|Developer(s)||Thomas Happ Games|
|Publisher(s)||Thomas Happ Games|
|Engine||Microsoft XNA (Windows) / MonoGame (non-Windows platforms)|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch|
Axiom Verge is a Metroidvania video game by American indie developer Thomas Happ. The game was originally released in March 2015 in North America and April 2015 in Europe and Australia for PlayStation 4. It was released in May 2015 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux. A PlayStation Vita version was released in April 2016. The Wii U and Xbox One versions were released in North America and Europe in September 2016. A Nintendo Switch version was released in October 2017.
Axiom Verge is a side-scroller action-adventure game where the player controls Trace, a scientist who, after suffering a crippling injury, wakes up in an ancient and high-tech world. The game focuses on action and exploration, and features over 60 items and power-ups. The gameplay borrows elements from classic games such as Metroid, Contra, Blaster Master, and Bionic Commando, among others.
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Trace, a scientist is running a lab experiment in New Mexico, U.S. when an explosion knocks him out. He awakens inside an egg-shaped machine on the alien world of Sudra. A disembodied voice leads Trace to The Axiom Disruptor, a powerful gun. Trace explores Sudra, using the gun to protect himself from massive monsters that attack him in the name of "Athetos". Trace reawakens inside similar egg-shaped machines each time he dies, and defeats each beast one by one.
Trace eventually reaches the source of the voice: a massive and broken mechanical head named Elsenova. Elsenova tells Trace he must reactivate a piece of Sudran machinery called a "Power Filter" or she will die. Trace agrees to help. After Trace finds and repairs the Power Filter, Elsenova explains that the universe is divided in two: the Worldstream and the Breach. The Breach is a massive storm between worlds. Sudra exists to keep the Breach in check. But long ago, a man named Athetos emerged from the Breach and eradicated the Sudrans by releasing a pathogen. The only survivors were mechanical giants like Elsenova, known as the Rusalki. Unable to defeat them, Athetos used a Breach Attractor machine to envelop Sudra in the Breach and trap the Rusalki on the planet. Elsenova says that another Rusalka, Ophelia, entered the Breach and found Trace inside. Trace agrees to reactivate the Rusalki's repair drones and revive Ophelia, so that he can retrieve more answers from her.
On the way, Trace discovers two more Rusalki. Elsenova explains that the first, Veruska, is a dangerous ally who has power over dreams. The second, Katrahashka, was killed by the other Rusalki after siding with Athetos. Elsenova also reveals that the monsters Trace encounters are Athetos's former followers, warped by the pathogen they once spread.
Trace successfully reactivates the repair drones needed to fix Ophelia, but soon begins hallucinating. Elsenova realizes that Trace has contracted the pathogen, and explains he must get to Ophelia to stop the infection. Trace struggles to Ophelia, but the infection progresses until he becomes delirious and collapses.
While unconscious, Trace begins to remember life on Earth after the explosion in New Mexico. The explosion was an accident caused by a frozen valve. Trace lost his ability to walk and became partially blind, but the incident gave him a new perspective and allowed him to formulate a new, revolutionary theory of physics. Trace's published ideas were ridiculed by the scientific community, who shunned him, leading them to start calling him "Athetos" (meaning "without place" in Greek).
Trace awakens in front of Ophelia. Ophelia explains she retrieved him using drones and she treated the pathogen. Ophelia also explains that Earth is one of many worlds in the Breach, as well as the homeworld of Athetos. Ophelia claims she was damaged when she entered the Breach to find a "PatternMind" from Earth – someone who can manipulate reality at will – and extracted Trace. Ophelia says only PatternMinds can survive the pathogen or use the Axiom Disruptor, although she does not know what exactly makes Trace a PatternMind. Elsenova reveals that Athetos is above them in a space elevator containing the Breach Attractor machine. If Trace can destroy it, she promises the Rusalki will send him home. Trace suspects the Rusalki know that he and Athetos are somehow the same person, but keeps silent.
Trace proceeds through Sudra, finding a disfigured clone of Athetos. The player can choose to watch the clone die, or kill it. Trace realizes the massive monsters are actually mutated clones of Athetos, and demands answers from the Rusalki. Ophelia reveals that Athetos first came to Sudra as a young man and recorded his biological data using the strange egg-shaped machine inside which Trace awoke. The original Athetos then re-entered the Breach, emerging after a long time to begin his genocide. The Rusalka hoped that a clone of the young Athetos would help them against his older self, and used Athetos' recorded data to create Trace. Trace expresses distrust of the Rusalka and insists on talking to Athetos personally. Elsenova responds by remotely killing Trace.
Trace reawakens inside another egg-shaped machine. Ophelia contacts him and explains she revived him. Ophelia proposes that she will allow Trace to speak with Athetos so long as he shuts down the Breach Attractor. In the meantime, she will persuade Elsenova. Trace agrees. Ophelia then shows Trace to the hangar where the Rusalki's bodies are kept, revealing that they are in fact massive war machines that could obliterate Athetos if only Trace disables the Breach Attractor.
As Trace approaches the elevator where Athetos waits, Elsenova appears with her fully repaired body. She tells Trace that although she cannot survive in the Breach, she will help Trace fight Athetos if he disables the Breach Attractor. She also apologizes for killing Trace, and promises that in exchange for Trace's cooperation she will not kill Athetos.
Trace reaches Athetos's elevator. He finds Athetos suspended in a massive tank of liquid designed to protect him from the pathogen. Trace demands answers, but Athetos claims the Rusalki would kill Trace if he learned the whole truth. However, Athetos does explain that there is a world beyond Sudra with even more advanced technology. Sudra used to be a port to that advanced world, but over time the Sudrans forgot their technological expertise and saw the outside universe as religiously taboo. To reach the advanced world and bring its technology back to Earth, Athetos exterminated the Sudran people. However, the Rusalki's survival halted Athetos' plan. Rather than let such powerful enemies roam free in the universe, Athetos decided to trap them. He attracted the Breach to Sudra and shut down the Rusalki's maintenance technology, but not before they destroyed a portable device that protected Athetos against the pathogen and forced him into the tank.
Trace decides to fight Athetos alongside Elsenova, and they destroy the Breach Attractor machine. However, Elsenova claims Athetos is too dangerous and breaks her promise, killing Athetos. Elsenova tells Trace that the Rusalki will now return him home. Trace is mysteriously overtaken by exhaustion and falls asleep.
Trace awakens back to Earth after the lab accident, finding history has been altered so that the explosion did not injure him. However, Trace develops an obsession with returning to Sudra and quits his job to research it, following Athetos' path. If the player ends the game with a high completion rate, just as Trace is about to succeed on his research, Athetos himself appears and tells Trace he cannot outrun himself. After telling Trace that it is "time to wake up", Athetos shoots Trace.
Development and release
Axiom Verge is an independent project by Petroglyph Games engineer Tom Happ, who has worked on games such as End of Nations, NFL Street, and the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series. Happ also worked on a Game Boy Advance project named Orn, a small Metroid fangame. He is the sole developer, artist, and musician of the game, and began work on it in March 2010 as a side project.
An alpha build of the game was submitted to the 2012 Dream Build Play challenge on May 15. The game was originally expected to be released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 in 2013, but was ultimately delayed. In 2014, Axiom Verge was included in Indie Statik's list of Top 100 Most Anticipated Indie Games Of 2014. In April 2014, it was announced that Axiom Verge would be released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in early 2015. On May 14, 2015, Axiom Verge was released for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and OS X. The PlayStation Vita version of the game was released in North America on April 19, 2016, and in Europe the following day.
In March 2015, it was revealed that a Wii U version has been initially considered, but was not possible at the time due to technical issues, particularly with the game's engine, MonoGame, lacking native support for Nintendo's platform. However, Nintendo were interested in having Axiom Verge come to the Wii U. In March 2016, it was confirmed the game would finally arrive on Wii U, and was slated for a September 1, 2016 release in North America and Europe. Thomas Happ originally intended to include an unlockable Samus Aran costume in the Wii U version, but Nintendo did not approve. At one point, a Nintendo 3DS version of Axiom Verge was also considered. Thomas Happ announced after the Nintendo Switch was revealed that he hoped Nintendo would send him a developer kit so he could begin porting Axiom Verge to the new system. A port was later confirmed alongside the special, physical Multiverse Edition.
In October 2015, Thomas Happ Games teamed up with IndieBox, a monthly subscription box service, to create a custom-designed, physical release of Axiom Verge. The limited, individually numbered, collector's edition included a flash drive with a DRM-free copy of the game, official soundtrack, instruction manual, Steam key, and several custom-made collectible items. High demand for this physical version caused the IndieBox website to crash.
Six years after its initial release, Axiom Verge received a downloadable content update in 2021, featuring a new gameplay mode that randomizes item locations. The update was a collaboration between Happ and Axiom Verge's speedrunning community, who had unofficially developed a mod for this game mode and were looking to officially add it to the game.
In February 2017, Spanish game distributor BadLand Games announced they were collaborating with Thomas Happ to publish Axiom Verge as a retail title. In addition to a standard retail release only for the PlayStation 4, a special, limited Axiom Verge: Multiverse Edition was to be available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Wii U during Q2 2017 in both North America and Europe. The Multiverse Edition would include a physical copy of the game, a deluxe booklet with developer commentary and art, a double-sided poster, and a making-of documentary on Blu-Ray (initially announced as being on a DVD). BadLand Games expected to announce the Multiverse Edition for other platforms later on. In June 2017, it was confirmed that the Multiverse Edition was going to release worldwide in the following August, and will also be available for the Nintendo Switch with exclusive Soundtrack CD. However, for reasons unknown, the release was delayed to October 17, 2017. That date was not kept either, and ultimately the Multiverse Edition was released on November 21, 2017, in North America. The European release happened on January 29, 2018. A physical edition of the Wii U version was distributed by Limited Run Games on March 29, 2019.
The game received critical acclaim upon release, with praise particularly directed to its setting, weapons, boss battles, control, upgrades and secrets featured. Aggregating review website Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version 84/100 based on 61 reviews.
Jeff Gerstmann from Giant Bomb gave the game a perfect score, praising its huge variety of weapons, as well as its rewarding and worthwhile upgrades. He also praised the game for encouraging players to reach 100% completion, the audio and visuals for evolving in meaningful ways while being similar to those of the 8-bits and 16-bits era. Regarding the difficulty of the game, he stated that it "makes things challenging without making them overtly frustrating". He summarized the review by saying that "If you've ever been into this sort of action-adventure game, Axiom Verge is positively terrific."
Peter Brown from GameSpot gave the game an 8/10 rating, praising its high replay value, surprising and rewarding story, occasionally breathtaking scenery as well as the setting, which he stated "instills a strong mixture of curiosity and dread". The game's secrets, large selection of weapons and soundtracks were also praised. He also particularly praised one of the weapons featured, the Address Disruptor, calling it "one of the most interesting weapons or tools that I've ever seen in a game." He summarized the review by saying that "Axiom Verge is a game that's easy to fall in love with because it hits so many high notes. It takes the Metroidvania model and adds layers of ingenuity that are in a league all of their own. It's not a stretch to say that Axiom Verge is better than the games that inspired it, because it's so inventive and thoughtfully crafted."
Marty Sliva from IGN gave the game a 7.9/10. While praising its satisfying character progression, challenging boss encounters, responsive control and great sense of movement and combat, he criticized the forgettable story, characters that can't be related to and the map-design, which never evolves throughout the game and discourages exploration. He added that the game doesn't have enough distant and memorable regions. He also criticized the game for being too familiar with the Metroid series and for lacking a clear objective.
Thomas Ella of Hardcore Gamer gave the game a 4/5 and described it as "a 2D side-scrolling game with a vast, open world divided into distinct rooms, an array of weapons and power-ups and a map screen laid out in a grid for easy tracking of where you've been and where you might need to go next."
|The Game Awards 2015||Best Independent Game||Nominated|||
During the 2019 Indie World presentation, Happ revealed that a sequel is in development, titled Axiom Verge 2, and was planned to release for Nintendo Switch in Fall 2020. In October 2020, it was announced that the game was delayed to the first half of 2021.
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