AX:EL – Air Xenodawn Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD


Futuristic Dogfighters Making a Comeback


While not one of my favorite genres, I’ve always been able to appreciate the Dogfighting Simulation genre of gaming.  Combining the thrill of high-speed, three-dimensional combat; with the amazing feeling of flying high over and through a variety of wonderful landscapes, the plane simulation will always be one of the most wonderful niches in gaming. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the underutilized niches, with games like Ace Combat and the like dominating the field. If you want something new or innovative involving planes and plane accessories,  you’d have to normally look back through some of the older titles when the scene was first emerging.


While the bubbles are a nice touch, they don’t distract from the glaring issues with this sea floor

Thankfully, though, we now have Air Xenodawn: Enhanced Lightning.  An indie title developed by Axe Eel Studios and published by KISS Ltd, AX: EL is a flight simulator set in a far off future where humanity has discovered MsM. MsM being a type of living metal with a variety of uses also becomes one of the most fought over resources on the planet. You, playing as a fighter pilot, are in charge of flying a special craft made from MsM that can traverse both the friendly skies and the deadly depths, completing a variety of missions as you go while also pimping your sweet jet out in all sorts of weapons and body mods.

These missions, which give you a variety of different tasks over the course of ten different jobs, represent two things. Showing off both the capabilities of your craft, as well as the kind of stuff your military installation does with it, you’ll find yourself soaring over (and through) a variety of different maps and environments. Most of which, take place over the great blue seas to showcase the game’s main draw.  That being the player’s ability to combat opponents both underwater as well as in the sky.

That’s right, setting itself apart from other dogfighting games; AX: EL allows players to go from aerial combat to nautical instantly, by simply diving right into the ocean. Instead of heading to a watery grave, players will simply continue as if nothing has happened.  Aside from a blue filter, nothing seems to change though when you move from one form of pressure to another. Speed, handling, and all other facets of gameplay seem to remain static regardless of which set of oxygen atoms you’re inhabiting, which brings up the question of “why bother?”  Sure, some underwater levels include currents, which force you to take a set path using the magic of invisible walls, but several non-aquatic stages use the same mechanic while talking about wind currents.


Nothing like the smell of antimatter in the morning

Additionally, levels that don’t have any special plans or usage for underwater combat tend to be very blandly designed. The first mission, for example, has players fighting other MsM jets over a large expanse of ocean. Diving under the surface, players can see plenty of wide open flat space marked with a tiled light reflection animation that breaks the game’s immersion.

Although, the underwater zones aren’t the only portion of this game’s level design to see some neglect. Notably, missions two and three both have players flying around large canyons while trying to avoid colliding with the instadeath walls around them. The only major differences, aside from mission objectives and such, was the fact that the former took place underwater while the latter was bone dry.

While the mission maps could be described as bland at best, most of the work clearly went into this game’s multiplayer functionality. Lush tropical islands, frigid warzones, and so much more contained in a variety of customization options, each map in multiplayer mode is full of potential for amazing dogfights.

Adding to the amazingness is the player’s ability to customize their ship in the HUB. Everything from the body of your ship to its colour is customizable, and the variety of fun and interesting looking options they give you is astounding. From planes that resemble actual jet fighters, to more spaceship oriented styles with wing flares to match, and even being able to change their colours, you’ll have no shortage in visual options for your pretty little fighters.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the weapons selection. A limited number of semi-automatic and heat seeking weapons keeps the game from having more strategy than it potentially could. Especially since certain weapons definitely outshine others, such as the enemy seeking antimatter cannon that has a huge burst radius and deals massive damage. A weapon, which might I add, is cheaper than the some of the less powerful weapon choices the game gives you.


Playing in First Person allows you to take in the wonderful sights better.

While the selection is neither fair nor balanced, the guns are all still plenty of fun to play with. Loaded with different particle effects and all extremely fun to use, nothing feels more satisfying than watching your antimatter cannon shot arc over your enemy’s plane, only to U-turn right back into its nose cone and send flames everywhere.

Slightly less fun, though, is getting hit yourself. In any mission that requires fighting in a crowded field, prepare to die if you get hit even once.  Because if the enemy’s shot doesn’t kill you, it summons a giant red filter to not only signal you’ve been shot but also to obstruct your vision for an inordinate amount of time. One that will, more likely than not, lead to your plane meeting the rockiest point of the nearest crag.

Air Xenodawn suffers from a few issues, but overall it’s not a bad title.  Especially considering this appears to be Axe Eels first major title, and it plays a lot better than most other indie studios initial offerings tends to do.  If they work out the kinks in AX: EL just a bit more, and apply a fresh coat of polish, then I could see AX: EL rising above its dogfighter niche and becoming a moderately successful title.

Of course, the game is still flawed in a few areas. If you enjoy dogfighting games or flight simulation, in general, then AX: EL is definitely the game for you.  Having a love for explosions, gorgeous island sets, and future tech probably wouldn’t hurt this game’s chances with you either.