Nintendo Switch gets 7 new indies: Axiom Verge 2, Slime Rancher, and more

Technology

Polygon 11 August, 2021 - 11:25am 45 views

Review: Axiom Verge 2 - A Fantastic Follow-Up To A Classic Metroidvania

Nintendo Life 11 August, 2021 - 12:00pm

Version Reviewed: North American

In the comparatively dark days of the Wii U, we often had to focus more on indie games to get us through the worst of the months-long droughts between major first-party releases. Fortunately, various smaller studios stepped up and one such gem was Axiom Verge, an absolutely incredible Metroidvania that was produced in its entirety by just one remarkably talented man. Axiom Verge would’ve been just fine as a standalone release, but evidently Thomas Happ had enough ideas leftover that he felt the need to produce a full-fledged follow up with Axiom Verge 2, a game which feels distinct from its predecessor in some key ways while the core gameplay feels just as polished as it’s ever been, making for an impressively high-quality experience from stem to stern.

Unlike the first game, which saw you playing as a scientist named Trace, the narrative of Axiom Verge 2 follows Indra Chaudhari, a billionaire CEO of a major international conglomerate. There are some real At the Mountains of Madness vibes as Indra finds herself taking a chopper to a remote Antarctic research station owned by her company after receiving a mysterious message that hints that her missing daughter might be there. Unfortunately, all the staff at the base seem to have vanished without a trace, and things are made even worse when Indra accidentally falls into a cave and… drowns. When she comes to, Indra finds that she’s been transported to a different dimension and given a ‘new body’ by a mysterious artificial being.

If there’s one thing that the narrative of Axiom Verge 2 absolutely excels at, it’s keeping the player continuously wondering what on earth is going on. You’re given just enough information that the narrative makes sense, and gaps are slowly filled in as you find optional text logs along the way, but there’s rarely a moment where you feel like you truly understand all the forces at play. You’re not sure whether Indra is dreaming, dead, or something else entirely, which gives all the proceedings a wonderfully vague, fever dream aesthetic. And without spoiling too much, this release does eventually reveal its fascinating connections to the original Axiom Verge.

This time around, gameplay has been mixed up a little bit from the original. Axiom Verge 2 is still a 2D Metroidvania, but combat is now oriented mostly around an ice pick that Indra finds almost immediately. This requires you to get up close and personal with all the enemies you face on this adventure, and while you have a ranged option in the form of a boomerang you get later on, combat has an unmistakably different flow. It’s not necessarily better or worse than what came before, and it’s later expanded upon as you find more secrets in the overworld, but it does feel like this may be the most divisive aspect of the new release.

Luckily, new gameplay ideas still keep both exploration and combat feeling fresh as the experience goes on. For example, you’re given an ability early on that lets you hack any machinery in your immediate vicinity. Not only does this give you the option to overcome a variety of obstacles that once stood in your way, but it also lets you take over most of the enemies you encounter. Via spending consumable points, you can do things like making your foes fight for you or causing them to explode or give out health drops. It’s the slow drip of mechanics like this which fundamentally change the way you look at Axiom Verge 2, making it the sort of game that becomes intensely more enjoyable the longer it goes on.

The creepy, alien hallways of the original release have been traded here for much more naturalistic, open-air environments, but the map feels like it’s overall more cohesively designed. Though you’re given a marker that shows where to go on the map to next advance the story, it feels almost like you can go in just about any direction and make meaningful progress. Important upgrades and tools are scattered everywhere in Axiom Verge 2, which lends it a beautifully non-linear feeling that doesn’t strictly pigeonhole you into sticking to a somewhat linear path.

A big part of this non-linearity is due to the new ‘breach’ mechanic introduced relatively early on. You’re given access to a little spider drone that can access portals dotted around the map, and stepping through one takes the drone to an alternate plane of existence that parallels the one Indra is in. Some of the more elaborate puzzles in Axiom Verge 2 require you to smartly utilize the pathways in one world to find new ones in the next, which makes the already massive world feel that much more labyrinthine and fascinating.

Alongside the more notable upgrades, most regions contain a number of smaller collectibles that feed into the new skill point system. This introduces an RPG-lite aspect to the gameplay loop, as you can choose how you want to build out the abilities of Indra and her robot companion. Things like health, attack speed, and hacking levels can be upgraded with skill points to be more useful, and while it seems like a bit of a strange inclusion at first, the new skill system makes sense in practice. Now, a collectible can theoretically be whatever you want it to be, rather than leaving you possibly disappointed with finding another health upgrade or attack boost you didn’t really need.

Those of you looking for replayability will be pleased to know that Axiom Verge 2 lands perfectly in that sweet spot where it feels neither too long nor too short. It should take you around fifteen hours to see the narrative through to its conclusion, and you can expect to add another ten to that if you want to go for completion. We feel it’s important to further indicate that this journey is exceptionally tight in its overall design, ensuring that those fifteen hours positively fly by once the ball really gets rolling. Plus, those of you who can’t get enough have a speedrun option to look into, which enables you to rush the game in one go without having to deal with any cutscenes, pauses, or randomized content. Axiom Verge 2 may not be infinitely replayable, but there’s something to be said about a game like this which delivers a focused and consistently excellent experience across a modest runtime. There’s no wasted time or unnecessary content here, Axiom Verge 2 is all gas and no brakes.

While the original release was borderline horror with its dark visuals and unsettling music, Axiom Verge 2 feels a little more disarmingly inviting. Though you spend much of your time exploring cold, wild environments and caves, there’s a much broader palette of bright colors employed here. Though it feels like a break from the disturbingly isolating atmosphere that came before (which we loved), we came to appreciate the more varied design of the environments here. Plus, there’s still plenty of weird stuff to behold, and all of it is backed up by a suitably sci-fi soundtrack that keeps you on your toes.

Axiom Verge is a remarkably tough act to follow, but Thomas Happ has done it again in producing a pitch perfect, excellently paced Metroidvania adventure. Axiom Verge 2 perfectly balances familiar elements that made the original great and trying out new ideas that give the sequel its own identity, and while lovers of the first game may take some time to adjust, everything comes together and makes for a potent experience that no fan of the genre will want to miss out on. The mysterious atmosphere, thrilling pace, and fantastic world design all come together to make for a worthy follow up that stands well on its own. Do yourself a favor and pick up Axiom Verge 2 as soon as you can, this is a game that’s absolutely worth your time.

About Mitch Vogel

Mitch has been a fan of Nintendo ever since he got his start on the GBA in 2005. When he's not busy playing games or writing, you can find him down at his local MMA training facility learning how to punish the unrighteous.

Comments (42)

You guys knew it would launch today!

How could you guys have kept it a secret! I would’ve taken tomorrow off! Now I have to wait two whole more days till the weekend

Having heard nothing but good things about the first game over the years, this is what I would have expected from the sequel. Look forward to eventually playing both when I can fit them in.

Man, if I was about to head back to bed, I'm wide awake now after reading this and how it's out today.

Looks like there may be a small launch discount. I may get this today instead of waiting.

Just paid for it. It’ll be waiting for me when I get home. Word.

I still need to grab the first game. I've heard nothing but good things, and it seems the sequel doesn't disappoint!

I already purchased it based on the quality of the original, but it's good to hear that the sequel doesn't go astray. Can't wait to dive in.

I will be getting the LRG copy as there probably will not be regular physical editions.

yeessss. so so glad to hear that it's enough of a departure from the first one while still maintaining what made it good.

Metroidvanias are always a priority to me, so I'll probably start playing this one as soon as I finish Skyward Sword

At least Thomas Happ had proved he is no one hit wonder! I loved the first one, so I will be playing this one too. I just might wait for a small discount for I jump, simply because I want to save some money right now.

Wish it was a week ago and not the last days of holiday but I’m all in regardless!

@Dpullam One man makes a better metroidvania then a group of people Cheers to Thomas, like see him branch out perhaps a RPG !?

just read in another review there's no bosses lol. i can't wait to play this

@Crockin That's false. There are bosses, the main difference is you can now fight them or run away whenever you feel like it. Kinda like lynels in BotW.

I loved the first one but as per usual with me, got a bit stuck and frustrated with a boss. Thanks to @SwitchVogel, I now know there is a run away option. Good!

@Tandy255 10% off for 7 days, it looks like.

@Crockin i think they're all, optional, from what I've heard.

But wishing everyone else a heckin good time!

@SwitchVogel oh cool. either way, i'm into it. ready for it to drop

For some reason, I could never bring myself to pull the trigger when it comes to Axiom Verge. I love non-linear action platformers, but something about the aesthetic bothered me. I keep hearing how amazing this game is, but I can't get past the almost minimalist graphic style. Now I'm on the fence yet again.

Wow, I'd already told myself, no new purchases till Metroid Dread. That promise may be hard to maintain now.

@Dualmask it's a nice looking game, imo. Kinda like a Neo Geo game but there are some nice explosion effects and things. It's really pretty special

I am very tempted, but I have also never quite been able to press the buy button on the original game. The review kind of touches on it, but it sounds like this game could be played before the original. Tempted as it sounds and looks more intriguing to me overall.

@Thaswizz I agree. Wherever his next passion lies, is where he will go next. I do hope he branches out beyond 2D metroidvanias. He has already proven his worth in that genre.

Watching the video while the narrator read the review didn't match what I was seeing. The game looks okay, but it doesn't look very readable, as in the sprites seem to blend into the background a bit. This particular review came across like it was trying to sell me, rather than inform me. Like okay, the reviewer found it to be 9/10, but no game is perfect. So, besides the pickaxe con, I would have liked to have known what this game was weak at, as well as what it was strong at.

The review basically came across as, "I liked it, so you should buy it."

I dunno, I just read about 6 other reviews about this game and they were able to pinpoint specific instances of things tha occurred in the game, and this is the only one that feels like the game wasn't played to completion, or at all. It felt like it was reading something by a third party, as opposed to a first-hand experience that was played and then written about by the person who played it.

The funny thing about the other reviews, though, is that they all came across like they hated the game at first, and then made themselves like it, perhaps for the sake of completing the review. I'll read and watch a little more about the game, but right now I'm not sold.

Was bound to turn out great, wasn't it?

@Zuljaras Wellthe first one made it to retail so I’d say there’s a chance.

@BloodNinja I kindve see where you’re coming from. The first was pretty good but I wouldn’t say it was a 9. I didn’t like some of the sub weapons and it could be a little vague at where to go next.

I noticed the part about all bosses being optional was never mentioned in the review. I was kinda not too keen on that. I hope it doesn't suck the fun out of progression.

@TYRANACLES Indeed! I enjoyed the first one for a few hours, but grew bored of it because it felt too familiar. Perhaps that's why the dev made the sequel so different?

@Zeldafan79 I believe the review at hardcoregamer, rockpapershotgun, or PC gamer, mentioned that. (Sorry, I read a whole bunch this morning to get the scoop on this game.) It seems the boss fights only give out things that improve your drone's stats, and are completely optional.

I'll get to play it a year from now when LRG ships the physical copy.

Oh, look, you can make a Metroidvania and sell it for less than sixty dollars. It's a miracle!

Mmmm will get eventually. The first one is one of a few games I have played an hour of and never went back to, it seemed good but jus didn’t grab me. Hey ho still got that carrion to play soon xxx

One of my favourite series. It will be hard juggling between YS8, Master Blaster Zero 3, Zelda and this. I hate when I drop a game for more than 14 days. I cant get into it again. I just have to buy it though!

@Dualmask I was the same, then tried it. It plays so well!

@NEStalgia Haha, you bloody savage, you!

First game brilliant, still on the fence with this sequel though. There is something about the art style that puts me right off.

I'm so up for this - what I've played of the first one so far on Vita has totally blown me away. The music is immense.

The originals graphics turned me away for ages - but when you actually play it an see how the gameplay, art and especially the music/sound come together – it's a wow moment that games rarely give me these days.

IGN gave it a 7 for some reason.

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...

"Find man's greatest pleasure" later this week

Up to 30% off multiplayer favourites

Title:

Publisher:

Developer:

Genre:

Players:

Switch eShop Release Date:

Series:

Where to buy:

Join 1,198,016 people following Nintendo Life:

© 2021 Nlife Media, partner of ReedPop. Hosted by 44 Bytes.

Review: Axiom Verge 2 - A Fantastic Follow-Up To A Classic Metroidvania

Rock Paper Shotgun 11 August, 2021 - 12:00pm

Version Reviewed: North American

In the comparatively dark days of the Wii U, we often had to focus more on indie games to get us through the worst of the months-long droughts between major first-party releases. Fortunately, various smaller studios stepped up and one such gem was Axiom Verge, an absolutely incredible Metroidvania that was produced in its entirety by just one remarkably talented man. Axiom Verge would’ve been just fine as a standalone release, but evidently Thomas Happ had enough ideas leftover that he felt the need to produce a full-fledged follow up with Axiom Verge 2, a game which feels distinct from its predecessor in some key ways while the core gameplay feels just as polished as it’s ever been, making for an impressively high-quality experience from stem to stern.

Unlike the first game, which saw you playing as a scientist named Trace, the narrative of Axiom Verge 2 follows Indra Chaudhari, a billionaire CEO of a major international conglomerate. There are some real At the Mountains of Madness vibes as Indra finds herself taking a chopper to a remote Antarctic research station owned by her company after receiving a mysterious message that hints that her missing daughter might be there. Unfortunately, all the staff at the base seem to have vanished without a trace, and things are made even worse when Indra accidentally falls into a cave and… drowns. When she comes to, Indra finds that she’s been transported to a different dimension and given a ‘new body’ by a mysterious artificial being.

If there’s one thing that the narrative of Axiom Verge 2 absolutely excels at, it’s keeping the player continuously wondering what on earth is going on. You’re given just enough information that the narrative makes sense, and gaps are slowly filled in as you find optional text logs along the way, but there’s rarely a moment where you feel like you truly understand all the forces at play. You’re not sure whether Indra is dreaming, dead, or something else entirely, which gives all the proceedings a wonderfully vague, fever dream aesthetic. And without spoiling too much, this release does eventually reveal its fascinating connections to the original Axiom Verge.

This time around, gameplay has been mixed up a little bit from the original. Axiom Verge 2 is still a 2D Metroidvania, but combat is now oriented mostly around an ice pick that Indra finds almost immediately. This requires you to get up close and personal with all the enemies you face on this adventure, and while you have a ranged option in the form of a boomerang you get later on, combat has an unmistakably different flow. It’s not necessarily better or worse than what came before, and it’s later expanded upon as you find more secrets in the overworld, but it does feel like this may be the most divisive aspect of the new release.

Luckily, new gameplay ideas still keep both exploration and combat feeling fresh as the experience goes on. For example, you’re given an ability early on that lets you hack any machinery in your immediate vicinity. Not only does this give you the option to overcome a variety of obstacles that once stood in your way, but it also lets you take over most of the enemies you encounter. Via spending consumable points, you can do things like making your foes fight for you or causing them to explode or give out health drops. It’s the slow drip of mechanics like this which fundamentally change the way you look at Axiom Verge 2, making it the sort of game that becomes intensely more enjoyable the longer it goes on.

The creepy, alien hallways of the original release have been traded here for much more naturalistic, open-air environments, but the map feels like it’s overall more cohesively designed. Though you’re given a marker that shows where to go on the map to next advance the story, it feels almost like you can go in just about any direction and make meaningful progress. Important upgrades and tools are scattered everywhere in Axiom Verge 2, which lends it a beautifully non-linear feeling that doesn’t strictly pigeonhole you into sticking to a somewhat linear path.

A big part of this non-linearity is due to the new ‘breach’ mechanic introduced relatively early on. You’re given access to a little spider drone that can access portals dotted around the map, and stepping through one takes the drone to an alternate plane of existence that parallels the one Indra is in. Some of the more elaborate puzzles in Axiom Verge 2 require you to smartly utilize the pathways in one world to find new ones in the next, which makes the already massive world feel that much more labyrinthine and fascinating.

Alongside the more notable upgrades, most regions contain a number of smaller collectibles that feed into the new skill point system. This introduces an RPG-lite aspect to the gameplay loop, as you can choose how you want to build out the abilities of Indra and her robot companion. Things like health, attack speed, and hacking levels can be upgraded with skill points to be more useful, and while it seems like a bit of a strange inclusion at first, the new skill system makes sense in practice. Now, a collectible can theoretically be whatever you want it to be, rather than leaving you possibly disappointed with finding another health upgrade or attack boost you didn’t really need.

Those of you looking for replayability will be pleased to know that Axiom Verge 2 lands perfectly in that sweet spot where it feels neither too long nor too short. It should take you around fifteen hours to see the narrative through to its conclusion, and you can expect to add another ten to that if you want to go for completion. We feel it’s important to further indicate that this journey is exceptionally tight in its overall design, ensuring that those fifteen hours positively fly by once the ball really gets rolling. Plus, those of you who can’t get enough have a speedrun option to look into, which enables you to rush the game in one go without having to deal with any cutscenes, pauses, or randomized content. Axiom Verge 2 may not be infinitely replayable, but there’s something to be said about a game like this which delivers a focused and consistently excellent experience across a modest runtime. There’s no wasted time or unnecessary content here, Axiom Verge 2 is all gas and no brakes.

While the original release was borderline horror with its dark visuals and unsettling music, Axiom Verge 2 feels a little more disarmingly inviting. Though you spend much of your time exploring cold, wild environments and caves, there’s a much broader palette of bright colors employed here. Though it feels like a break from the disturbingly isolating atmosphere that came before (which we loved), we came to appreciate the more varied design of the environments here. Plus, there’s still plenty of weird stuff to behold, and all of it is backed up by a suitably sci-fi soundtrack that keeps you on your toes.

Axiom Verge is a remarkably tough act to follow, but Thomas Happ has done it again in producing a pitch perfect, excellently paced Metroidvania adventure. Axiom Verge 2 perfectly balances familiar elements that made the original great and trying out new ideas that give the sequel its own identity, and while lovers of the first game may take some time to adjust, everything comes together and makes for a potent experience that no fan of the genre will want to miss out on. The mysterious atmosphere, thrilling pace, and fantastic world design all come together to make for a worthy follow up that stands well on its own. Do yourself a favor and pick up Axiom Verge 2 as soon as you can, this is a game that’s absolutely worth your time.

About Mitch Vogel

Mitch has been a fan of Nintendo ever since he got his start on the GBA in 2005. When he's not busy playing games or writing, you can find him down at his local MMA training facility learning how to punish the unrighteous.

Comments (42)

You guys knew it would launch today!

How could you guys have kept it a secret! I would’ve taken tomorrow off! Now I have to wait two whole more days till the weekend

Having heard nothing but good things about the first game over the years, this is what I would have expected from the sequel. Look forward to eventually playing both when I can fit them in.

Man, if I was about to head back to bed, I'm wide awake now after reading this and how it's out today.

Looks like there may be a small launch discount. I may get this today instead of waiting.

Just paid for it. It’ll be waiting for me when I get home. Word.

I still need to grab the first game. I've heard nothing but good things, and it seems the sequel doesn't disappoint!

I already purchased it based on the quality of the original, but it's good to hear that the sequel doesn't go astray. Can't wait to dive in.

I will be getting the LRG copy as there probably will not be regular physical editions.

yeessss. so so glad to hear that it's enough of a departure from the first one while still maintaining what made it good.

Metroidvanias are always a priority to me, so I'll probably start playing this one as soon as I finish Skyward Sword

At least Thomas Happ had proved he is no one hit wonder! I loved the first one, so I will be playing this one too. I just might wait for a small discount for I jump, simply because I want to save some money right now.

Wish it was a week ago and not the last days of holiday but I’m all in regardless!

@Dpullam One man makes a better metroidvania then a group of people Cheers to Thomas, like see him branch out perhaps a RPG !?

just read in another review there's no bosses lol. i can't wait to play this

@Crockin That's false. There are bosses, the main difference is you can now fight them or run away whenever you feel like it. Kinda like lynels in BotW.

I loved the first one but as per usual with me, got a bit stuck and frustrated with a boss. Thanks to @SwitchVogel, I now know there is a run away option. Good!

@Tandy255 10% off for 7 days, it looks like.

@Crockin i think they're all, optional, from what I've heard.

But wishing everyone else a heckin good time!

@SwitchVogel oh cool. either way, i'm into it. ready for it to drop

For some reason, I could never bring myself to pull the trigger when it comes to Axiom Verge. I love non-linear action platformers, but something about the aesthetic bothered me. I keep hearing how amazing this game is, but I can't get past the almost minimalist graphic style. Now I'm on the fence yet again.

Wow, I'd already told myself, no new purchases till Metroid Dread. That promise may be hard to maintain now.

@Dualmask it's a nice looking game, imo. Kinda like a Neo Geo game but there are some nice explosion effects and things. It's really pretty special

I am very tempted, but I have also never quite been able to press the buy button on the original game. The review kind of touches on it, but it sounds like this game could be played before the original. Tempted as it sounds and looks more intriguing to me overall.

@Thaswizz I agree. Wherever his next passion lies, is where he will go next. I do hope he branches out beyond 2D metroidvanias. He has already proven his worth in that genre.

Watching the video while the narrator read the review didn't match what I was seeing. The game looks okay, but it doesn't look very readable, as in the sprites seem to blend into the background a bit. This particular review came across like it was trying to sell me, rather than inform me. Like okay, the reviewer found it to be 9/10, but no game is perfect. So, besides the pickaxe con, I would have liked to have known what this game was weak at, as well as what it was strong at.

The review basically came across as, "I liked it, so you should buy it."

I dunno, I just read about 6 other reviews about this game and they were able to pinpoint specific instances of things tha occurred in the game, and this is the only one that feels like the game wasn't played to completion, or at all. It felt like it was reading something by a third party, as opposed to a first-hand experience that was played and then written about by the person who played it.

The funny thing about the other reviews, though, is that they all came across like they hated the game at first, and then made themselves like it, perhaps for the sake of completing the review. I'll read and watch a little more about the game, but right now I'm not sold.

Was bound to turn out great, wasn't it?

@Zuljaras Wellthe first one made it to retail so I’d say there’s a chance.

@BloodNinja I kindve see where you’re coming from. The first was pretty good but I wouldn’t say it was a 9. I didn’t like some of the sub weapons and it could be a little vague at where to go next.

I noticed the part about all bosses being optional was never mentioned in the review. I was kinda not too keen on that. I hope it doesn't suck the fun out of progression.

@TYRANACLES Indeed! I enjoyed the first one for a few hours, but grew bored of it because it felt too familiar. Perhaps that's why the dev made the sequel so different?

@Zeldafan79 I believe the review at hardcoregamer, rockpapershotgun, or PC gamer, mentioned that. (Sorry, I read a whole bunch this morning to get the scoop on this game.) It seems the boss fights only give out things that improve your drone's stats, and are completely optional.

I'll get to play it a year from now when LRG ships the physical copy.

Oh, look, you can make a Metroidvania and sell it for less than sixty dollars. It's a miracle!

Mmmm will get eventually. The first one is one of a few games I have played an hour of and never went back to, it seemed good but jus didn’t grab me. Hey ho still got that carrion to play soon xxx

One of my favourite series. It will be hard juggling between YS8, Master Blaster Zero 3, Zelda and this. I hate when I drop a game for more than 14 days. I cant get into it again. I just have to buy it though!

@Dualmask I was the same, then tried it. It plays so well!

@NEStalgia Haha, you bloody savage, you!

First game brilliant, still on the fence with this sequel though. There is something about the art style that puts me right off.

I'm so up for this - what I've played of the first one so far on Vita has totally blown me away. The music is immense.

The originals graphics turned me away for ages - but when you actually play it an see how the gameplay, art and especially the music/sound come together – it's a wow moment that games rarely give me these days.

IGN gave it a 7 for some reason.

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...

"Find man's greatest pleasure" later this week

Up to 30% off multiplayer favourites

Title:

Publisher:

Developer:

Genre:

Players:

Switch eShop Release Date:

Series:

Where to buy:

Join 1,198,016 people following Nintendo Life:

© 2021 Nlife Media, partner of ReedPop. Hosted by 44 Bytes.

Technology Stories