Early Access Showcase: Soul Axiom

You find yourself on a ship.  A storm rages around you.  A few people are looking down at you from the deck of the ship, but then they are gone.  You explore the inside of the ship and find some cryptic writing on the wall.  Later on, you find yourself on a train, headed for some sort of grand central afterlife station, where you can relive your memories – or experience someone else’s memories for the first time.  Which is it?  Who are you?  What are you doing there?  Are you dead or are you experiencing the life of someone else who is already dead?  None of this is made clear in the early going of Soul Axiom, a confusing but oddly compelling first person adventure from Wales Interactive.  Soul Axiom is yet another offering in Steam’s Early Access, and if you wish, you can check out this early build of the game to see what it has to offer.

In Soul Axiom you play as – somebody – who is experiencing memories, thanks to a major technological advancement that allows you to upload your soul to a central server.  This central server, known as Elysia, appears to be the central hub of the game.  Exactly what it means to upload your soul to a server (versus just uploading your memories) isn’t made clear during the game.  Whether you are the original owner of the memories that you experience, or whether these are even actual memories, also isn’t made clear.  Regardless, this setting provides you with some great opportunities to visit a wide variety of locales, without a lot of logic required to connect them together.   As you progress, the game hints that during your journeys you are going to uncover something sinister.  It is that expectation which drives the story forward.

Soul Axiom offers a handful of simple game mechanics for solving puzzles and navigating its environments.  The first that you learn is the “materialize/de-materialize mechanic”.  Using this mechanic, you can dissolve objects in the environment or build bridges for crossing gaps.  The second mechanic that you learn is a “play/pause” ability that allows you to move objects back and forth in the environment or open and close doors.  The early parts of the game have a lot of puzzles that are solved by simply finding the appropriately colored object in the environment that you have to manipulate.  However, there are also some more complex, involved puzzles that require some thought and trial and error.  There appears to be enough substance to the mechanics to sustain a competent puzzle game.

Given that the game is in early access, there are a lot of areas that are still unfinished and are, as of yet, unavailable to you.  There are still enough levels in the game to give you a feel for what it is like though.  The most promising aspect of Soul Axiom is that it looks like it is going to take full advantage of its setting with its wide variety of colorful, expansive, and bizarre environments.  It is an enticing mixture of science fiction and the supernatural.  One minute, you are looking at what appears to be an old fashioned diner in the American Southwest.  The next minute, you are in what looks like a Tron-like computer simulation.  Later, you find yourself in what appears to be a Central American jungle.  In each of these environments, however, are multiple objects that you can manipulate in ways that don’t normally fit in with that environment.   If the early access build is any indication, Soul Axiom is going to be a disorienting experience.

Soul Axiom, like all other low budget indie games, has the challenge of trying to look attractive without having advanced technology or a large team to generate assets.  As a first person game, this challenge is especially daunting, since the game can’t resort to using 2D graphics.  As expected, the game’s technology and low polygon assets are unimpressive.  It is still attractive though, thanks to its quality art direction, colorful style, and visual variety.  The visuals will be more than adequate if the game’s story and gameplay can immerse you in its world.

I am looking forward to see what Soul Axiom has to offer with its unconventional story and setting.  Unlike some of the other Early Access products that I have seen, there appears to be a strong and cohesive vision for what the game is going to be.  The combination of solid puzzle mechanics and an intriguing story could make for a very memorable indie game.  How well it tells its story and how much play time it can squeeze out of its puzzle solving mechanics will go a long way in determining the quality of the game.