Sometimes a game comes out that doesn’t try to be the huge market changing product that bridges players and non-game players together such as Fortnite, Minecraft, or Beat Saber. Sometimes a game simply just wants you to have fun. Simple, silly, and occasionally difficult fun that doesn’t ask too much of its game engine and works well on whatever system you might be running.
This is Axegend. From Subversion Squad Studio; it’s an extremely simple, rogue-like wave fighter that initially looks cheap with sub-par graphics. That’s until you open up the chest full of life and personality that lies within. I think the best way to describe Axegend is that it’s an extremely charming game. Despite its goofy graphics which sometimes can hint at a lack of polish, the opposite is true with Axegend because so much character and personality go into these graphics. The base idea of the game is you need to defeat wave after wave of monsters in order to advance to the level boss and save the princess. You do this by attacking with swords, bows; the typical fantasy fare. In between missions you can take place in minigames to up your gold reward. Is it original? Not really. But is it fun? Yes, it’s extremely fun. See, to aid you in your never-ending war against the evil creatures in Axegend are some fantastically animated and creative weapons. Swords don’t just slash, they charge up with magical energy and unleash shockwaves at the enemy. Axes aren’t just for swinging, they’re for throwing too. Another bow and arrow? Yawn. How about a bow and arrow that rains arrows when fired into the sky? Yup, that’s more like it. Boomerangs, spell shooting scepters and more are at your disposal when it comes to combat. While Axegend isn’t based around a realistic physics system like Blade and Sorcery or Hellsplit: Arena, the combat is responsive enough to keep you hooked.
What kind of enemies will you be seeing during your time with Axegend though? Is it the same old, same old? Well, yes and no. While you’ll be seeing your typical goblins and orcs, you’ll also be seeing some truly strange creatures trying to take you down. A lantern enemy hung on a string fires purple orbs at, one eye bat creatures spit acid at you, a goblin dancing to techno music taunts you through some maps. It’s spectacularly weird and refreshing and makes you excited to see what type of enemy will walk through the dungeon doors next. To aid you in dealing with these enemies are several different traps that can help out. These vary from fire pits to decoys and launching pads to fire you or enemies across the maps. Enemies don’t just walk into these things without a reaction either, they each have their own animation to being launched across the map, or lit on fire. Skeletons have my favorite reaction as their skulls light on fire and they become even more dangerous. Orcs on the other hand jump around grabbing their burning feet. It’s creative and it’s hilarious. Personality is something that is often lacking in many VR titles and thankfully Axegend delivers it in spades. The gameplay is very specific though, so you should know going in that this isn’t going to be some sprawling RPG a la Asgard’s Wrath or Skyrim VR. It’s a wave fighter that’s meant to be played in short bursts as the gameplay can get exhausting and on the harder difficulties can be downright brutal in its challenges. Axegend is a great game to introduce people to VR with though because the action is fast and there’s very little downtime so you get to see all it has to offer pretty quickly. The rogue-like nature of the gameplay allows for an ever-changing dungeon and enemy layout which lets multiple playthroughs become an easy thing to want to achieve.
Like most VR action games, we’re going to want the area cleared of any breakable objects as there will be tons of flailing and slashing going on during your time with Axegend. The experience can be amplified with ankle or wrist weights and doing so will provide a more immersive experience as you’ll feel the weight of the weapons more that way.
I recorded my 30-minute workout in Axegend using a Fitbit. I played the game on a Samsung Odyssey Plus, Windows Mixed Reality Headset.
Calories burned: 227
Calories burned per minute: 7
Average Heart Rate: 115
Max Heart Rate: 131
Active Minutes: 31
I found my time with Axegend to be a pretty intense experience as the harder difficulties required me to do quite a bit of dodging and slashing in order to fell my foes, the spiders, in particular, made my heart race because they are huge and large in numbers. The most intense moments happened during the boss battles and when you’re trying to free the princess from her prison. These scenarios test your endurance and blocking and dodging ability as you’re typically overpowered by the enemies coming at you on screen. Satisfying finisher attacks that slow the game down for a stylish death sequence give you a bit of a reprieve from the action, but overall, you’re in for a fast and frenetic fight for your life.
Swords, shields, bows? Yeah, you better stretch before the battle starts in Axegend as those wings are going to be the primary source of exercise during your gameplay. The great part about the gameplay here is the variety. Depending on your playstyle, you could be a primary bow user pulling back the string constantly and launching magical arrow rain attacks, or you could be a two-handed sword wielding beast that takes down enemies with a charged blade that fires shockwaves across the arena while you swing. The variety only adds to your workout so the more close-combat and archery you choose to do, the more those arms are going to be sore the next day.
Your legs can be involved in a few ways while you’re taking on the enemies of Axegend.
The first way is dodging. Despite the simple graphics, Axegend respects your body movement and incorporates it whenever it can. You can fully dodge any attack if you have the space making it able to do so. This means any Orc charging you with an ax or any weird flying creatures firing energy blasts at you can be avoided with a simple side hop. The other way your legs can be used is by ducking under enemy attacks to get too weak points. During the waves of enemies attacking, some will be more armored than others and require attacking from a different angle. Keeping your legs bent will not only be better for combat but also keep you from getting stiffness while playing. The more you keep your footwork active by stepping into your attacks, the better your legs will feel for it. Standing in place and slashing for hours at a time is not a good idea.
Core and Balance-7/10
I found my core muscles got the best workout when I was using the various special attacks. For example, you can throw your ax, and based on the strength you put into throwing it, that’s how far it’s going to go. Your energy blast from your sword also requires a bit of torque to send them flying. Do this enough times during a mission and you’re going to feel it big time in your core muscles. Flying enemies are particularly tough to fight with melee weapons, so the energy blast will be the best option of attack and on harder difficulties, they will take quite a few blasts to take down.
Time Perception- 9/10
During my time with Axegend, I never once checked my phone to see what time it was. The action comes so smoothly and quickly that you are rarely faced with endless downtime that some larger budget VR titles might throw at you. This isn’t a game about amazing scenery or stopping to smell the roses, this is about the action and the levels and enemies come at you in short bursts that will allow you to tackle Axegend in quick gameplay sessions. There aren’t exactly a lot of modes that will keep you busy, but the core gameplay is enough to occupy some short play sessions if you so choose.
If there is one thing that rogue-likes are good at it is creating replay value. A rogue-like gives the player a randomly generated level every time they start a play session so you technically will never get the same level twice. Until You Fall started it in VR, Crawling of the Dead followed, and Axegend right behind. It’s a great way to artificially create game length and while it can feel a little samey on occasion, the random weapons and environments are varied enough that you never are bored. While it’s not the longest game, if you incorporate a workout into it, it won’t matter. There isn’t any engaging story to have to sit through, it’s just a goofy and fun action romp for an extremely affordable price.
Fitness Scalability- 9/10
If there’s one thing I believe every game, VR or not should have, it’s choices of difficulty. Some people simply want their experience to challenge them and in VR’s case, that becomes a physical challenge. Luckily with Axegend, we get just that. Several difficulty modes are available from the start and experiencing most of the game on hard difficulty myself, I can assure you that it is a grueling physical challenge and you’re going to have to be smart and strategic with your weapons and resources if you wish to survive. For those looking for a less grueling workout, the easier difficulties are there for a casual battle that requires very little physical activity and you can basically wave your weapon at enemies and they’ll fall. All in all, there’s a nice variety of ways to scale your workouts within Axegend.
Dizziness/ Nausea- 8/10
I was pretty much fine throughout my time with Axegend, but there are a few things that can be disorienting. The first is the colors. This is a brightly colored game and your eyes might be a bit strained from all the colorful effects happening all around you at all times. If you’re good with that, the other thing that may have a negative effect on you is the launch pads. If you decide to use these traps, you launch yourself and your enemies violently across the map and that can be a bit jarring when it happens. It’s not a requirement, but the gameplay encourages the use of traps like this, so it is something to keep in mind.
Social Competition- 1/10
There are no current multiplayer features to Axegend. While there is a tavern area to go to in between missions, it is only filled with NPCS. The gameplay could benefit from a co-op feature, but for now, there is nothing of that sort.
VR Fit Score- 7.5/10
Axegend is a creative and charisma filled romp through a cartoony fantasy world that has a great array of weapons and playstyles that will keep you busy long after you’ve completed the main campaign. The graphics are not demanding at all and the weapons each have a special ability that elevates them above your typical fantasy arsenal. Enemies are brought to life with amazing animations and reactions that keep your right in the moment as you’re staring down an enemy horde.
It’s a rogue-like, so if you’re not crazy about the basic wave-based gameplay, it’s not going to change all that much. There is no real physics system in action so if you’re used to more intense and realistic fare like The Walking Dead: Sinners and Saints or Boneworks, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not the longest game and it relies on the randomly generated levels to keep you playing.
Axegend is available for $9.99 on Steam and has a free demo available as well