As an avid speedrunner, the ‘Metroidvania’ genre has always been close to my heart. Combining exploration with tight, skillful combat and clever puzzle-solving, these games offer a rich tapestry of challenges that keep me coming back for more. However, not all Metroidvania games are created equal. I tend to be critical of titles that don’t fully capitalize on the genre’s potential for intricate maps and rewarding item progression. Axiom Verge, however, nails it in almost every aspect, making it a standout title worth your time and skill.

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Axiom Verge masterfully balances exploration and combat. You play as Trace, a scientist who wakes up in a mysterious, alien world after a lab accident. The game makes you feel like a true pioneer, charting unexplored territories and uncovering ancient mysteries. The labyrinthine world is filled with secrets waiting to be discovered, and believe me, you’ll want to find every last one of them.

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The controls are tight and responsive, crucial for a game in which precision and timing can mean the difference between life and death. The array of weapons and items at your disposal is staggering. Each has unique behaviors and strategic uses, adding layers to both combat and puzzle-solving. Speedrunners like me will appreciate the plethora of potential route optimizations and glitch exploits baked into the game.

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The real joy of Axiom Verge lies in its combat mechanics and weapon discoveries. From the multi-directional power of the Nova gun to the game-breaking potential of the Address Disruptor, each weapon offers a fresh experience and can turn the tide of battle. Combat against biomechanoid enemies and the remnants of an ancient war keeps you on your toes, ensuring that no encounter feels rote or repetitive.

While Axiom Verge excels in many areas, it’s not without its flaws. The game’s pacing occasionally falters, with certain segments feeling a bit too drawn out. Some parts of the labyrinth can become tedious to navigate, especially during the backtracking segments that are almost a staple in Metroidvania games. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between, and they hardly detract from the overall experience.

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Axiom Verge perfectly captures the essence of 16-bit classics while elevating them with a modern sheen. The pixel art is lovingly crafted, and every environment oozes atmosphere and detail. The soundscape is equally impressive, with a haunting, ambient soundtrack that complements the game’s eerie, otherworldly vibe.

The storyline is another strong point. It weaves a complex narrative involving life, death, and the nature of reality itself. The mysteries of the world slowly unfold as you progress, keeping you engaged and eager to learn more. Dialogues are well-written, and the characters, although sparingly used, leave a lasting impression.

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Axiom Verge is a must-play for fans of the Metroidvania genre. Its intricate gameplay mechanics, engaging storyline, and challenging combat make it a standout title. While it does have its minor flaws, they are easily overshadowed by its numerous strengths. For speedrunners, it’s a goldmine of route potentials and glitch opportunities, making it both a joy and a challenge to master.

If you love action-adventure games that reward exploration, clever combat, and intricate puzzle-solving, Axiom Verge is a game you shouldn’t miss. It captures the spirit of retro classics while adding its unique twists, making it a thoroughly modern masterpiece. While it’s not perfect, it’s about as close as one can get in this beloved genre.

Embrace the challenge, uncover the secrets, and master the glitches. Axiom Verge awaits!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Gaming Tip for Beginners

Tip: Experiment with every weapon and ability you find. Some items may seem niche but can be game-changers in specific scenarios or against certain enemies. Take the time to explore and test everything.

Want to check it out yourself? Click here to see it on Steam.