Review | Battle Axe

Review | Battle Axe

LifeisXbox’s Battle Axe review | Over 1800 people supported Battle Axe on Kickstarter and I easily understand why. This top-down arcade adventure game from developer Bitmap Bureau looks great for pixel-gamer fans, screenshots are really selling this game! This familiar hack and slash experience might do great because of the unparalleled visuals, but there is a lot to be said about some other aspects.

We played Battle Axe for three hours on Xbox Series X.

What we liked!

  • Stunning pixel-visuals | Hand-drawn graphics with smooth and stunning animations, it is immediately clear that a lot of attention and detail went into creating the characters and four locations. And not with some magical filters or lazy development tools to speed up the creating progress. No, this game received a lot of retro love from the developers! Facial expressions from the playable characters while attacking, hit animations from mobs, or the variation in the four locations. Everything is remarkably good-looking and the sole reason why players will remember Battle Axe, I’m sure I will!

Somewhere between

  • Lackluster combat | Battle Axe has fun enough combat but it doesn’t do enough to really spark it up. It all starts by choosing one of the three characters. Fae, Lolo, or my favorite Rooney, but I see him as Gimly from the Lord of the Rings. Each one of them has a ranged attack (which you’ll be using the most), a close attack, and a dash attack that is good for killing multiple enemies while dodging attacks. You might think that’s plenty of options but that’s not really the case, Battle Axe is nothing more than a game where you’ll press X hundreds of times to kill everything in your way. You won’t have to change your combat tactics or use clever ways to overcome the horde of mobs. Satisfying, absolutely but I lacked depth and creativity.
    • Lackluster combat #2 boss fights | Here’s my main disappointment in Battle Axe, this sort of game should make boss fights impressive. The combat system should make a difference and force the player into using tactical possibilities. None of that happens, as every boss fight is simply spamming the ranged attack and avoiding easy attack patterns. For the first pirate ship boss, you’ll have to avoid cannon fire while constantly pressing the X-button. This tactic repeats for all the other bosses, there isn’t a single original idea or notable aspect that stands out. Seriously, I can’t count how many spider bosses I had to defeat in multiple games… and yeah, this repetitive decision that developers continue to make happens in Battle Axe too, as the last boss of area two is a huge ugly spider. Look, the boss fights aren’t boring or anything but it lacks something fresh and challenging.
      • Lackluster combat #3 new game+ | NG+ is another fine example of missing gameplay ideas. I like that the option is there but it doesn’t do anything new or fresh. More enemies are thrown at you, some chests have nasty surprises and the levels are mirrored. Feels a bit like something they added in quickly because they knew that they lacked content.
  • Infinite mode | This randomized mode felt visually off and pale compared to the wonderful campaign levels, a lot of the eye magic is completely gone here. From a gameplay aspect though it was surprisingly addictive, here the big change is that you need to find every villager so a portal opens to the next level. This simply goes on forever and ever. Very arcade-like but the combat (again) lacks punch for it to truly be something that you’ll play for many hours.

What we disliked

  • Expensive price tag | My jaw dropped a bit when I checked the price for Battle Axe, โ‚ฌ30 is really pushing it. With only four medium-sized areas, three playable characters, and a rather dull infinite mode I was expecting it to be around โ‚ฌ15. Okay, you have a fun local co-op option and the visuals and sound are wonderful but the price is high for what the game is tossing at you.
  • The game doesn’t explain anything | There’s no such thing as a tutorial for Battle Axe, a bit weird that the game simply jumps straight into the action without explaining controls or the level point system. I was constantly getting E-rankings, despite finding every villager and gems. After a while I understood that none of that is required for high rankings, you just have to keep your combo-meter up without getting hit. Also, you can purchase upgrades and items from the merchant between stages but the icons don’t have any sort of description. So again you feel at a loss because you don’t know what will happen if you spend your coins on something. Even after buying something I had no clue what it actually did, very confusing!

CONCLUSION

59%

Battle Axe is one hell of a great-looking retro game but that impressive first impression quickly vanishes when you start playing it. The challenging gameplay misses some fresh ideas and the combat lacks depth and tactical possibilities. Battle Axe remains a fun experience but never really becomes something that stands out, except the exquisite visuals of course.
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