Axiom Verge

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Axiom Verge

Post by JaySevenZero »

Here's where you can contribute your thoughts and opinions of Axiom Verge for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

A friendly reminder to all that where feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but self-editing (brevity) is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mainly reading. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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Re: 414: Axiom Verge

Post by Toon Scottoon »

I should have liked Axiom Verge more than I did. I’m a fan of Metroidvanias or 2D exploratory combat platformers, or whatever we want to call these sorts of games. (Truthfully I’m willing to agree to let the mash-up experts at the excellent Play;Write podcast determine the moniker we go with for this genre from here on out.) I’m also a fan of retro-style graphics, and yet despite having rolled credits on this little number in January there isn’t much I really remember about the game.

My notes mention that the character designs, outside of the nifty little drone and the save room centrifuges, didn’t suit my eye. As for the power-ups, I found them mostly underwhelming, especially the weapon power-ups. For the fast travel system I wrote “Giant head is more suited to an animated transition between Monty Python sketches than areas of this world.”

That said I can not deny this game’s soundtrack does things to me. Namely the music makes me want to rush, and gave me the sensation that even when Trace halted to solve a puzzle, he was panting and fidgeting, and desperate to move forward. It got me through the game. That’s probably why I’ve got the thing in heavy rotation when I run. It just has a way of spurring me on, even if the game isn’t calling me back for a second playthrough, or getting me all that excited about the recently announced sequel on the horizon.

Three word review: It sounded fun

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Re: 414: Axiom Verge

Post by Gingertastic01 »

When Axiom Verge came out in 2015 I was itching to play it but didn’t have a Playstation at the time, so when it came to Xbox in 2016 I purchased it day one. At that point the Metroidvania boom had not fully kicked in so I could not wait for this one.

First of all, how did one person manage to make this game? Thomas Happ deserves a lot of credit in being to make a game that is as impressive as this. The design, soundtrack and graphics are all executed to a high standard and I was consistently dumbfounded that this was the work of a singular person. As a result, I feel like the game has a very focused and cohesive vision of what it wants to achieve.

The visuals wear its Metroid influences on its sleeve with a bright 8 bit aesthetic filled with familiar tiling and corridors. Nice touches like warpping explosions and weapon effects jazz things up a bit from its predecessors whilst the boss explosions in particular are super satisfying.

The game design doesn’t stray to far away from the standard conventions set out by other games in the genre. However, the weapons for the most part are interesting and unique and can make exploring the world very rewarding. The game is also very open which I appreciated, but all to often I found myself going back and forth not having a clue where to go and what to do, which lead to a number of frustrating evenings. For me the balance wasn’t quite right, I don’t really want a blob on my map telling me where to go in these types of games but I feel the best ones smartly shepherd you to where they want you to go without you you knowing, or feeling like your having your hand held. Additionally, the game world didn’t feel as cohesive of a location as I would have liked in places, some areas didn’t really feel like they sat naturally next to one another.

Just a quick note on the sound, the soundtrack its absolutely fantastic and the sound effects on the whole are suitably retro but can be pretty irritating at times.

With the genre enjoying a resurgence in recent years I find it hard to recommend playing this above some of the most recent modern classics in the genre. However, if you are hungry for a new Metroidvania game to play and like the look of it you will no doubt have a good time with this one.

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Re: 414: Axiom Verge

Post by RinseWashRepeat »

To cut this post short, let me start by saying that I like Axiom Verge. I thought it did enough to evoke feelings of much older games but was able to do a few things that were new and unique to make it play like a modern game and carve out its own niche in the pantheon of ‘MetroidVanias’.

The strongest point of the game is its world. It’s a sprawling labyrinth that rewards exploration, makes sense spatially so that you don’t have to (too often) check the map and whilst it’s often clear where you need to head to next, it never feels like you’re bumping into too obvious ‘Boss This Way’ signs.

I liked the power-ups, for the most part, in that they drastically alter the way you traverse and think about the map as a whole. What was once an impossible wall turns into a mere pillar that you can easily zap through. What was once a giant chasm is now a simple leap thanks to your improved jump. That floating block that looked extremely useless an hour ago? Grapple onto it and swing across to get to a new area! That’s exactly what these types of games are supposed to be about, for me at least, and Axiom Verge does it.

However, here's a bunch of reasons why I merely ‘liked’ rather than loved this game.

The aforementioned grappling hook was far too fussy to use and double-tapping to teleport led to some shonky platforming later on. I played on the Switch, so maybe that explains some of that. I can’t say.

I also found a lot of exploration merely gave you an item that said ‘collect 5 more of these before anything happens’, which was always an anti-climax. I also hated finding new weapons, as by the end I’d settled into which weapons I wanted to use and so many of the weapons just didn’t have much of a use case for me. Speaking of weapons, combat is fine in the game. An OK selection of enemies, but some of the bosses (especially the last one) turned into a right slog.

The visuals are a messy mix of HR Geiger-eqsue aliens blended with some cyborgy elements and most stuff seemed to have wires poking out here and there. The graphics didn’t appeal to me, but they did the job. I never ‘lost’ where I or the enemies were on the screen, so that’s something I suppose.

The audio - my God! This game has got some of the most obnoxious SFX I’ve ever heard. Repetitive and shrill shrieks, blips and bloops screech on at you incessantly. I assume this is an attempt to make the game ‘authentic’ to its 8-bit sensibilities, but I could not hit that mute button quick enough! Ditto for the music.

So overall, I quite enjoyed my time with Axiom Verge, but there are some pretty big caveats there.

3WR: Annoying grapple hook.

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Re: 414: Axiom Verge

Post by Suits »

I really want to love Axiom Verge.

There’s an awful lot to this game that immediately jumps out to me as something I’d enjoy.

In the end, I was left frustrated by it.

A chunk of admiration comes from that its all made by one man, Thomas Happ. I won’t go into that as I’m sure the podcast will cover that aspect. It’s an incredible achievement.

The art direction is cool, I really enjoy the sort of detailed shadow work done on the sprites and the underground grimy feel it gives the world.

However, I found myself soon getting bored and tired of the area backdrops. After the initial exciting reveal of what a new area looked like, it soon wore off for me and save for a few cool sprites or effects it soon became a bit bland and sterile – perhaps this was the intent, as it did invoke plenty of isolated and lonely feelings.

Mind, I’ll never get tired of seeing the bosses explode.

Boss fights are the strongest part of the game for me, I love the way the boss fights are held in grand arenas and the way that they pan out and go through the whole dialogue section.

Then, just as the fight is about to begin it zooms back into the normal view and really gives the boss gravitas and impact, very cool.

The story is dark and enjoyable. I came away feeling like the main character is a cool dude and the story very compelling to be honest.

Exploration felt like a real chore. I got stuck too many times which would require backtracking and aimlessly wondering around.

With the amount of back tracking and exploring this game requires I found the area designs to grind on me pretty soon.

Also, another issue I have with exploration and backtracking is how long the enemies take to murder. Sure, you level up weapon power after you find enough nodes but I find the first 5/10 hours of the game tough to explore and probe as the super aggressive enemies just take hit after hit.

Twice I got stuck. Once in 2017 which meant that I put the game down and again, in 2020 when I started over in the hope I would this time pick up on the clues and signposting of where to go.

In the end I had to look it up and was looking for a guide online. As I was carefully navigating towards a guide, I stumbled across a game FAQ that opened with the title, “I bet you’re stuck here…. “ and they were correct.

It seems like a common bottle neck for players and in the end boiled down to simply not using a new ability to get past a wall, one that is clearly signposted after collecting the new ability yet still managed to catch a lot of players out.

I the end I was starting to resent the game and began to dread “thinking” about putting it on. That does sound dramatic I know but with the myriad of options available to us all now the options seem limitless, so why waste your time playing something you’re not enjoying ?!

I tapped out after I’d reached the giant snail head room. I had options and ways to go – I just didn’t want too.

All that said, I’m still drawn to this game, its creator and it’s existence.

I love it as a concept and as a theme, I just didn’t enjoy playing it.

I’m starting to wonder whether I actually like adventure platformers as a genre, or whether I just enjoy the Catslevania and Metroid series of games instead.

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Re: 414: Axiom Verge

Post by KissMammal »

I’ve tried to get into Axiom Verge about three times. On my most recent attempt I made it about 4 or 5 hours in before setting it aside again. As a massive fan of Metroidvanias I had assumed I just wasn’t in the right kind of mood when I had played it previously, but this last go around made me come to the conclusion that I just don’t think it’s a very good game.

The main weakness for me is the combat and especially the bosses, which just aren’t dynamic or exciting to fight at all. I found that most of them I faced could be defeated by simply standing in a completely safe spot and slowly chipping away at their health in a boring, protracted battle of attrition.

Metroid type games generally thrive on granting abilities that gradually empower the player and transform their ease and prowess at traversing the world, but the weapons and ability upgrades in Verge never seemed to provide much variety or break up the monotony of the core gameplay in a meaningful way, and as a result I found the exploration and backtracking very dull. I could never really commit the map to memory for whatever reason (possibly due to the sprawling map and samey environments?) and just didn’t have that same urge to poke around in every little nook and cranny that I got from games like Steamworld: Dig because the rewards for doing so - typically 1/6th of a health upgrade - are miserly and often not worth the effort.

The music and overall aesthetic is great though, and it’s a hugely impressive achievement for a lone developer, I just think in a market saturated with similar types of games, Axiom Verge doesn’t have a strong enough core gameplay loop to make much of a lasting impression.

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Axiom Verge

Post by Ralamandastron »

It's near impossible to talk about Axiom Verge without the context of Metroid, so I'll start there.

This game has a very clear understanding of what Metroid games are and why they work. And more to the point it makes very clear choices about which ingredients it wants for itself, and where it wants to try something a little different.

The gameplay loop is of course familiar to anyone familiar with Metroidvania; you'll see many enemy/boss archetypes and platforming ideas you've seen before, and follow a recognisable pattern of steadily increasing mobility while being regularly tantalised with visible routes and opportunities that will eventually be within your grasp. It's notable that these are executed incredibly well, with far fewer frustrating oversights than some of the game's peers.

Perhaps more notable are the changes made to the formula. It's always exciting to imagine what incredible abilities will allow you to reach the currenty unreachable in Metroidvania games, but it would be a fair criticism that aspects of this blueprint have become a little too familliar: high stuff always means you'll be high jumping or double jumping, anything sturdy-looking is always indicative of some kind of explosive, etc. Axiom Verge has abandoned so many of these conventions in such a bold way, replacing the conventional with some really innovative alternatives like the teleporting lab coat, the scouting drone, and most flashy of all, the address disruptor.

The address disruptor is a stroke of brilliance, and has changed the gameplay loop in more ways than the initial removal of the glitchy barriers. I particularly love the mechanism of changing enemy behaviours. Often this is as simple as disempowering them, but some of these creatures do some really exciting things when their code is tweaked.

The game has also gone further than its inspirations with its minimalist design and oppressive, lonely atmosphere. The soundtrack is a huge and successful part of that, playing heavily on the technique of starting with simplistic 8 bit melodies and building in some more complex and bassy stuff. I must admit I'm a sucker for that, it worked for Undertale too.

In hindsight, the pacing is a a big contributor to that atmosphere too. It's slow, often with progress only in the form of the abstract, and enemies can be very spongy. This all works in the context of the setting; Trace is in a truly alien world he doesn't understand, with a truly frustrating lack of information and context. It's relatively immersive to have the player feel this way too.

I must admit though that, on a couple of occasions, the tedium did make me stop for a few days and come back to it when things seemed fresh again. Not a dealbreaker for me, but I understand that it was for some. And honestly there is an easy solution for that: 2018's The Messenger shares many of the strengths of Axiom Verge, with a much more assertive pacing. But if you enjoy immersing yourself in the nebulous but deliberate narrative that your character is experiencing, you will find Axiom Verge a rewarding experience.

As an aside, I'd be remiss not to comment on the fact that a single person made this game, which is a truly incredible accomplishment in that context.

Three Words: Metroid Formula, Disrupted

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Re: Our next podcast recording (11.4.20) - 414: Axiom Verge

Post by Pconpi »

I played Axiom Verge earlier this year on the Switch after seeing it selected for the pod this year. I had just replayed Super Metroid a few months prior and so when I started I was kind of disappointed how similar it felt. But as I progressed further and got more abilities I appreciated the advanced ideas of this love letter.

Particularly, moving through the environment via the drone and teleport abilities was a blast. Some of the hidden items that involved shooting your drone up, teleporting to the drone, and then teleporting through a wall were quite the feat. That coupled with the Address Disruptor had enough new gameplay elements to make this an interesting Metroidvania.

Even more memorable then the gameplay is the music. So many of the tracks are standouts but Inexorable is my favorite. The vocal sounds in that song convey the lonely and alien feel of Trace’s journey and whenever I hear it I remember exactly the zone it came on in. Turn these up loud.

Whenever I play these indie games I am curious about the creation and finding out how big the team is that worked on the project. The few that I have played that are essentially one person’s creation are truly memorable and I can’t help but judge a game differently depending on the resources behind it. The fact that Thomas Happ designed the whole game and then also wrote all those banging tracks is mind boggling. It’s so interesting to see a complete artistic vision in a medium that is usually a composite of multiple people’s ideas and talents.

Definitely enjoyed my time with it and will continue to listen to those tracks.

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