Axiom Verge 2 takes place within the same setting as Axiom Verge, but simultaneously takes place before and after it. Instead of Trace, it centers around Indra Chaudhari, multi-billionaire CEO of the Globe 3 corporation, who is drawn to an abandoned Antarctic research station in response to a mysterious transmission that references her missing daughter.
Following more mysterious messages, Indra travels through a strange freight elevator and drowns in a rising lake before being revived in a new body by an "Arm" named Amashilama, now trapped in the mysterious parallel world Kiengir, a torus shaped Ringworld. Indra must navigate her way through a dangerous and wild landscape, uncovering the history of the alien world, the fate of expeditions from Earth prior to her arrival, and the person behind the mysterious messages addressed to her.
Axiom Verge 2 iterates on its predecessor with a more streamlined upgrade system, expanding Secret Worlds into a parallel world inside the Breach with an 8-bit aesthetic, and changing disrupting enemies into a full fledged hacking mechanic.
While it retains aesthetic similarities with its predecessor, when compared to the H. R. Giger inspired Bio Punk post-apocalyptic landscape of Sudra, the world of Kiengir is far more ancient and wild, with many areas being near untouched wilderness or abandoned ruins. Although it remains a Metroidvania, progression is far more open ended, with gameplay pulling cues from open world survival games, melee centric combat inspired by the likes of Ninja Gaiden, and the Breach world segments drawing from classic platformers such as Super Mario Bros..
First revealed during Nintendo's 2019 Indie World presentation, Axiom Verge 2 was surprise launched on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Epic Games Store on PC on August 11, 2021, with a PlayStation 5 release planned in the future.
Axiom Verge 2 has examples of:
- Action Bomb: One of the Arms that Indra can acquire, Gud An-Na, allows her to explode, creating a short-range but very powerful shockwave.
- Art Evolution: While Axiom Verge was praised for its art, Axiom Verge 2 only improves upon it, particular with environmental details to make the gameworld feel like a small part of a true alien landscape.
- Alien Sky: Kiengir is a tube shaped Ringworld, and the background of each area features different landforms from the opposite side of the torus, which generally match the aesthetic of a given area. For example, in Irikar, a sandy cliffside beach with ruins of an ancient city, the opposite side of the torus shows clouds drifting across a similar landscape, pockmarked with craters.
- And then there's the cascading, color changing infinity of connected spheres of the Filter, likely a depiction of the entire Worldstream.
- All There in the Manual: As with Axiom Verge, the notes scattered across the world are not necessary to experience the plot, but expand and clarify much of the details of the world and characters within it. In particular, many of the notes center on Amalshilama's journey to become the villain she is in the story.
- And I Must Scream: It's implied that Arms are still active, to at least some extent, while in those jars. Amashilama certainly is able to reach out to Indra at the beginning.
- Later on, after the Grand Theft Me, it so happens that (a copy of, or the original) Indra is still in there. That's how Amashilama is able to access her memories.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- Midway through the game, you get a powerup that enables fast travel between save points.
- The map will helpfully tell you whether or not you have 100% items and map completion for a given area.
- Late in the game, you can obtain a jewel that fits into the centre of your compass, which will flash if there is an item hidden nearby, helping you get that 100% completion.
- Brain Uploading: The Apocalypse Arms are Kiengir natives who went through a variation of this, becoming the guiding intelligence of nanotech swarms that could be utilized by compatible Wielders. Originally, primitive machine intelligences were used, but they proved to be rigid and limited, and so the oldest and wisest became Arms. This also eventually changed.
- Dual-World Gameplay: Indra can explore both Kiengir and a mirror version of it inside the Breach, which is themed with a more 8-bit aesthetic. Later gameplay introduces the Expanse and the Filter as worlds beyond Kiengir, though exploration of them remains very limited.
- The Earth-Prime Theory: As the root of the Worldstream, if A'ansur is destroyed, the entire multiverse stemming from it will also be destroyed.
- Eerie Arctic Research Station: Set up but ultimately subverted. Hammond Corp intentionally supported Jones Station not because they cared about Antarctic research, but because it was a remote location to conduct research into the Worldstream, and it's merely a portal to Kienger in the game proper.
- A number of words and topics only briefly mentioned in Axiom Verge are given more focus and context in Axiom Verge 2, including Dr. Hammond, Breach elevators, the Worldstream, and some of the early history of Sudra.
- Early on, the player can find a letter from Trace to Hammond discussing whether the afterlife exists as another physical reality, but believes it would difficult to prove without someone with advanced knowledge into research on the Worldstream working before and after their own death to prove its existence to the living world. Hammond does exactly that.
- When Indra meets a drone Arm that's been created out of the soul of a small child named Damu, she is understandably shocked and horrified that a child would be turned into a weapon, while Amashilama's only concern is how useful he could be. This is a very subtle hint that she's only been using Indra for her own ends, and eventually betrays her.
- Great Offscreen War: The war between the invading Udug and the Sagiga that took place hundreds of years ago on Kiengar necessitated the creation of the Apocalypse Arms.
- Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Inverted. Trace from the first game used a variety of firearms, whereas Indra fights primarily with axes.
- Lighter and Softer: Kiengar isn't exactly paradise, but compared to the genocide that took place in Sudra committed by an alternate version of the protagonist, Indra's journey is less emotionally fraught and more straight forward with clear cut allies.
- Microbot Swarm: One type of enemy that Indra can hack, a tiny drone no bigger than an insect, can be commanded to swarm nearby enemies with all drones at once.
- The Multiverse: Revealed to be the backbone of the Axiom Verge series in the form of the Worldstream; a series of realities and worlds cascading downwards from solitary root worlds. Earth and Kiengar are merely two of dozens of downstream realities from the root world A'ansur. Kienger is also a world designated as a buffer to prevent anything dangerous or destabilizing from coming upstream. The afterlife is also another reality stemming from A'ansur, though because of growing instability in the Worldstream, Hammond evacuates the afterlife for another reality not attached to A'ansur.
- Mythology Gag: The music track for the Breach version of Irikar is named after and taken directly from Orn, Tom Happ's Metroid clone for the GBA.
- Nanomachines: The main form of advanced technology in Kienger, as opposed to the genetic modification and reality distorting of Sudra. After her drowning, Indra becomes a "Wielder", a human able to harness the power of the Arms, each of which is tool that increases her abilities. Certain Arms grant Indra the ability to hack, create a drone, increase or alter her physical abilities, and her final upgrade allows her to dissolve into a classic swarming cloud of nanomachines. This final upgrade is lampshaded as particularly convenient, as it allows her to finally pass through all of the grates seen throughout the game.
- Non-Indicative Name: Apocalypse Flasks come in two sizes: Small and Medium. "Medium" by definition means there should be at least one size larger than it, but there isn't.
- Offscreen Afterlife: Invoked, and later played with. Hammond uses intentionally vague and negative terms, such as "detention center" and "trapped" to avoid alerting Indra about the true nature of the reality she and Samara are in, which is never described beyond being crowded. And the reunion between Indra and Samara that takes place in The Stinger appears to take place in the reality that those in the afterlife evacuated to, meaning the true afterlife is still never shown.
- Prequel: While the game takes place 55 years after the incident in Trace's laboratory, due to how flow of time works differently within the Worldstream, it is heavily implied that the events of this game take place many, many years before Athetos arrived to Sudra, and as such, well before the events of the original game. During her journey Indra stumbles upon a world called Emergence which bears architecture and lifeforms found on Sudra. She also encounters several Kazakh settlers who integrated with the locals, chief among them an individual named Drushka who was mentioned in the Sudran notes found in the first game.
- Ring World Planet: Kiengir is said to be a torus-shaped world, and one of the scientists encountered mentions that attempts to bury underground to discover how it works reveals lattice-like structures that seem to go on forever.
- Rock Beats Laser: Sure, a nanotech shapeshifter is the one doing the swinging, but it's startling how much damage a mere bronze axe can do to heavily-armed robots built by a multiverse-spanning intelligence.
- Schizo Tech: The native culture of Kiengir, the Sagiga, have technology that is all over the place. They have cloning facilities and bronze tools, and the preferred method storing their advanced nanotech weapons made from uploaded humans in clay jars. This turns out to be due to the Lamassu, as the Apocalypse Arms and other technology such as the rebirth chambers are upstream technologies the Sagiga were thousands of years from creating, but were brought in by the Lamassu in order to defeat the Udug.
- Sequel Hook: With the help of her original body, Indra defeats Amashilama and destroys the portal to A'ansur. However, she decides to stop searching for a way home and realizes she is no longer Indra but someone new. Instead, she opts to help undo what was done to Damu and the other Arms, and turns to the Kazakhs to look for a way to travel the Worldstream to get the technology of A'ansur as well as find Samara and Hammond.
- Additionally, Notes and comments from Hammond mention that Trace vanished up the Worldstream decades ago, and during the game she works with an unknown "they" in order to evacuate the afterlife as barriers between realities in the Worldstream are slowly degrading, inferring that something has gone very, very wrong in A'ansur.
- Sigil Spam: One of the recurring symbols in Axiom Verge, a central slender oval with connected spheres, often seen near upgrades returns on Kienger. Notes also give it context as a symbolic representation of a spadix, a flower bearing structure found in some plants that is analogized to A'ansur's nature as the root of the Worldstream.
- Skippable Boss: Axiom Verge 2 doesn't have conventional bosses, instead having large cyborg creatures in arenas that can be bypassed or ignored, but will drop Apocalypse Flasks when defeated. Only two boss fights are mandatory — Amashilama in Indra's body and Amashilama in a Siuna — and both are impossible to lose, since both have a respawn point located in the boss arena, therefore making it so that you never lose any progress in the fight no matter how many times you die.
- Stable Time Loop: Forms one with Axiom Verge, as the Worldstream research Trace developed would later be used by other parties to colonize Sudra, and form the society that he later visited and inspired him to research the Worldstream.
- Stealth Pun: One of the Arms you can acquire, Anuman, sounds a lot like "a new man". Fittingly enough, this is the Arm that allows Indra to assume a humanoid form after Amashilama steals her body — she very much is a new (wo)man now that she has this Arm.
- The Stinger: Provided the game is finished with at least two green final stats (>85% completion for the Map and Items, a certain number of deaths, and under a certain amount of time) the end of game credits end with a scene showing the original Indra reuniting with Samara and Hammond in the afterlife.
- Subspace Ansible: Developed by Dr. Hammond in the early 2000s, they're a form of instantaneous communication, albeit the early models came with some severe limitations due to hard coded memory limits. They can also be used to communicate across different worlds. And from the afterlife.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: This game is set on the same timeline as the first Axiom Verge but simultaneously takes place before and after the events of the first game. In particular, the world the Kazakhs call 'The Emergence' is very heavily implied to be Sudra, long before Athetos ever arrived on that world, despite it being settled in the 2060s, comparatively Trace's future.
- Transformation Horror: The four surviving humans on Kienger other than Indra are slowly transformed over the course of the game into misshapen fleshy masses locked inside mechanical suits that fire on Indra if she ever returns to their original area. Making it even more startling the reason behind their transformations is left completely opaque in game, though examination of the game files reveals an elaborate infection mechanic based around time elapsed after Indra touches them in drone form. They also look unlike anything else on Kienger, being miniature versions of Xedur, the very first boss Trace encounters in Sudra, who was a result of Athetos' pathogen, which only raises more questions.
- Trapped in Another World: Everyone who traveled from Earth to Kienger is unable to return, as the breach elevator is a one way trip, though they were still able to communicate with Earth via ansibles. The reason behind this remains unstated, though it's implied someone (the Lamassu, Hammond, or an unknown) blocked the return downstream to prevent any destabilizing effects of the upstream technology on Kienger from reaching Earth. This didn't however, prevent the Kazakhs from going even further upstream to yet another world which they settled into permanently.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The story starts in the 2060s on Earth, however quickly diverts away from Earth, with only brief glimpses of it alluded to in notes.
- Wham Line: You eventually come across a device that Amashilama tells Indra will allow her to fight enemies while piloting her drone. You turn it on, and then Amashilama drops this on Indra:Amashilama: Indeed, you are no longer in control of this body. I'm sorry to have deceived you.
- Wham Shot: (For those who played the first game,) if the player returns to any of the four humans on Kienger some time after speaking to them in drone form, they'll find them either mutating or having already transformed into mini-versions of none other than Xedur, the first boss of Axiom Verge.