Golden Axe: Beast Rider

Golden Axe aims to deliver three distinct styles of gameplay, which are referred to as beast, blade, and magic. We covered the blade aspects already, so let’s go on to the magic. Casting spells seemed rudimentary enough to not really qualify as a “mode” or “style” as it seemed to involve pointing in the direction of enemies and launching fireballs. In a nod to the original Golden Axe, you can also use super-spells; in this case a flaming skelly-dragon came swooping down and then… nothing. It seems the finale of the spell’s animation wasn’t finished yet. In another classic touch, the gnomes from the original are back, darting around and cackling annoyingly. Hitting them causes them to drop items. We’re not sure if they’ll show up while you sleep and steal your crap like they did so frustratingly in the original.

The big draw of the game is, of course, the titular beast riding. These elements looked like they could be quite fun. Sometimes you’ll encounter spawning thingies that deposit beasts to ride, while at other times you’ll find enemies already riding on creatures’ backs. In the latter case, you can leap up and knock them off- which did not look like a canned animation. It seems GTA’s influence stretches even into the fantasy-action realm of games- perhaps “beast jacking” will become a new term. Anyway, we got to see three different beasts. The first was a speedy dinosaur looking creature, similar to the “dragons” that could be ridden in the original game. The new one can spout fire and whip enemies with its tail.

The second beastie was a huge ogre-type thing that was still quite swift, and made short work of just about anything around it. This giant monster is designed as a beast-killer, although it seemed to do fine against foot soldiers as well. It has a berserker rage that lasts a short while, and allows for instant kills against other beasts. We watched it grab other members of its own species, slam them to the ground, and then rake them apart with its claws. It also came up against a couple of demon-type creatures with huge spikes for arms, and in glorious hyper-gore fashion, pinned each monstrosity to the earth and then proceeded to force the opponent to impale itself with its own spike through the side of its head. There certainly seems to be no shortage of brutal kills in Beast Rider.

The third beast we saw was another smaller animal, this time with horns and an ability to turn invisible for short periods, allowing it to perform stealth operations.As of yet, we don’t know exactly how many more beasts there will be than the three varieties of beasts we saw- the number we heard was five, but that could always change. Still, the three looked to offer a decent variety of play styles, although it’s hard to say if each one would continue to deliver fun after the initial “Cool, I’m riding an ogre!” phase.

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.