"Axiom Soccer is set in the near future and makes use of just-over-the-horizon technologies, renewable energy, and virtual reality broadcasting. The world is within touching distance of our own." -- Earthbound Games
With that introductory paragraph from the Scottish developer's webpage, Earthbound Games set the stage and wish to welcome you to the future of sports.
Welcome to Axiom Soccer.
It is quite hard to talk about Axiom Soccer without talking about another game in this genre of "vehicle sports" the ever popular Rocket League. The premise and set up is almost the same but in Axiom Soccer you control a hovering drone outfitted with multiple weapons as opposed to a car. The games play out in much the same way but it is the subtle changes that start to make Axiom Soccer stand out from similar games.
None of the story of Axiom Soccer at this point is told through gameplay or loading text. The story is tucked away on the Earthbound Games website in a developer blog.
In the world of Axiom Soccer, by the year 2040 all real sports will have been so sanitised and regulated meaning that the most adrenaline inducing events are now remote controlled and machine based. The Axiom Soccer drones are controlled remotely by the players, or AI systems operated and maintained by the sport's governing body: The Axiom Soccer Federation. There is a global business surrounding Axiom Soccer. Mixing Formula 1 racing technology with ball sports. Straddling the line of eSports and physical sports, meaning anyone can be a star regardless of physical prowess.
The introduction of weapons to control the ball plays a massive part in differentiating Axiom Soccer from Rocket League. The drone is equipped with multiple weapons that are all useful in their own rights. We have the machine gun which is used for dribbling. The grenade which is great for clearing the ball if it is coming too close to your goal for comfort. Also, a shotgun which is perfect for, well, taking shots. These weapons also have limited ammo which can only be replenished by retreating to your penalty box. Adding another strategic level to the play. Do you go out all guns blazing in a mad dash to score? Or do you play more conservatively? Personally, so far, I have always played the former and it works about as much as you would expect.
The playing field has also seen some upgrades over Rocket League with barriers that can be activated by firing at them as well as the introduction of a mechanical goalkeeper. Meaning one player isn't always stuck at the back, but as mentioned previously, you will still need to go back to replenish ammo. The goalkeeper has its own designated button for control and it moves to where the player's targeting reticule is pointing. Learning to control the keeper can turn the tide of a game.
My one issue with the gameplay at the moment is that the drones themselves feel quite sluggish sometimes. Especially when chasing a ball from one end of the pitch to the other, which is most noticeable in a 1 vs 1. While Axiom Soccer is only currently in beta testing Earthbound Games have fostered a great community of players and testers over on their Discord server and are always seeking input. A boost function does seem to be a popular request as far as I can tell.
My first real match of Axiom Soccer was a 2 vs 2 match at Resonate Total Gaming Festival in Glasgow, Scotland. Against a member of the Earthbound Games team as well as someone who had been to the Earthbound Games stall all three days of the event. My team-mate and I managed to get a goal in but Axiom Soccer has a relatively steep learning curve and it seems like a vast skill ceiling. It was then we were told about the beta and the Discord, which I signed up for as soon as I was home on the Sunday.
I reached out to a member of the Earthbound Games team and while waiting for a reply to the questions I had, there were a couple of new features hinted at such as the ability to jump or hover over the afore-mentioned barriers on the playing field. As well as integrated Twitch crowd interaction, with the video Earthbound Games showed having what looks like flares bombard the pitch.
Graphics & Audio
Axiom Soccer is still in beta so the current graphics and graphical options are subject to change, but the current graphics are nice enough to look at. Not overly stunning and not disgusting. Unless for some reason you bump the graphics setting down to low. The colours are bright and vibrant, the simulated crowd don't distract from the pitch. Everything stands out the way it needs to in order to make the game flow correctly. You can bump up the graphics settings, but only when you are in a match (at time of writing) so be sure to have a little play around in the admittedly limited menus.
The audio is crisp and clean, the weapon noises are easily the stand-out in the sound design. They all sound exactly as you would expect them to. The way the crowd noises rise and fall with the flow of the game, exploding into rapturous applause when a goal is scored, really helps bring the moment to life. Adding a level of immersion, especially when playing with headphones.
The ball also makes satisfying noises when its knocked about, I could honestly listen to that little "dunf" for hours.
I think Axiom Soccer has great potential and will most definitely be doing a full review when the game comes out of beta. If you are looking for some fast fun in a 1vs1 to 3vs3 setting and you're a fan of ball games and things that go boom, Axiom Soccer is for you.
You can sign up for the beta at Axiom Soccer and join the discussion on the Discord Server by searching for Earthbound Games. I recommend you do both of these things and get ready for kick off with Axiom Soccer.