Originally published at: Review | Immortals of Aveum - XboxEra
A brand-new IP published by EA? A AAA game as the first release of a new Studio? An FPS where you shoot bursts of magic instead of bullets? All of this describes the game created by the fledgling developer, Ascendant Studios, that aims to put a fresh spin on the first-person shooter genre. Does it succeed in forging something worthwhile and new out of the arcane? Or does the magic fizzle out?
Find out in the XboxEra review of Immortals of Aveum.
Welcome to Aveum
Immortals of Aveum takes place in a world full of wonder and sorcery called, well, Aveum. Here, magic is a part of life for the vast majority of its denizens, in both militaristic uses as well as utility. There’s some lore and history here that you slowly discover as you play the game (as well as a few revelations or two), but the gist of it is that there are three types of magic in this world, red (chaos), green (life), and blue (force). Each one has a different nature to it, such as green being able to heal and red having more destructive tendencies, and generally, every person can only harness one colour of magic. Aveum is a world embroiled in something called the “Everwar”, which as you may have guessed, refers to a war spanning centuries without an end in sight. Again, a lot of history here you can dive into, but as the game starts, the war is approaching a possible end, with the last defending nation of Lucium under attack by their enemies, Rasharn, lead by the ruthless Sandraak.
Okay, enough backstory, the game has you star as Jak, a young orphan just trying to find his way in life before the Everwar comes knocking at his door. Or rather, burns it down. As he faces certain death against an enemy Magnus, he awakens as a “Triarch”, someone capable of utilizing all three colours of magic. And so the story begins as a vengeful Jak (they burned down his door, remember?) participates in the war and tries to enter the prestigious rank of “Immortal”… And now let’s dive into the meat and potatoes of the game. The combat.
The Basics of Combat
Ascendant Studios describes the game as a “first person magic shooter”, and, well, that’s pretty accurate. As a battlemage, someone harnessing the power of magic on the front lines, you blast enemies away using something called a “Sigil”, of which you can equip one per colour. Each piece of equipment in the game has rarity levels and can be upgraded using currency obtained. Sigils focus your magic and change the way it’s released. Essentially, they act as “guns” of sorts, altering the rate of fire, the amount of ammunition, the range of your magic, etc.
The three colours themselves all play differently, allowing the ability to really experiment and find what works for you. In general, red sigils focus on close-quarters combat, almost like a “shotgun” of sorts, with a low rate of fire but high burst damage. Green sigils reminded me of machine guns or auto weaponry, as they have a high rate of fire and a lot of ammunition, as well as the ability to home in and seek enemies. Blue sigils have more control and can hit enemies at range but have a lower rate of fire. That’s the basics of the colours, but each colour also has three different types of sigils, and even amongst those types you have variety in the various buffs or attributes they provide.
I know this sounds overwhelming, but as you play the game all of this is introduced to you at a good pace, and even then, it essentially just boils down to having nine different types of weapons. Let’s look at the blue sigils as a quick example. You have Arclight, which fires instantly and hits enemies at long distances, but can take a while to reload and often doesn’t have a lot of ammunition. Then you have Javelin, which requires you to charge the attack but does a ton of damage and can hit even further. Finally, there’s Shrikebolt, which has more accuracy than red or green sigils, but still fires fast and has plenty of ammunition. So we know the game has magical “guns”, but what about the enemies?
Whenever I play a combat-focused game, regardless of genre, the one thing I always look out for is enemy variety. This essentially makes or breaks so many games for me and in the past, I’ve had issues here even with games that were exceptionally well praised. With Immortals… Well, it gets the job done.
Most enemies and bosses in the game are split into the three colours, each one providing a slightly different challenge. Enemies that utilize blue magic, for example, can summon a shield around them preventing damage until you break through it. Green utilizers can make a healing shield, which if it’s not broken, can undo all of your damage. And red mages build armour around them, reducing the damage you do. As you can imagine, you also do more or less damage to these shields depending on the colours you use and the attributes on your sigils. The general rule of thumb is to use the same colour of magic against the various enemy types, blue breaks barriers, green breaks regen, and so on. But depending on how you use your talents, switching to a specific colour after shredding a shield may be most effective. Which hey, brings us to our next section!
Alongside the different sigils and other equipment (smaller upgrades like rings or bracers that provide you with various attributes, such as a reduced dash cooldown,) Immortals of Aveum has a thankfully simple talent tree. There are of course three sections, one for each colour. As you fight through enemies and explore the world, you gain “Ascension points” which are then used to unlock nodes. These unlocks can vary from simple things such as “increased critical damage” or more involved upgrades, like melee attacks being able to destroy shields. Some of the upgrades are linked together with other trees, requiring you to progress in say the red talents before being able to unlock a certain blue ability. Each talent you unlock also increases your damage with that colour slightly.
This makes for a system that has you choose between investing in a specific colour, spreading out talents evenly, or maybe narrowing it down to only two. Thankfully the game allows you to reset your talents at almost any time for a small currency cost, which at least from what I noticed, didn’t go up after using it once. Initially, I was going for a more balanced talent tree, but after focusing on a couple of abilities I really wanted, I noticed that I was primarily invested in blue. A quick check later also showed that my blue ability power was significantly higher than the other colours (meaning my blue sigil would do more damage) and so I reset and narrowed down my choices to become a blue “main” of sorts. I did so much damage with my blue sigil that I would still use it on most other coloured enemies after breaking their shields.
Oh yeah, it’s all coming together
Immortals of Aveum also has other combat mechanics, such as specific spells you unlock throughout the game that can do things like slow down enemies, drag them towards you, break their shields, interrupt their spells, and more. But a very large part of the combat revolves around your shield. By pressing LB, you summon a shield that can absorb a certain amount of damage before breaking. You can still move (albeit slower), jump, hover, and attack with your sigil while shielding, so you need to quickly learn and master this power if you don’t want to constantly be dying, especially on the Immortal (hard) difficulty that I played the game on.
I’ve gone on and on about the various combat mechanics, but how well do they actually mesh together? The answer? Really damn well. Fights in this game oftentimes feel like a “dance” of sorts, where you’re constantly switching between enemies, sigils, abilities, and survival mechanics; such as grappling out of a fight or dashing into a corner followed by a double jump to buy yourself some breathing room. Even on the hardest difficulty, I didn’t think the game was unfair. Most of the times I died it was due to my own negligence, either getting caught in a bad location or taking unnecessary risks by using a magic spell (which uses both hands and so cancels your shield). The visuals in combat can at first look a little too effect-heavy, but I found that I would only rarely lose sight of who or what I was fighting, even if my screen was full of magic and explosions.
As someone that focused on blue magic, my shield was what kept me alive and thriving, even in the middle of half a dozen enemies. I had a build set in a way that initial damage to my shield would heal me, and my shield would instantly regenerate after dashing. Coupled with a few more buffs to the magical barrier, and as long as I was on my toes, it was rare that I’d actually fall in combat. Not that the game couldn’t be difficult, mind you. After completing the story there are a few encounters meant to be “endgame” that certainly spike up in difficulty. Especially as I came across one of them when I was very much not ready. Yeah, that didn’t end well…
Hey, you can’t go there yet!
Okay, enough about the combat. Immortals of Aveum isn’t an open world game by any means, instead opting for various zones that are mostly linear, or “wide-linear” at best. This isn’t a bad thing at all. As you progress through the chapters in the game (of which there are 18 +1), you find new locations to explore (and new enemies to fight.) Also littered throughout the game are various puzzles. Such as finding coloured markers to shoot, using your ability to slow things down, or reflecting lasers into giant creepy eyeballs. There is of course more to the puzzles than just this and I found they provided a good break between the combat. Especially as I didn’t think any of them were too difficult, other than the laser ones, before I realized most of them had a very obvious marker on the ground to point out where to stand.
Similar to some other action-adventure games, Immortals of Aveum borrows the metroidvania-like element of blocking off areas or puzzles with abilities obtained in the future, hence encouraging players to go back and explore every so often. How well this works is usually dependent on one thing: traversal. And I’m glad to say that the game nails this aspect as well. As a mage you’re mobile in combat, being able to double jump, glide, and dash towards and away enemies. This same mobility is also present in the exploration. The sheer range provided by your double jump and hover allows you to get to areas you wouldn’t otherwise think possible. Yes there are of course still invisible walls and rocks you can’t climb up, but the game still provides you with a good amount of freedom, especially compared to some other titles I’ve played. The traversal makes backtracking and exploring fun, especially when each area has several portals spread around it, but I do wish the game had a “fast travel to portal” option on the map screen. There are times where you need to go quite far from a portal to get to a puzzle or Shroudfane and the trip back can be a little boring.
Ah, what’s a “Shroudfane” you ask? Okay, one last thing about the exploration. As you play through the game, you come across these small “challenge dungeons” of sorts. They’re hidden throughout the game and by completing them you unlock some very useful things, such as new spells, increased health and spell mana, legendary equipment and more. In short, they’re worth finding and completing. Especially as the challenges inside aren’t just combat based and can also be some pretty fun platforming at times. The very difficult endgame fights are hidden in these shrines. Speaking of, after completing the game I did go back and attempt the one that I couldn’t do at all before, but this time I took the enemy down on my first try. So, if you come up against one of “The Six” before beating the game, don’t worry if they seem too hard. You can always come back to them after getting better gear and more talents.
The only thing I don’t like about Jak is his name
I know this review has already gone on for a little while, so I’ll quickly just touch on the next few elements. It’s in the story and character performances that I think will have the most divide between players. The narrative of Immortals of Aveum can be pretty serious but it’s laced with a comedic undertone at times. I found Jak, played by Darren Barnet, to be a breath of fresh air when compared to the usual main character. He took the appropriate moments seriously but also never failed to throw in a joke here and there to help reduce the tension. I know comedy is subjective, but for me at least the humour in the game worked. I found Jak to be endearing, relatable, and most important of all, not a complete idiot. A large part of this is of course due to Darren and his voice acting. He very convincingly brought Jak to life.
There’s a whole cast of characters in the game of course, each played by different actors, and for the most part they worked well. By the end of the game, I had warmed up to almost all of the cast, even characters that I had initially disliked. As for how the story progresses, it reminded me of an older action movie or video game, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still tightens up every so often. I appreciated this, as I don’t believe every game needs to be incredibly deep or poignant. Sometimes just being a game and being entertaining is more than enough.
Alright alright, what’s the catch?
It’s in the visual department that I find the biggest flaw of the game. While the magical nature of the world, its scale and its inhabitants were very well done, it’s with the actual resolution that the game outputs that I took issue with. I played on the Xbox Series X and throughout the entire game I couldn’t help but notice that the resolution and texture quality would very often be noticeably low. To the point that I started to think it may have been a bug at times. This was doubly disappointing as so much of this world is beautifully crafted. On the flip side, I only rarely noticed a drop in frames, though I do also run a VRR enabled screen. The music and score also helped bring the game to life.
In terms of bugs, I had two crashes to the home screen in my 20-25 or so hours with the game. Other than that, I had a moment where my waypoint was guiding me to the wrong location, but a quick look at the level map and I figured out where to go. The developers did mention that there will be a day one patch, so hopefully that prevents those few crashes from happening for others. Overall though, the game felt polished and bug free to me.
A Fantastic Blend of Magic and FPS Mechanics
I have a bit of a confession. One of my ultimate class fantasies has always been a magic user that fights up close and personal. A “battlemage”, so to speak. Hence It should come as no surprise that I almost immediately loved the premise and setting of this game. An entire world full of mages fighting at the front line? Sign me up!
Yet even with those expectations coming in, Immortals of Aveum exceeded them. I started the game expecting a fun, 12-15 hour experience, but ultimately nothing too memorable. Instead, I was given an epic tale over two dozen hours long with a surprisingly robust combat system that balanced and meshed together mechanics I didn’t think it would. Not as well as it did, anyway. Couple that with a world full of things to explore, memorable characters, beautiful set pieces, challenging encounters and the momentum to keep all of this up throughout, it’s no wonder I enjoyed the game as much as I did.
Immortals of Aveum is a fantastic game that I’d recommend to just about anyone, especially those hungry for a different take on some familiar formulas.