Axiom Verge Review: A Look Deeper into Originality

I won’t tip-toe around it, I’m losing faith in Nintendo. I know they’re putting all efforts into their coming-soon Switch Console, but recently they’ve left their fans out to dry. The ones suffering pretty vocally are the Metroid fans. Skipping over the Federation Force drama, it’s been six years since the last Metroid, and ten since the last generally loved one (Prime 3). Personally I don’t like 3D Metroid, however I adore the 2D games and it’s been fifteen years since the last original 2D Metroid! So Nintendo, what happens when you take too damn long to make a new Metroid? Other people start to make it.

Enter Axiom Verge, a game by indie developer Tom Happ; a man targeting people like me, 2D Metroid fans. Finally a sale came and so I bought it hoping to scratch that itch, but I found more than just a game, I also got a question.

Originality; where does it begin and where does it end?

Image result for axiom verge

Axiom Verge’s setup is kind of weird. The story starts as follows; scientist Trace is working in a laboratory in New Mexico. During one of his experiments an explosion occurs and well…he wakes up on an alien planet. It’s odd but a good first impression, I don’t typically think of cinematics when it comes to 2D Metroid so it’s pretty cool that Tom Happ’s game is story driven.

And then the gameplay- it’s great. Tight platforming. Precise shooting. Overall Responsive. Who doesn’t want that?  It feels like you think it would, it feels like…Metroid.

There’s where my question comes into place. How much praise does Axiom Verge deserve when it so clearly owes it’s existence to another franchise? Just look at the picture above, the walls and backgrounds, the save pod and the tunnel-door on the bottom right- they just ooze Metroid atmosphere. Just replace the sprite of Trace with Samus and not many people would be able to tell the difference. In my first thirty minutes I had fun with Axiom Verge but I felt like it was too much of another product.

But then I got my first couple of upgrades.

In Super Metroid I remember being blown away by the Grapple Beam. I didn’t think such an amazing power-up could be done in a 2D platformer. That’s how I feel with a lot of Axiom Verge’s abilities. The actual weapons are hidden and aren’t needed to progress, but other gadgets like a remote drone, teleportation device and bombs are. I found myself intrigued on how my new gear could take down enemies and bosses. And I never knew there could be so many different types of guns for a 2D game.

Image result for axiom verge

As for the presentation itself, it’s not bad either. Some tunes got stuck in my head and I always found the scenery at least a little bit cool to look at. So let’s sum up my compliments; good Metroid feel, cool gadgets, nice scenery. Ok, not bad. But now comes all the things I didn’t like about Axiom Verge…

When it comes to these 2D games with big maps open to backtracking, I don’t go searching for 100% completion because I know I just don’t need it. I beat Axiom Verge with 48% item completion; maybe that’s why I found the game so damn hard. At the half-way point Axiom Verge became rage worthy with faster and stronger enemies, bosses that rely solely on size and insane attack patterns and tricky platforming. As I’m writing it down I’m realizing that it’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t make you stronger just by completing the story- you need to put in extra work to get stronger in Axiom Verge.

However the difficulty is also unbalanced, some bosses (a certain bee) made me want to rip my hair out but then the next ones would be either optional or simple to defeat. The final boss was one of the easiest in the game! Not to mention that I beat two of the bosses with cheap exploits (yes, I’m bad at games). If some of the focus on gear and map size were put into the bosses I would’ve left a lot less frustrated.

If Axiom Verge was it own completely original product then I’d say it was a really good game albeit some spotty difficulty, boring story and lack of direction. But it’s not; which brings me back to my main point.

Image result for axiom verge

I’ll give Tom Happ props for the weapons, gear, story, even the rage-worthy bosses but that’s it. Otherwise it really looks and feels like one of my favorite games ever, Super Metroid. Some enemies have identical movements and attack patterns, and the aforementioned Grapple Beam was practically copied. Maybe I’m wrong though; maybe it’s more original than I give it credit for, or maybe it’s less.

I hate to be the guy who didn’t love Axiom Verge because it was made by just one guy who obviously has good taste in games; but I bought this game for $10 which is half-off and I’d recommend waiting another year for a $5 sale truthfully.

During my time with Axiom Verge I had some fun, some rage and some boredom. Overall it’s a decent game.

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I’ve decided in my reviews I’ll leave you beautiful readers with a question in hopes to spark up interesting conversations in the comments.

In video games at least, where do you believe originality begins and ends? Some examples would help, especially if you think I’m wrong in my review of Axiom Verge.

Thanks for reading!

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5 thoughts on “Axiom Verge Review: A Look Deeper into Originality

  1. Questions of originality have plagued media since media has existed. I haven’t played Axiom Verge (or shockingly any of the Metroid games) but one look at the screenshot and I thought it was a Metroid game. I recently started playing Alundra, which is an adventure/puzzle game that feels a lot like a Zelda title, but it’s not a Zelda title. Okami was also hailed as a Zelda-like game, but deviated with gameplay and art style.

    God of War (the original one) follows the same story arc as pretty much any Greed tragedy, but isn’t any existing Greek tragedy that I’ve ever heard of. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally an erotic fanfiction of Twilight, but it stands firmly as its own story. The Phantom of the Opera is another iteration of Beauty and the Beast. And so on…

    I tend to think that originality rests in the grey areas of creation. Everything has an inspiration; as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. But it’s worthwhile to think of how much “originality” makes a game an original versus a well-disguised copy. Having not played Axiom Verge, I can’t say where that game falls based on my experience with it, but it seems like it flirts dangerously with “well-disguised copy.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen Alundra and played Okami and by at least looking at them my first thoughts aren’t “Zelda” but with Axiom Verge I think “Metroid”. You make some good points. I guess you can’t have originality without being a little unoriginal at first; couldn’t have green without yellow and blue. I think if Axiom Verge had a more unique art style and maybe ditched the sci-fi setting I could’ve given it more credit for it’s originality.

      Thanks for the reply and seriously, you haven’t played a single Metroid?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. Sounds like the dev just payed homage to a great game 🙂

        And yes, I haven’t played a Metroid game… Embarrassing, I know! It really was just a series of unfortunate events. We didn’t have Metroid on the NES or SNES (both consoles were my brother’s and neither he nor my sister got into them, I guess), I broke up with Nintendo during the GameCube era and so missed pretty much every game on that console as I started my love affair with Sony, and I watched a Let’s Play of Other M when I bought my Wii and just… sigh. That didn’t seem like the game to get into Metroid with.

        I’ve watched some Let’s Plays of Prime, but it’s not the same, I’m sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer the 3D Metroid games, but I love the 2D ones as well. C’mon Nintendo! Make another awesome Metroid game… I’ll take your advice and wait for the $5 sale for this game. It sounds like it might frustrate me a bit too much.

    That’s a tough question you asked! I think ideas are frequently borrowed and improved upon. Not really a bad thing I guess. For example, after GTA 3 was released, a lot of games that came after it used that same open world mission concept. I’ll stop rambling now, lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Top 5 Hopes for Tonight’s Nintendo Switch Direct! | PlayingWithThoughts

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