Golden Axe: Beast Riders Review

Golden Axe will forever be remembered as an arcade classic and one of those games that can still be a blast with friends if you can bring yourself to dust off the Megadrive (and remember which of the pads had that dodgy A button). Sure the game could be finished off in just over an hour but it was fun to bash some gnomes, stomp around on beasts and (accidentally) beat up your chums. It’s with some sense of anticipation then that I approached this glorious update, as surely you can’t go too far wrong with a winning hack and slash formula.

While the game is published by SEGA the actual developers are Secret Level, and considering their past projects have included the lamentable America’s Army and the forgettable Iron Man, it seems that we are going to be in for an uphill struggle. Throw in the fact that we haven’t had a Golden Axe game since 1993 and you’ll start to wonder why the franchise was suddenly resuscitated. Sadly, once you actually start playing the game these feelings of anxiety will only increase.

Eat death spiky man.

There are so many things wrong with this game that it’s only fair for me to start with the biggest complaint of all: a complete lack of multiplayer. When you think about playing Golden Axe back in the day, it was always with some buddies to cover your back and share a few laughs with. The fact that they’ve removed that option completely mystifies me. I mean, Golden Axe wasn’t that tough or that great but it was fun to just kick back and play with friends. For a start you can’t even choose between three characters anymore, as they’ve taken the obvious route of allowing you access to one hot female lead – probably in the bid to sell games simply on that fact alone a la Tomb Raider. The completely random decision to remove that aspect completely will disappoint more than a few people, including myself. It has been said that the next game in the franchise will bring back co-op but the damage done by this ‘effort’ will probably cancel the existence of further additions.

The combat is highly flawed and extremely dull; I’m sure the developers have tried to retain the simplicity of the original but games have moved on since then. With the introduction of games like Devil May Cry it’s no longer good enough to just have two basic attacks that produce a feeble range of combos. Even the classic kick attack is fairly lame and practically useless. They’ve also added a counter system but for some reason saw fit to apply it to two different buttons, each of which can only be used in certain situations (depending on the colour of your foes attacks). The problem is that the timing is so far off it means you’ll often take any number of hits before you even make a block and even then it will feel like more of a fluke than any skill on your part.

Even the beasts look ashamed to be here.

The game itself is also extremely badly paced, as checkpoints seem annoyingly few and far between, so having to fight through the same annoying sections becomes a complete grind. This is especially noticeable because death can come so frequently, as enemies tend to spawn off-screen and manage to kill you before you even realise they are there. When this happens for the first time it’s frustrating but it happens over and over again with very little you can do to stop it. The levels are fairly bland and the puzzles on offer are pretty much no-brainers, either requiring the use of one of the various beasts or having you throw your fake Golden Axe at some nearby target. Hardly the stuff of legends and Conan would probably turn in his grave.

Speaking of the titular beasts, they are just as disappointing as everything else. In the original it often felt that you could decimate an entire army of goons if you were paying attention, and if you got knocked off its back it was your own damn fault. The same can’t be said here though, as all of the creatures handle extremely badly and feel as though they are crawling through mud every time you take control. They also feel extremely underpowered, as you seem to struggle to kill foes effectively and will end up getting knocked off fairly often. The fact you only get to ride the best one for a solitary level is something of a pain too. Maybe they wanted to tease us with how fun the beasts could actually be when done right?

As a result of the last picture, they both leg it from the game.

The only decent thing here are the fairly decent graphics which actually do a pretty good job. Most of your actual enjoyment will come from the over the top gore when rending your enemies limb from limb. That’s not to say there aren’t prettier games out there, but at least it doesn’t totally suck. Though even in the face of minor praise this game tries to screw things up as the character design feels extremely wooden and the number of different foes you’ll face is amazingly small. The voice work on the other hand is laughable, I mean "Two Worlds laughable" and after a while, I suspect you’ll be reaching for the mute button in a bid to stop yourself from laughing when you should be beating up on the next cardboard cut out villain heading your way.

Achievements wise this game is an extreme pain, as you’ll need to bash your way through the game a number of times in order to get enough loot to unlock all the extra weapons and armour, which can then be used to make your life easier in challenge mode. The real pain though is going to be getting an A+ ranking on each level and completing them with the Battler’s Blade; a weapon that kills foes in one hit but also means you can only take one hit yourself, couple that thought with the checkpoint system and it’s a recipe for disaster. The real problem is that the game is such a chore to play that you’ll have no impetus to get it all done.

Overall this is an extremely poor game and one that will sully any happy memories you may have had for the original game. If they are truly going to make more games in this franchise then there is a lot of room for improvement. I can’t even justify renting this game as I doubt it will provide much fun even then, as a hack and slash game this is decidedly average and in need of repair.

Awful. It’s enough to make me think the developers want to kill the English language altogether.

Probably the best part of the game and that’s not really saying much, but the gore effects are good for a few thrills and everything does a pretty good job.

If mashing buttons is your thing then you may get some thrills, but there is zero depth to the combat and the blocking system is appalling.

A terrible slight on the original and one that doesn’t even offer the awesome co-op play that Golden Axe is famous for; it feels like they’ve decided hot chicks sell games and left it at that.

A really poor mix here, as the game doesn’t do enough to make you want to play it multiple times. Couple that with the annoying Battler’s Blade tasks and this is a game reserved solely for the strongest willed among us.

A repetitive and badly made game that makes me wonder if the series has any kind of future. This game feels extremely rushed and just can’t compare to games of a similar ilk. I hate to harp on about this, but if a co-op mode had been put in here things would have been so much better. My advice: let Death Adder win this round as it’s just not worth your time.

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