Review

Axiom Verge Review

  • First Released Mar 31, 2015
    released
  • PS4
  • NS

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At some point in your life, you wake up in an unexpected place. You open your eyes, and for a split second, confusion takes over. You may be on your couch after a sleepy night of watching bad television, or, you may find yourself in bed next to a stranger in a room you don't recognize. But, what are the odds that you'll ever wake up in a different world?

Axiom Verge is your chance. Following an experiment on Earth gone horribly wrong, you wake up in a strange place known as Sudra. It's a world unlike Earth, where strange biological formations meld with mechanical contraptions to form massive structures. Being inexplicably transported to such a place would rock most people's psyche, but the protagonist, Trace, barely bats an eye. It's weird that he doesn't collapse in shock, honestly, but this misstep doesn't detract from the fact that Axiom Verge's plot is so good at drawing you in with heavy doses of mystery and intrigue. These moments kick off when large mechanical beings known as the Rusulka enter the picture. They act as guides, providing directions in exchange for repairs (something has left them in disarray), and insight into Sudra's troubled history. I'd love to go into greater detail, but to describe the relationship between you and the Rusulka any further would spoil one of the best aspects of Axiom Verge's world. It's a world that emphasizes exploration in the same vein that Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night do, but it's also a quest for knowledge that keeps you guessing until the very end.

As you make your way through Sudra's foreboding world at the behest of the Rusulka, you encounter numerous types of imposing wildlife. The only bad thing that can be said of the enemies in the game is that you occasionally find one that feels out of place, and this small inconsistency is one of a mere couple issues with the game, neither of which are important enough to detract from your enjoyment in a significant way. Big or small, Axiom Verge's enemies command your attention with wildly varying behavior and impressive displays of force. Some let out ear piercing battle cries while slashing at you with great speed, while others use more creative means to attack, such as spewing swarms of energy leeching bugs that are difficult to shake. It takes time and practice to learn how to deal with the trickier enemies, but you quickly gain new weapons as you explore, and thus new methods to defend yourself become available.

The drill is one of the first tools that you find, and it's an invaluable aid when digging for Sudra's most elusive items and secret areas.
The drill is one of the first tools that you find, and it's an invaluable aid when digging for Sudra's most elusive items and secret areas.

Your primary weapon, the Axiom Disruptor, fires simple energy-bullets, but you quickly rack up augmentations that make it capable of delivering shotgun-like blasts of electricity, or a beam of current not unlike what you might see in a Ghostbusters movie, for example. With more than a dozen weapons to find, you have to spend a lot of time searching for each and every one. While you don't need every weapon to be efficient at blasting away enemies that stand in your path, you learn to love many of the weapons over time, and who doesn't like having options?

There are other tools to discover that make navigating Sudra manageable, let alone possible. A laser drill lets you plow through rock (and some tough-skinned enemies), revealing new pathways and potential secrets. You eventually find a grappling hook that turns you into a veritable Bionic Commando, allowing you to bridge large gaps and swing across ceilings. Like in Metroid, you can sneak through small tunnels that you find, but not by morphing into a ball. Rather, you find a drone that can do the exploring for you. It has its own life bar and some modest firepower, and while it's out and about, you get to rest inside an impenetrable force field. A quick press of a button, and the drone dismantles itself before zipping back to your location. Eventually, it becomes a remote teleportation device, allowing you to warp to its location.

One tool stands out as the most special of the lot: the Address Disruptor. This device can corrupt enemies or repair garbled matter, which has many implications and uses during your adventure. Sometimes, firing it at glitchy matter will yield a new platform that will help you get to a new location, while other times it can clear a path. The most interesting application, however, is using it to transform enemies. Every enemy has a different reaction to the Address Disruptor, and it's critical to pay attention to the particulars therein. An enemy that spawns laser firing bugs may suddenly spawn life energy once you've corrupted it, while another may start to gnaw away at rock, which you can use to your advantage when trying to access hard to reach areas. There are dozens of different behaviors associated with the Address Disruptor, and it's easily one of the most interesting weapons or tools that I've ever seen in a game.

An experiment this dramatic is bound to go wrong.
An experiment this dramatic is bound to go wrong.

One enemy's reaction in particular leads me to talk about the game's password system. Within the inventory and map menu lies a place to input passwords. Passwords can trigger different things, such as changing your outfit or allowing you to read previously indecipherable texts. All of the info in the documents you find are supplements to the story, but they also stoke your curiosity to dig deeper into the mysterious events of the past and present. Passwords aren't just given out, you need to work to find them. In one case, a hard to reach document contains a translation string, another reveals itself when you use the Address Disruptor on a glitchy area of the map. My favorite, and the basis of this segue, is the enemy that reveals a code, letter by letter, after it's been corrupted. This particular enemy is only in one room, and even though there are others like it to be found on the map, it only provides a password in this particular instance. Moments like this are when you realize that you must use every tool at your disposal if you hope to uncover all of the secrets that lie within Axiom Verge. It takes a lot of work to find some items, but you get a real sense of accomplishment when you overcome difficult situations by combining your skills in clever ways.

Part of the reason you want to find secrets and secret areas is because you may gain a new weapon or ability, but also because your speed, map coverage, and item percentage have an impact on the game's ending. No matter what, Axiom Verge's final third will satisfy your curiosity and surprise you, but you learn more about Trace if you get through the game with efficiency and an attention to detail.

The Address Disruptor is Axiom Verge's defining tool. It can transform enemies into allies and reveal hidden objects, to name just a couple of its effects.
The Address Disruptor is Axiom Verge's defining tool. It can transform enemies into allies and reveal hidden objects, to name just a couple of its effects.

Accomplishing everything it takes to get the absolute best ending isn't easy, especially your first time through. It took me the better part of 14 hours to get through to the end, and even with all of that time, I only uncovered 92% of the map and found 70% of the items. It's not an impressive run by any measure, but it would have been far worse if Axiom Verge punished you for every death, which I experienced dozens of during the course of my journey. Thankfully, dying only sends you back to the last save point on the map with all of your progress kept intact. While this may mean that you're teleported back a significant distance across Sudra, any milestones you've hit are preserved, meaning you don't need to waste precious time repeating previous efforts.

Speaking of repeating previous efforts, once the credits finished rolling, I couldn't wait to jump back in and start Trace's journey all over again. Some games conclude and I'm happy to walk away, but Axiom Verge is such a joy to play, with dozens of tools to play with, and too many secrets to find. The skills and rules you learn inform your expectations and plans, and my second trip through became more about the gameplay than the story, which isn't entirely a bad thing. After all, the better I play, the better the payoff in the end. I'm still working through Sudra for the second time, occasionally going back to my first save to identify things I may have missed so that I'm prepared when I encounter them again.

Axiom Verge is a game that's easy to fall in love with because it hits so many high notes. It takes the Metroidvania model and adds layers of ingenuity that are in a league all of their own, the most notable being the Address Disruptor. Yes it's occasionally drab looking, and some enemies may not fit in with the rest of the world, but when a game is this good, these blemishes quickly fade into the back of your mind. The chilling sci-fi setting, mysterious plot, and a seemingly endless number of abilities keep your mind busy, and your curiosity at fever pitch. It's not a stretch to say that Axiom Verge is better than the games that inspired it, because it's so inventive and thoughtfully crafted. There's no excuse to hold onto the past when the present is this amazing.

GameSpot has updated the score to reflect our experience with the Nintendo Switch version of Axiom Verge. - Oct. 5, 2017, 9:00 AM PT

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The Good
Foreboding sci-fi setting instills a strong mixture of curiosity and dread
A soundtrack that enhances the world's eerie vibe
A large selection of weapons gives you plenty of options when it comes to combat
A story defined by mystery that builds over time, culminating in rewarding and surprising
Excellent use of scale and detail makes for some breath taking scenes
A large amount of secrets keeps you motivated to explore every inch of the environment
Cryptic elements encourage real world discussions and sharing of discoveries
The Bad
Some enemy designs feel out of place
The world has a tendency to look drab
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter spent nearly 20 hours playing Axiom Verge, and still can't get enough of it.
175 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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senator990

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Never played a Metroid game before but I loved this one. The only downside was backtracking which is an inevitable part of any metroidvania experience.

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OHGFawx

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Glad its finally getting a physical release, deserves a permanent spot on the shelf.

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onionking108

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Peter, could you point out any differences in the Switch version? The review says the score has been updated to reflect that, but I don't see any specific mention of the Switch, and wasn't the original score a 9? (I may be mistaken, it's been two years since I read the original review)

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doc-brown

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doc-brown  Staff

@onionking108: Hey there. After a couple hours of testing on Switch, I didn't notice any additions or changes.

Regarding the original score: it's always been an 8, but you better believe making the call between an 8 or a 9 was tough!

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onionking108

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@doc-brown: gotcha, thanks for the response! Definitely grabbing the multiverse edition in November. Need that swag.

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D-Man

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The back-tracking in this game was infuriating. Had to give up after a while since I couldn't remember where to go, and any game that requires you to use a pad and paper is a failure

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OHGFawx

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@d-man: The best way to play Metroidvania games is to go in with the mindset that you're going to 100% the map anyway. If you aren't going to do that, then these games probably aren't for you.

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D-Man

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@OHGFawx: Really? Because plenty of "metroid-vania" style games have not required that of me.

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OHGFawx

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@d-man: I dunno, I felt like Axiom Verge had pretty much the same amount of backtracking as most of these games do, and i never had a problem figuring out where to go. The map gives you markers you can place to help you remember key spots as well.

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Pyrosa

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Edited By Pyrosa

This is flat-out the best Super Metroid since Super Metroid... ...and then you get the grappling hook. The entire game is immediately ruined by the jerky swinging animation, overly-sensitive detach controls, and frustrating level design requiring you to use it to progress.

Such an amazing game, rendered utterly disappointing by one bad design choice.

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abcdefgabcdefgz

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What do all the indie game makers have against 16 bit art? Was that not retro too or is just too hard to make or something

5 • 
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perphektxero

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I really find this game a lot of fun. Only downside to it is dying sends you all the way back to the last save point. Sometimes the closest save point is not so close, and you are trying to get through a section that requires a lot of trial and error problem solving. I really wish they had a checkpoint system, especially for boss battles (even though the save point is not that far away for every boss battle, it becomes a pain in the ass after a while.

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Xirtahm

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@perphektxero: Actually, that's very much in the vain of Symphony of the Night and original Metroid titles. Auto-saves have made us too dependent, and has lessened the challenge in a lot of today's games because dying isn't as much of a setback anymore.

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perphektxero

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@Xirtahm@perphektxero: While I agree with that for the most part, specifically this game it feels like there is some sections that are extremely easy to die in and require the player to experiment with different weapons and abilities to successfully navigate certain areas. Some of those areas are very challenging and should be either closer to a save point, or have a check point system. And SotN had a fast travel system as well. While the map in Axiom is not nearly as big, it seems to have a lot of obstacles and more difficult enemies in the way with very little opportunities to regain health. I should have mentioned the health system, but you cannot just go around killing enemies expecting to gain health, and there are no other places to regain health other than from save points.

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Cherub1000

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Hmm, definitely interested in this. I never finished Metroid on the emulator but it was great fun never the less. I will say that it seems a little overpriced on ps store but if the gameplay is there then maybe it's worth it? I get all the opinions below, positive and negative. Maybe the main reason for picking this up is that there is simply such a tiny amount of next gen titles on the market right that anything with a glowing review will appeal?

Still when all's said and done. I can take an opinion from the masses and the next AAA title in my list is Uncharted 4 so I have a fair amount of time to kill!

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Gwarpup

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Couldn't we at least just get somewhat updated music/sound fx? Do they have to stay 8bit midi as well as everything else? This game would be awesome with cool sound but maybe Im just hearing the bad parts. If it has some parts like SINISTAR.. that'll be cool.

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perphektxero

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@Gwarpup: If you have a nice set of headphones plug them in, the soundtrack comes alive. It is like a mixture of 8 bit sound with some booming bass techno music. I am not a techno fan, but I always turn the volume up really loud on my PS Gold headset because it sounds really great.

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Cherub1000

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Haha I tried this lastnight and gotta agree. The sound suddenly became much more appealin!? Weird, great but weird!

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grbolivar

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Classic Metroid for PS4/Vita, that's all you need to know. Loved Metroid? You'll love this game.

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zyxahn

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Good review. One of my favorite games for the NES was Faxanadu. I am not saying this game is a Faxanadu rip off, I am saying that in Fax the world wasn't spectacular looking but the style did however lead to one of the reasons why I liked it so much. Atmosphere. Just by it and play it. It's under $20. If you are compaining about the graphics then it's pretty obvious the game wasn't made for you. One guy made it too and as he intended. You want this game with PS4 graphics then crowdfund his next game.

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KorpralGurka

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I must say it looks cool, might pick it up ;D

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Printul_Noptii

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please bring this to the PC :(

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Boddicker

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@Printul_Noptii: I thought it was already on Steam?


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Smith2308

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Start of a 100% walkthrough

<< LINK REMOVED >>


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kenpachi212

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why would I want buy a $400 console to run NES graphics? Doesn't make sense.

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Bunlert

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@kenpachi212: Nobody bought the console JUST for this game. But why complain at having more options?

3 • 
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RogerioFM

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@kenpachi212: Because the game is good, also by playing this game you don't have to sign any contract that forbids you to play more graphically advanced games.

7 • 
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UNDERXgames

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This game looks unimpressive, but lets face it a lot of people working for review sites are old and to them this is nostalgia! So from their perspective this game is sweet, but it's not, Its UNIMPRESSIVE!

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santinegrete

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@underxgames: did you play it? or have a standard that dictates all pixelated games are below average as an opinion expressed like a fact?

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Itzsfo0

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@underxgames: thats your opinion i could give 2 shits about nostalgia...luckily i know the game is great runs great and sounds great ive playe it numerous times funny thing is im getting far more enjoyment out of these throwback retro metroidvania games more then the aaa big blockbuster titles n no not bc of memories ...super meat boy soundshapes limbo axiom verge which along w super motherload i could play endlessly and have a blast everytime i visit bb or gs stores i go straight to the ps4 w gold headset n play axiom verge n get lost in it just the soundtrack is worth the price of admission an the fact its been developed by 1 guy w a personal life to contend with does make it impressive...but to each their own some ppl r just simple minded if it doesnt look like gta V they dont get it or judge a book by its cover limiting yourself to only certain games imo that means you miss out on something you may enjoy impressive ? who cares its enjoyable period graphics dont carry games

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deactivated-5c0b07b32bf03

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@underxgames: Made by one man. How much more preposterously unimpressive can you get.

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UNDERXgames

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@reduc_ab_@underxgames: Im a developer - A man one indie developer and yes I AM UNIMPRESSED!

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Cherub1000

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Ok, wow? Fair enough I guess but I have to ask. What is it that your so unimpressed with?

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Gelugon_baat

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@underxgames:

Then where's your game?

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@Gelugon_baat@underxgames: and he was never seen again Lol.

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Mkeegs79

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@underxgames@reduc_ab_: You look like your 12. Being a developer wouldn't make your opinion have any more credit than anyone else.

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lordlors

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@Mkeegs79@underxgames@reduc_ab_: Well FEZ was designed by one man. Initially it had 2 developers but the other guy I think was only doing the programming.

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deactivated-5c0b07b32bf03

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@underxgames@reduc_ab_: You're like that chick in the olympics that didn't get gold and stood up on the podium with that cute little frown.

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RogerioFM

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@reduc_ab_@underxgames: No response from him, just a liar I guess.

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RogerioFM

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@underxgames@reduc_ab_: Really, what exactly have you done?

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Axiom Verge More Info

Follow
  • First Released Mar 31, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 6 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Wii U
    • Xbox One
    Axiom Verge is a retro-styled 2D "metroidvania" action-adventure coming to PS4 and PS Vita.
    7.7
    Average Rating47 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Axiom Verge
    Developed by:
    Tom Happ
    Published by:
    Tom Happ, IndieBox, Inc., Badland Games, Limited Run Games
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Theme(s):
    Sci-Fi
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen