Golden Axe: Beast Rider Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Golden Axe: Beast Rider, the latest in a long line of retro revivals, has enough gnomes, beasts and characters from past games featured to still be considered a true Golden Axe game. From a gameplay standpoint, the game also has its similarities to previous games, although to cater for today’s increasingly picky gamers it’s much deeper. Beast Rider also owes plenty to the PS3’s underrated Heavenly Sword.

The original Golden Axe featured three characters: A beefy male warrior, a grizzled old dwarf and a flimsily dressed female warrior. Take a guess, which one of this bunch would shift the most copies? Answer: Tyris the flimsily dressed female warrior, obviously. So, there you go, Golden Axe: Beast Rider has you playing as Tyris, who has red hair, similarly to Heavenly Sword’s Nariko and, yes, she’s clad in very little.

Something the game doesn’t share with Heavenly Sword is its highly substantial storyline. Golden Axe: Beast Rider’s plot is essentially a revenge driven story, which has Tyris attempting to get revenge for her fallen clan by restoring the titular Golden Axe. There are few cut-scenes throughout and what’s there is brief and not terribly interesting. Most of the paper thin storyline is actually told on the loading screens, which is not a particularly exciting method of telling a story, but could please fans of the original who have become disheartened with the games (the type that are just bursting at the seams with a high volume of cut-scenes) of today, and just want to get on with the hacking and slashing business.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider is like Heavenly Sword in more areas than just its flame haired heroine. It also has in place a colour coded counter system, and its graphical style even has a hint of Ninja Theory’s game in it, though this smaller budget offering obviously doesn‘t look half as nice, its uninspired and boring level design doesn’t help matters in this area.

On the surface, the combat system is very simplistic and Tyris has a limited move-set, that doesn’t evolve as you make your way through the game (though in comparison to the earlier games, it‘s certainly a step up). There are only a handful of combos, but magic is also an option, whilst the titular beasts further vary your attacks. For the bloodthirsty amongst you there’s also gallons of spurting claret featured.

This seemingly shallow combat system is deceptive and has hidden complexities, which will handsomely reward the players with the time and patience to explore the inner mechanics to their fullest. It’s all built around a Titan reward system that encourages skill beyond just the hacking and slashing sort. Well timed combos and counters will net you extra gold (of which unlocks magic, weapons and new costumes for Tyris) and by keeping doing so without taking damage, the rewards are massive. It has to be said though, that the game is largely too unresponsive for what feats it expects from you.

The beasts of the title don’t always play as pivotal of a role as you’d think they would for a game titled: Beast Rider. But when you do get on the back of them, the results are unsurprisingly destructive and often joyous. Each one have their own set of moves and they’re often a safer bet to get that Titan reward gauge rising, with their major downfall being that their health levels are miniscule in comparison to Tyris.

Away from the combat side of things, there are puzzle elements too, which give you a break from all the blood and guts that come as a result of the fighting. These are most often simplistic switch based puzzles and such, there’s nothing remotely taxing here.

During my time with Golden Axe: Beast Rider the score was wavering between either a six or seven, but ultimately I realised that whilst the game is horrifically underrated and does deserve to be regarded as more than a simple hack and slash affair, in the end it has far too many problems to be considered as anything more than a slightly above average game.