A sequel can be a dangerous thing. It’s high risk, high reward. Change too much and you have a game that players may complain that it loses the essence of the original. Change too little and players may complain that all you’ve done is re-skinned the original. I was very excited for this sequel since the first of the series was my personal game of the year when it was released in 2015. So, where does Axiom Verge 2 fall on the great sequel scale? It comes so close to delivering, but there’s just something missing. Keep reading and all will be revealed.

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The Story

It goes a little something like this. You control Indra Chaudhari, who is a rich CEO of a conglomerate known as Globe 3. After acquiring one of its rivals, she powers up one of their original revolutionary computers. She receives a message saying, “Come to Antarctica if you wish to see your daughter again.” That’s not ominous at all.

Off to their former competitor’s defunct station in Antarctica, Indra trots and that’s when, in true Axiom Verge style, things get weird. There will be twists and turns aplenty and by the time you reach the end of this roller-coaster ride in another universe, you’ll find yourself wondering what in the world did I just go through?

The story has so much potential, but its drip-fed delivery turns it into a device created simply to point you towards the next destination. The lore items you collect only serve to frustrate since they don’t make the story any more clear.

Screenshot from Axiom Verge 2

Playing Axiom Verge 2

There will be a lot of deja vu moments throughout Axiom Verge 2. Thomas Happ Games LLC has added, removed and modified many features. Some are very good. Others not so much. One almost immediate difference is the game world. It’s very much more organic in feel than in the first game. There’s much more open space to explore and the different biomes are very Earth-like in appearance.

You’ll find yourself in deserts, arctic tundras and on occasion, you’ll even spend some time underwater. Quite a significant departure from the alien tech-based lands you had previously traversed. If you want to see a bit more map detail, the in-game menu can give you that, along with any items or skills you’ve collected. Everything is simple to understand, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty figuring out what items or skills need to be used at any given time.

One unique feature of Axiom Verge 2 that I really liked was the tight control that you’re given over how difficult the game is. Absent are the easy, medium and hard options. In their place are two sliders that allow you to adjust the amount of damage that you dish out and take. This gives the player a huge range of possibilities as you can even reduce your damage received to zero, allowing you to explore and enjoy the beautiful game world without having to worry about what’s shooting at you.

Alternatively, you could create a truly punishing scenario for yourself by moving the sliders to their opposite ends, which would practically guarantee your character dying several times every few minutes. It’s entirely your choice.

Another of the big changes involves the combat emphasis moving from ranged to melee. Your main weapon being an ax, while your ‘ranged’ weapon is a boomerang. Not a gun or laser pistol to be found. Personally, this was a negative for me as I prefer my 2-D combat to be shooter-based rather than melee, but this may very well be a positive change for some.

An essential skill you’ll obtain and upgrade is a variation on the code disruptor from the original Axiom Verge. This time you get more control of the type of effect that you have on the enemies, whether it’s simply slowing them down or turning them against other enemies on screen.

Screenshot from Axiom Verge 2

Sound and Vision

The visuals are as vibrant and vivid as you’ve come to expect from an Axiom Verge game. The color palette reflecting a world that is almost but not quite like our own. The irregularly placed boss creatures are as large and imaginatively shaped as ever. Like the world of Axiom Verge 2, the soundtrack is also very appropriate for the slight otherworldliness of the game environment. It seems to have an 8/16-bit vibe to it, but some aspects seem of a much higher quality sound.

Overall it all comes together very well indeed. The music supporting, but never overwhelming the on-screen action. I very much like the title music piece. It’s very high-paced and almost motivational in effect. It makes me want to hurry and get into playing the game.

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The Technical Stuff

Axiom Verge 2 is a Metroidvania type of game, so it’s never going to be taxing on the hardware side of things. The install size is ridiculously small for a game that will provide around fifteen hours of playtime. Maybe up to twenty if you’re a completionist and want to explore the whole map and collect every item in the game.

The skills and subsequent upgrades are quite varied and interesting, including the wall climbing, but it inevitably results in a lot of backtracking, which can become tedious. If there were some extra story dialogue to justify it, that wouldn’t be so bad, but there’s just kind of nothing to explain why it’s necessary other than it just being where you have to go.

As far as bugs and glitches go, you’re only going to find them as a part of your story progression in the game. Some of the enemies are rather bug-like in appearance. Controls are nice and responsive. I much prefer using a controller over a keyboard for this type of game or pretty much any type of game where all the controls are.

Axiom Verge 2 Game Review Summary

 

In Conclusion

What we have in Axiom Verge 2 is a good sequel, but it doesn’t really ‘wow’ me. I enjoyed many familiar references to the original, like the drones you encounter and the occasional doorway sporting the previous game’s design. There’s even a moment when you pick up a note that was written by Axiom Verge‘s original protagonist, Trace. While backtracking features in many adventure games, I don’t feel like it’s been disguised well enough this time around and it can become tedious.

I’m also not entirely convinced by the shift in combat from gun-play to pure melee. The streamlining of the skill and ability mechanic is great, but considering that you have enemies in the game that shoot at you, surely it wouldn’t have been too much to include an equivalent projectile weapon for Indra to use. Despite these drawbacks, Axiom Verge 2 is still a delightful game to play. It’s a no-brainer for the price and for the speedrunners out there, that is a returning option to try out.

Axiom Verge 2 is available now for PC exclusively through the Epic Games Store, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4! Let us know if you’ve played it and tell us what you think!

This article was originally published on 9/14/21.

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Richard Camfield
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