As soon as a new indie game comes out, there are those voices that shout about how they are keeping the AAA titles from being made. That the latest Call Of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed is somehow hampered by these small budget, one man developed games.
The truth, however, is that it is these titles that are keeping gaming fresh, that they remind us of what a videogame should be. That whilst it is nice having the big blockbusters with a budget twice the size of an Eastern European country, we need that balance, those games that we can just pick up and play for fun.
Axiom Verge is one of those games that feels like a videogame and not an interactive movie and sure, it takes cues from other genres such as the Metroidvania, but it somehow still manages to feel fresh.
Now I am a big lover of Indies but I was never really drawn into the anticipation for Axion Verge. It wasn’t the retro graphics that put me off, because I love that art style, it wasn’t the way it looking in motion, because damn, if that game didn’t flow well. In fact, I can’t put my finger on what it was. I like Metroidvania games, but something about this just wasn’t that appealing.
I don’t like to admit that I’m wrong and I would love to report that my initial feelings were spot on and this is a simple take it or leave it game, a seven out of ten at best.
But oh, how wrong I am!!! Axiom Verge has jumped straight in as my number one game of 2015 (as of April) and one I cannot put down. I want to take it everywhere with me, which brings me to my one and only issue. The Vita release is still some way down the line and even the promise of cross-buy doesn’t hide my disappointment.
Seriously, I have played it on the PS4 and the way I review games is to spend around 30 minutes with them initially, before writing down some initial notes, before returning later to go deeper into the game. Yet that opening half an hour turned into 3 hours and only ended then because of needing to leave home for a prior engagement.
My first initial thought was to grab the Vita and see if there was cross-save, but failing that I’d be happy to play it separately with a new save. Alas, this wasn’t yet possible, so I had to leave the game alone… for now!
The moment I was able to play again, I was right there. This is a Metroidvania through and through, it is a game that isn’t afraid to wear its influence right there on its sleeve. At this point I should be telling you that as a game Axiom Verge fails to gain its own identity, that is feels like it is just being an homage to the genre, so much so it could have been called Metroidvania: The Game!
I should be telling you how this is a bad thing. Yet it is quite the opposite, by not trying to be anything that it is not, it doesn’t do anything that could cause it to be a poor man’s interpretation of previous games in the genre.
It does everything by the book, teasing areas that you cannot yet reach, drip-feeding new weapons and powers that will eventually see you backtracking more than a recently elected politician. You have done this before, no matter the setting. This is a game that relies on the core mechanics of the genre and simply runs with it.
It could be called lazy or unambitious, yet it is anything but. It is clear that this has been made by a fan of the genre first and foremost, someone who just wants to play more of those tried and tested games and set out to do just that, succeeding perfectly.
What is even more impressive is that this was made by one person, Tom Happ. Whilst the one man team isn’t exactly new, it still impresses when the game in question has the level of polish that Axiom Verge does, it may look extremely retro, but it feels fresh because of the way it plays.