How do you distinguish that Axiom Verge has no depth against, say, metroid games? do you consider metroid games to have depth? They look very similar mechanically.
To be totally clear, axiom verge has some depth. Rock paper scissors has some depth. I just think that axiom verge has very little depth in comparison to Metroid or Super Metroid. The reason for this is because there isn’t much mechanical interaction between the different parts. I am actually not a fan of super metroid, I think it’s too easy. I beat most of the bosses in the game on my first try. I didn’t have much trouble getting from place to place. However Super Metroid is something you can come back to and play in a totally different way. There are things to learn about the game and things to master.
I have 3 criteria for depth, it’s a simple rule of thumb to keep in mind. Does this mechanic/option/tool have multiple uses? (can it be used to do multiple things? Not just one primary function) Does it have its own niche relative to the other options so it is not overshadowed and so it does not overshadow other options? Can a player change their input to get a variety of results from this tool?
Axiom Verge has like 10 different weapons (IGN says like 20 though). They mostly don’t vary much in damage or DPS. If you’re just trying to take an enemy down, most any weapon will do. The speedruns only pick up 3, the one you start with (normal projectile fire), one you’re required to get to open certain walls (nova, shoots stronger projectile, can explode with mini projectiles in 6 directions), and one that can punch through walls (slightly stronger damage, shorter range). Most of the levels are accommodating enough that the other weapons aren’t really that useful, except for hitting around corners, which nova can do.
Most of the powerups are really self-contained. Laser drill only lets you break bricks and hurt enemies up close. Field disruptor lets you jump higher and that’s about it. Address disruptor lets you glitch enemies and the environment, which sounds cool, but you really only use it to reveal platforms in specific places and glitching enemies isn’t that useful, usually they can still hurt you. In one spot you use glitched enemies as platforms, but that part is optional. The drone deactivates your main body when in use, and has its own self-contained sections, so it’s not something with real synergy with your main abilities, just like an alternate character for some sections. In the late game you can teleport to the drone, and launch it really far, which is cool and creates some actual synergy and depth between mechanics, but by that point it’s too little too late. The lab coat allows you to only go through 1 block thick walls where you can walk into them, so it opens up a few routes, but isn’t good for much else. The trench coat is slightly more versatile, because you can use it anywhere, allowing you to teleport 2 blocks in any direction, and you can teleport up through platforms blocking you from above. Though even this, it’s like the most uninteresting “advanced” movement mechanic I’ve ever seen. A double jump is more interesting.
On the trench coat there’s no factor of acceleration, decceleration, next to no tie or relationship to the environment, no gravity, no way to amplify it. It’s just that you appear two blocks ahead of where you were. An airdash is more interesting. A glide is more interesting. The Mockball in Super Metroid is more interesting, speed booster too. Also the shinespark. Not to mention that it’s obvious application, getting out of bounds, isn’t even applicable in most locations, because almost all the walls in the game are designed to be totally solid and resist attempts to get inside. There’s a few out of bounds spots in some corridor type rooms that let you jump up without being disturbed by enemies.
The grapple has a bit more to it, because you can grab areas above you and swing, so you can get up a bit higher and move along ceilings which is nice, though it’s kind of a pain to use, in the way it controls and grabs onto things, and the levels aren’t designed to give it much application beyond the small area where it unlocks new.
There’s like a glitch bomb, it opens glitched out areas like a lock and key (lame) and glitches all the enemies in the room you’re in (glitching enemies doesn’t do much in the first place).
There’s so little to using all these powerups, and they’re all designed in such a lock-and-key way to just barely allow you to get to areas that you couldn’t before so you can move along to the next boss and piece of the plot.
Compare to the Ice beam in metroid, it was in the original metroid even. The ice beam isn’t just a powerup that opens ice colored doors (no doors responded to specific element beams until metroid prime actually), it allows you to freeze enemies. This has multiple applications. Obviously it makes them easier to hit, but also you can stand on top of them and use them like platforms. This can be used to not only allow progression into new areas, but the player needs to shoot enemies in the right place so they will actually allow them to move up. And it opens up the potential that enemies can be lured into position then frozen to use as a stepping stone to move forwards.
In super metroid there are all sorts of tiny optimizations to movement that can be performed.
Plus the enemies are lame. A TON of them mob you and stay on top of you without much chance to get away from them on flat ground. There isn’t a lot of give and take with enemies. Most of the time it’s just a matter of killing them before they can reach you, or getting into a spot where you can hit them but they can’t hit you. Compare to metroid enemies which are usually more like passive hazards. Castlevania enemies which tend to be more active but give you a fair chance to avoid their attacks. Megaman enemies, ninja gaiden enemies. The bosses are ULTRA lame. They have massively simple patterns, most of them have relative safe zones. All of them can be massively cheesed in some way or another, many in multiple ways