Search This Blog

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Game of the Year: AXIOM VERGE


I don’t know what more I can say about Axiom Verge that probably hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam across the various social media sites, gaming websites, YouTube, personal blogs, etc. Hell it made a cameo appearance in my 12 Games of Christmas as Game number one. You can watch it here:

It was a day back in early 2015 that I remember first hearing someone talk about this great new game they had played on the PS4 called Axiom Verge. I didn’t really think much of it until I started hearing more and more people mention it on Twitter. It was at that point that I decided to look a little deeper at this thing called Axiom Verge. It was reported that the whole game was developed by only one person.

What I ended up finding quickly set my heart a flutter. I spent a good chunk over the next few weeks watching various videos on YouTube of people playing this amazing indie title. That’s right reader, you read that correctly, my 2015 Game of the Year (GOTY) is an independently developed game that is NOT produced by a major game publisher. Three cheers for the little guy!

It was at that point I knew that Axiom Verge was one of those special games. A game that would be talked about for a long time.  Unfortunately I do not own a PS4 system, so I was unable to play this title myself. Then I discovered that is was scheduled for release on May 14th 2015 on Steam for the PC. I nearly shat myself with excitement, to the point that I even set up an alert on my calendar to remind when this game became available. Then I moved on with life…

My gaming life can best be described as somewhat chaotic. Meaning I jump from game to game with relative speed, so after setting that reminder I all but forgot about Axiom Verge. I was able to distract myself by doing what I do best, playing video games.

Then I awoke that fateful May morning. I had an alert on my phone….blinking at me….trying to tell me something, important.

Imagine my face when I unlocked my screen and read my alert, only to discover that it was the reminder that Axiom Verge was now available on Steam. It probably looked something like this:

In an excitement that is only rivaled by an 8 year old on Christmas morning, I rushed out to my laptop and logged in to Steam as quickly as possible. Then I remembered…I had recently had the good fortune of getting a Steam gift card for my birthday in April. I had loaded it on to Steam at the time, and was planning on using it for a future purchase, possibly even for this very game. In hindsight that was a brilliant move, because when I went to checkout, I noticed the option to pay using my Steam balance.  My life has not been the same since.

Finally. It was my turn. My chance to finally experience first-hand, what I had only seen online. My time to play Axiom Verge. Oh wait, I have to install it first…

Okay, now I was ready. I was ready to lose myself in the strange environments found within the strange high-tech world that the game is set in.

I will admit that at the time of this writing, I have yet to complete the game in full. I can hear some of you reaching for that mouse, but before you discredit me and click the exit/back button on your browser, hear me out.

While I have yet to complete the game, I can tell you that the hours I have had a chance to sink in to this game have all been worth it. The gameplay is fantastic, and I find myself actually getting really excited to explore new areas. Having grown up playing the games that inspired this title (Super Metroid, Castlevania, etc.) I can usually spot features or areas within the game that I know may come in to play later on. The ledges/platforms that are just a little bit outside of your initial jumping capabilities. Areas that have doors, barriers, or even walls with cracks or strange artifacts on/near them. I just know that I will eventually pick up an upgrade of some kind that will unlock an ability or allow me to transverse to new areas to explore. It’s a classic formula that works well, and one that has been executed very well in Axiom Verge.

As I sit here reflecting on this game, deciding on what to write next, I find myself trying to pick out flaws just so that this doesn’t sound like too big of a gush-fest. And in all honesty, I have found it almost impossible to find anything I don’t like about the game itself. The graphics are superb, the music is an absolute masterpiece. Seriously if the soundtrack alone doesn’t win some major awards I will be offended.

If I must nit-pick and find a flaw with Axiom Verge it would be the weapons selection process. The game is played by plugging in an Xbox controller in to an open USB port on your computer. No need to map or configure anything. The controls, for the most part are good, and are not much different than you would find in any other game of similarity. The left analog stick is used to control Trace’s movement, left, right, crouch, aim up, etc. You can also use the D-Pad if you so choose, and I sometimes find myself switching back and forth between the two. The right analog stick is used to cycle between your various projectile weapons.

At first it’s not too bad, as you only have a small handful to start out. Cycling through them is quite simple, and it’s easy to change on the fly to a gun that meets your current needs or situation.  As the game advances, and you pick up additional guns, it becomes a little more difficult to remember what gun does what exactly, so you may need to cycle through them in a tense moment before you find the one you are looking for. I know it’s better than the alternative of cycling through weapons one at a time at the push of a single set of buttons, but it can still be time consuming in a game that sometimes requires you to make a quick weapons change.

The other problem is not really a game design flaw, but rather a flaw of my ability to hold a smallish controller in my rather large hands. It should come as no surprise that a dude housed in a 6’ 5” frame would have large hands.  For you metric readers that equates to 1.95 meters (or is it meteres?). Playing games on a standard sized controller can be challenging at times, and the problem I have had with Axiom Verge is that my ginormous thumb will sometimes accidentally click the R3 (right analog stick) button in the heat of battle, and switch back to a default gun. Yeah, to go from killing enemies in a single shot, to something weaker or less effective can kill a good run pretty quickly.

Other than those two minor flaws with the control mechanics, the game plays really smoothly. The only other complaint I may consider throwing out there is that the world designs tend to become somewhat similar in texture and appearance after a while. It is easy to lose your sense of direction, and after on more than one occasion I found myself lost, and thinking that I had already explored this area. It was kind of like Deja-vu. The in-game map is certainly a very handy tool for when it becomes necessary to do a little bit of backtracking in this lovingly dubbed “Metroidvania” game.

If I haven’t convinced you to play this game yet, let me continue on by talking about the bosses.  The few I have encountered up to this point are skillfully designed, and even border on a slightly more whimsical side. Some of them reminding me more of the robot bosses found in the MegaMan games.


They are challenging, and will require you to study their movements and attack patterns in order to conquer them. So far they have been very fun and rewarding.  I expect them to ratchet up the level of difficulty on these bastards as the game progresses, and I may find myself hating some of them with the passion of a million suns. I guess I will find out.

At this point I really don’t want to run the risk of spoiling it too much for those that haven’t played the game yet, and I don’t want to research much further so as to not spoil it for myself. I will however, leave you with these final words: