of them are found by exploring. These weapons all have their own unique qualities. It’s nice because they are well-balanced and do not require extra ammo. They all have infinite ammo, meaning you can play around with them all you like. So you can use certain weapons to effectively fight certain enemies, cycle through all your weapons to vary your gameplay, or just pick your weapon of choice and have a ball! It adds a layer of fun to the discovery of new weapons. Plus, the controls are tight and the control scheme is fairly comfortable.
The art is very colorful yet fitting to the world of unknown mystery and wonder. I also found myself really liking the soundtrack a lot. Sounds a bit John Carpenter-esque to me. It’s crazy how Tom Happ has managed to do such a great job with the gameplay, the art, and the music basically all by himself. The package as a whole comes together beautifully. The dark, mysterious atmosphere and cool techno influences mixed with a bit of alien flair make for an engaging experience that sucks you into the game for hours.
As great as I think Axiom Verge is, there ARE some negative arguments to be had. It didn’t run flawlessly on my computer, but my computer is a bit dated and worn out as well so I’m sure it was not a fault of the game… just thought I’d mention it slowed down in some of the larger, busier areas for me. Hardly worth complaining about. This game is clearly heavily inspired by the Metroid series, and while I love that… you could make the argument that it is borrowing from that inspiration a bit too heavily. I personally think it has enough differences and unique twists to make it work as an original game expanding on the genre, but I could understand some people not finding it distant enough from that source. It’d also be cool to have a bit more of a choice in some story elements, but ultimately it is a story that you have to follow and your character is Trace, not you, so I suppose it makes sense the way it is. My only real complaint with the game is that you get a dashing ability, but once you get it you cannot turn it off. This can be troublesome for precise movements because you dash by double tapping in a direction. So if you’re trying to move forward and then stop to dodge something and move forward again too quickly… you’ll dash instead of just moving. You can lock your position or turn all the way around on stopping to remedy it, but it is a tough adjustment and can still get you killed in some hectic situations while you move erratically. As far as replay value, it’s probably not a game you’ll start up again immediately after finishing it. There’s hard mode, which seems to be about the same but harder, and speedrun mode for… well… speedrunning. So unless you want it to be more difficult, you want to speed through the game, or want to go hunting for achievements, then you probably will leave it alone after your playthrough. Though it DOES have good replay value in the sense that you’ll definitely be coming back to it at some point to experience it all again, and the amount of playtime in your playthough is pretty good.
So there are a few bad points, but the good clearly outweighs the bad in this case. It’s a decent length game with tons of things to find and a neat story. The music and art are very interesting as well. If you like Metroid, Super Metroid, or metroidvania games in general, then you’ll definitely appreciate this game. Honestly, it’s probably one of the best games I’ve played on Steam. So the question is… is it worth the price? And for this one, the answer is yes. 20 dollars for 15-20 hours of great gameplay is definitely worth your time and money. If you’re on the fence about waiting for a sale or just getting it full price, get it. It’s worth it and it’s worth supporting with the purchase. I couldn’t wait either and I certainly don’t regret it one bit. Axiom Verge is one of the best metroidvania experiences I’ve ever had.