Axiom Verge: Gems of the Steam Summer Sale

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By Kevin Casper

The Steam Summer Sale is still going on (until July 4th!) and every day I’m shining a spotlight onto a game you may not have played. Today’s spotlight is on Axiom Verge, an independent game built from nothing to multi-platform release by just one man named Thomas Happ.

Axiom Verge is commonly compared to Super Metroid, with good reason, as it’s a visually retro designed platformer in a sci-fi environment using various weapons and abilities to gain access to the map and progress the story. The inspiration is very clearly there but it’s anything but a clone. Axiom Verge takes much of what was in the older Metroid games, iterates on it, and nails absolutely everything – including visuals, music, controls, and story.

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You play as Trace, a human scientist who was caught in a lab explosion and found himself in a very alien world. While mostly alone, he’s telepathically contacted by a being of unknown origin with some direction for the beginning of the game to get you started. It’s clear there is or was some kind of society, as there is technology, doorways, and other marks of sentience, but everything seems to be littered with hostile creatures of all kinds. Your goal as Trace is to explore, learn, and hopefully find a way back home. I won’t go too deep into the story, but I found it extraordinary. The writing is very good and lines up so very well with the aesthetics and mechanics of the game.

As mentioned, you find and use various weapons or abilities to progress through this game. The map is completely open for you, allowing you to explore freely until you come to a barrier that you’re unable to break through. As you collect more of the powers available, you’ll be able to break through these barriers and progress through more of the game. Some of these powers will also allow you to find new ways to navigate the old locations, providing a ton of depth for exploration and, at times, requiring out-of-theBosses don’t exactly have a hard requirement to beat them other than the “hit it until it dies” factor-box thinking for progressing the main objective. A fan favorite is the commonly called “Glitch gun”, actually called the Address Disruptor in-game, which effectively corrupts different environment materials and enemies, making them act differently – such as being able to walk through things that were walls or turn some floating bubbles into blocks you can stand on and use as a sort of elevator.

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Then, of course, there are boss battles. The bosses are just as alien as the environment of the game and they’re all mechanically built in ways that might remind you of more Metroid, Mega Man, or Gradius games. The bosses have various attacks and patterns they follow, meaning you’ll have to learn them, probably die a few times, and come back at them again. While they fit so well with the rest of the design of the game, I can’t say they’re groundbreaking compared to others in this sort of platformer genre, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s really, really good.

Platformers and boss battle designs like these require reliable controls, and Axiom Verge has those. Every controller action feels like it works when you want it to, there aren’t any random windups, and even better, you’ll have some options in the slew of weapons you wish to use as you go through. Bosses don’t exactly have a hard requirement to beat them other than the “hit it until it dies” factor. There are some camps that either prefer or challenge themselves to use the original, base gun for as much of the game as possible. Don’t let that stop you from finding and using the 20 or so different weapons available in the game.

If you’re one who really enjoys pushing yourself in this genre, Axiom Verge also offers a Speedrun mode that removes much of the fluff, including dialogue scenes, and adds a timer to the screen to record your progress as you attempt to master the mechanics, abuse the “glitches”, and be the absolute best version of Trace the world has ever seen. I am not one of these people. In fact, I still haven’t actually beaten this game myself because I am absolute garbage at platformers. I did my research through plenty of reading, Let’s Plays, talking with fans who are much better at the game than I am, and even doing some work with the developer. In fact, if you are better than me and manage to beat the game, you can find me in the game’s credit sequence!

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(Source: Thanks to my friend Garrett for this screenshot)

For transparency’s sake, I don’t work for or officially represent Thomas Happ, Axiom Verge, or anything related. I used to work for a PC hardware manufacturer that would exhibit events like PAX. At one point, I had full control of how the company was going to design and present our PAX booth, so I reached out to find some independent developers who wanted to have their own space to show off their games at PAX East 2015. Axiom Verge ended up being one of the three games at my booth and Tom was pleased enough to add me into the credits there. I didn’t even know until a friend of mine, being one of those fans who were better at the game, sent me a screenshot with my name there. For me, it’s a cool story about a very cool developer about an extremely cool game.

Axiom Verge is available on Steam for $11.99 with reviews on there being overwhelmingly positive overall. If you want a sense of that retro action, are an avid fan of other indie platformer games, or have been disappointed by various crowd-funded attempts at rebirthing the genre, then Axiom Verge is most definitely for you. Axiom Verge is also available for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita with Xbox One and WiiU versions on the way.

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