Kill me, kill me now!
Golden Axe is one of the most beloved video game franchises in history. Its simple hack and slash gameplay has inspired countless other titles, and it’s regarded as an all-time classic. So it pains me to say it but the latest instalment in the series, Golden Axe: Beast Rider, is a severe disappointment.
It starts off with the combat, which is mediocre at best. You have two attack manoeuvres: powerful and fast; neither of them are particularly exciting, and the combos are pretty boring and ultimately it‘s a very unsatisfying experience - even if chopping off limbs can be fun for a while. Frustration continues to mount when you start getting hit by off-screen enemies. When you’re fighting what’s in front of you, more enemies will respawn around the area, so you often won’t see them coming. The berserked enemies are by far the worst though. There is no let-up in their attacks, so if you get knocked down it’s very hard to get back up again. Whoever thought this was fun? However, this doesn’t compare to the infuriating defensive moves.
Once again there are two to chose from with a dodge and parry. The dodge works fine and allows you to avoid enemy attacks and then counter-attack. The parry system, on the other hand, is a pain. The animation is poor in general, but here it actually disrupts the gameplay. You see, Tyris goes into an animation when you press the parry button, resulting in a slight delay before she actually sets up the block. This wouldn’t be so bad if she remained in the parry stance if you hold the button down, but instead she drops her weapon back down to her side. Because of this you have to time the parry exactly, otherwise you’ll end up getting hit every time. It’s a major annoyance, especially when you can’t chose whether to dodge or parry - enemies will glow orange before attacking to signal that you need to dodge, or blue to parry.
Even the actual Golden Axe is implemented poorly. It’s thrown at objects using a clunky aiming system that’s excruciatingly hard to use with enemies around, rendering it kind of pointless. The only fun I had with it was when I threw it at enemy across a river. It didn’t kill him, but got him mad, so he tried to come after me, stepped into the water and randomly exploded.
The beasts from the title don’t really add anything new to the gameplay either. They’re very sluggish to turn so you can easily become surrounded by enemies that will hit you off at the first opportunity. To fight back you still only have two attack options, much like the on-foot gameplay. However, for a lot of the beasts, one of the attacks will actually drain their health, so it’s pretty pointless using it. The sword combat is better than this, and that’s saying something.
The visuals are ok, but the level design is very bland and uninspired, and everything is set to a brown colour palette. There’s also no reason why you enter these environments. Whilst the story is fairly decent, it’s still a nonsensical mess and only really serves to move you from location to location. Levels also end rather abruptly, and then continue on from where you were anyway. Seems weird why they didn’t just carry it on with save points spread around each area. The rest of the visuals don’t hold up much hope either. Character models are low-res, and there’s a lot of screen tearing and the occasional framerate issues - with the game sometimes coming to a complete halt for a couple seconds.
The sound is passable, although the music is so quiet it’s hard to even hear it. I suppose the only good feature about Golden Axe: Beast Rider is the little homages to the original game. Die hard fans of the series will enjoy these, and for what it’s worth they may enjoy the simple hack and slash nature of the rest of the game, even with all of its flaws.
Still, they will be severely disappointed to find that Beast Rider is a single player game only. One of the best aspects of the original Golden Axe was the co-op play; many days were spent playing it with friends, so it’s baffling why it wasn’t included here.
The only other game modes are arena based stuff, so it’s not much to get excited about. The combat isn’t any good in the main game, so needing to use it to battle tons of enemies isn’t something you’re going to want to try out.
I can’t really recommend Golden Axe: Beast Rider to anyone, apart from maybe the die hard fans. The combat can be fun, but ultimately it’s rather boring and uninspired, the beasts are sluggish and unresponsive, and the defence is just plain annoying. This is just more proof that some franchises should stay dead, no matter how good they were back in the day.