Golden Axe: Beast Rider

SEGA butcher a remake of a 1989 beat-em-up classic into an unrecognisable mess.

Golden Axe: Beast Rider is a remake of the side-scrolling beat’em’up classic Golden Axe in 1989. It’s also an unofficial remake of God Of War, and I say that because Golden Axe tries to rip off God Of War’s serial-killer-in-third-person brand of gameplay.

Except God Of War is fun, and Golden Axe is not. While God Of War has you butchering through hundreds of enemies, experiencing gigantic, colourful environments and a combat system that was as fluid as the blood flowing on the screen, Golden Axe eschews all that for horrendous graphics, a non-existant plot, gameplay more linear than the original Doom and an uninspiring, broken combat system.

I’ll say it later on, but make sure you remember this: do NOT buy this game.

You control Tyris, a member of the Axirian Sisterhood. After running around learning how to button mash the Sixaxis, you witness the death of your entire clan at the hands of overweight bandits that look like orcs. They’ve stolen a dragon as well, which apparently holds the key to … something, and your job is to slaughter everything that moves – I mean retrieve the dragon.

But about two minutes after you get that objective, the game throws a sucker punch into your face: the dragon, after being the most prominent feature of the previous cut scene, will now be recovered by someone else, and you have to retrieve a Golden Axe instead.

It’s apparent no-one making the game actually cared about the story, because it only serves as a broken string between the endless sword fights that this genre of game prides itself upon.

Click to enlarge

The combat system – the main component of a game like this – is awful. You start off learning about attacks, performed by either the square or the triangle or both. There’s only a couple of combos, all of which do the same thing besides the uppercut or kicking although you’ll find you use the same combo over and over again anyway. It’s uninspired, but for the most part, it works.

Defending on the other hand, is broken beyond compare. Whenever an enemy attacks, they’ll glow one of four colours and you’ll have to parry, dodge or jump to avoid the attack altogether. Dodging works as well as you’d expect, hopping out of the way to launch a counter. Parrying, doesn’t work at all: every time you parry there’s a delay, and you don’t have much time to spare when you’re being attacked on all sides. Tyris lowers her sword when you parry too, so there’s a wait before you can attack, so if you don’t time it perfectly then you’re stuffed.

There’s a spell casting system as well, controlled by the circle and the D-Pad, but the main spells are a single-target fireball or a small-range AOE which merely knocks everyone over. Every spell is marred by a delay, making them impossible to use in combat unless you’re miles away. You can deflect enemy spells as well, but it’s controlled by the parry button and its unforgiving timing.

Click to enlarge

Fighting enemies and the combat system is bad enough, but when you throw in the graphics it gets worse. Golden Axe looks pixelated with low-res models and poor animations, but apparently it’s too much for the PS3. Whenever there’s a few enemies on screen, the game runs fine but whenever you add extra textures, projectiles, spells and random objects the game grinds to a halt.

The environments are dull, featuring a mix of brown, grey, blood-stained green and the occasional rustic beige. Invisible walls are back too, something I’d hoped the industry had grown out of given the power of next-gen consoles. Secret Level may as well just paint arrows of blood on the ground, given that you don’t have any freedom anyway.

Even the beasts are fundamentally flawed. At first they look fun, but they all handle like a semi-trailer, making it only good for a couple of hits before you get stabbed in the back and thrown off your once-faithful steed.

I could go on and on, but there’s no real need to. Golden Axe is, on every concievable level, bad. Buying Golden Axe might convince SEGA that they’ve done something right, so do the entire gaming industry a favour, and play God Of War instead. After all, you can’t beat the original.

Developer: Secret Level
Publisher: SEGA
Classification: MA15+
Formats: XBOX 360, PS3
URL: Golden Axe: Beast Rider

Reviewed by Alex Walker