I do love a good metroidvania, and I’ve played a fair few in the last year or so, and the original Axiom Verge was a great metroidvania. It’ll come a no surprise, then, that I pounced on Axiom Verge 2 the second I was able to get it from the eShop, and here I am telling you I’ve completed it.
And not just completed, but 100%ed – all items, all the map, everything. Which is a sign of a fantastic game in this genre, as far as I’m concerned.
Axiom Verge 2 isn’t really a sequel to the first game, as it’s more of a tangental story that is linked but separate for the most part. It does away with the “glitch” mechanics of the original, but replaces them with a sort of subspace, low res, corruption of the main world that you can slip in and out of in a similar way to how the two worlds work in Link to the Past. This lets you reach areas which would otherwise be blocked, by sort of skipping round them via a fourth dimension.
The plot is complicated, and references worlds that are linked, different civilisations on at least three of these worlds (one of which is Earth), but it’s interesting if difficult to get your head round. I recall the first game had a similar plot complexity and I’m sure recalling that better would shine more light here, but actually, you can mostly ignore it without detriment.
It’s the gameplay that really shines here, and Axiom Verge 2 eschews the normal combat-filled exploration of the game type with the scales tilted far more in favour of exploring than smacking stuff. In fact, you don’t really have much in the way of ranged weapons like before, and every boss in the game (bar one, I think) can be ignored entirely unless you’re after 100% completion. There are even more pacifistic ways of taking down foes too, as you’re able to hack most of them and turn them off, slow them down, or even turn them against each other.
Exploration is rewarding, both in terms of eureka moments when a puzzle is solved or an obtuse route is discovered, as well as a new power-up or upgrade is collected. I’m one for colouring in all of the map in these games and there’s a great map to fill in here. In fact, unlike other metroidvania games, the map itself is like a very small set of thumbnails of each location, rather than just a blank box.
And the music! Thomas Happ created some bizarre but incredible tracks for the first game and he’s managed the same here. It’s incredibly atmospheric, and the scratchy chiptunes for the “breach” areas are superb too, matching the low resolution aesthetic perfectly.
One of my favourite games this year, for sure.