It's good to be back. When Axiom Verge 2 (PS5, SD) released last year, I felt it got unfairly ignored because it had less of a Contra-vibe compared to the first. That instalment presented a veritable weapon extravaganza to the point that it felt like overkill. Somehow, the “shooty-shooty-bang-bang” players really started to hammer on this one, while the more appropriate Castlevania-crowd didn’t even look at it. It's so strange. Because, AV2 really is the Castlevania to the first one’s Metroid and deserves a lot more recognition.
Those differences don't bother me in the slightest. On the contrary, I really love the game's approach to accessibility, making this as easy or as difficult as you wish. Hell, because you can make yourself invincible, you can even change the genre from metroidvania to a 2D-Myst in a fashion.
I also like (for now) how the game is not as ingrained as the Metroids I've played, so there's still a bit more to explore and uncover than usual in replays. Regardless the game remains mesmerizing, and I look forward to replaying this yet again on Steam Deck after completing the PS5-version.
The other thing I played last week was The DioField Chronicle Demo (PS5). And this one is a proper odd duck.
First off, the presentation. The intro and soundtrack really, really want to channel Game of Thrones vibes, but it just doesn't get there with 3D-graphics that look like an upscaled PS3-game. There's some weird generational uncanny valley stuff going on here.
But it's the game itself that confused me a bit. With the GoT vibes and a Final Fantasy Tactics-like tableau of political scheming in the foreground, you do expect something a bit chewy. But nope. This is a straight MOBA ✕ JRPG mix-up instead. Take your party of four and brute-force your way through enemies. Input speed is incredibly important here, even with the game's option to halt time when selecting commands. And while normal mobs are easy enough, bosses can wipe you in mere seconds, and I'm really not sure I'm liking the pendulum swinging about this wildly.
As mentioned, the story feels like it wants to be all big boy politics, but instead it comes across as severely summarized. There's little to no character development; no bonds being built or broken. Instead, it leans heavily on "while the screen faded to black, this and that happened" scenes and it glosses over so many things that your units characters responding to each other becomes more disingenuous as time moves on. It'll then display the next mission with the same sophisticated fantasy politics pretence once you select a new mission, but blimey that'll grate real quick without anything to back it up.
As a final oddity, the game seems genuinely designed with touchscreen controls in mind. That in itself doesn't have to be bad, but there are also three - what look like - "premium" currencies displayed next to my normal currency in the menu screen, and I'm very worried about what that might mean. Have Square Enix launched this demo with monetization turned off? Is this meant to be free-to-play mobile MOBA game to start with? Why will the full game be 60 euros on consoles then?
In the end this left a very bitter aftertaste and I'll be skipping the full game's release until I get hold of some proper reviews and impressions, because I'm not sure this duck actually quacks.