Immortals of Aveum – Action RBG
Immortals of Aveum is the debut release from developer Ascendant Studios, made up of former Sledgehammer Games and Telltale Games employees who have brought a wealth of previous experience on the Dead Space, Call of Duty and Walking Dead series among others. A hybridisation of shooting, puzzle and platforming mechanics, Immortals has a lot going for it alongside some issues which are the sort of thing that I expect will either be ironed out further in patches or overhauled completely in an even more impressive sequel.
Set in the world of Aveum, protagonist Jak is caught up in an empire spanning war for control of magic amongst five competing kingdoms, three of which have already entered a state of ruin due to a millennium of fighting. Following a personal tragedy, Jak’s latent powers awaken, revealing him to be a Triarch – a mage capable of utilising all three schools of coloured Magic that manifest in Aveum – Red, Green and (drumroll) Blue. Fighting for the kingdom of Lucium, Jak and his companions mount a desperate last stand against Rasharn, their powerful neighbour to the south. While much of it exists in written texts scattered around the game world, Ascendant Studios have put a lot of effort into the worldbuilding of Immortals, with a star-studded cast of performers putting it all on show through mo-cap performances with Lily Cowles and Darren Barnet of particular note. That said, there are quite a lot of proper nouns players will need to digest, and some of the political intrigue might slip unnoticed if players aren’t taking the time to read through the wealth of writing tucked away in the menu. Visually, Immortals is impressive from a design standpoint, although it isn’t exactly the most cutting-edge visuals on display. The world of Aveum is a mish-mash of High Fantasy settings and echoes elements of Dishonored and Halo in its area design making exploration both enjoyable and quite often, handsomely rewarding.
Immortals bounces between a few modes of play and at intervals asks players to juggle all three; combat, puzzle solving and platforming traversal. With the pedigree behind many members of the studio, it’s no surprise that the combat here feels excellent – across the near 30 hours of playtime, I rarely wanted to skip combat encounters. I dare say Immortals might be the most fun I’ve had firing anything in a game since Destiny, which many addicts can attest absolutely nailed the ‘feel’ in that regard. The use of Red, Green and Blue spells alongside colour co-ordinated enemies is a streamlined way of keeping the players arsenal relatively tight and also effectively signposting what weapon to rotate to quickly in the heat of battle, some of which get very overwhelming as the particle effects of spells ramp up and start to hit the framerate a touch. The colour system fits seamlessly throughout the game world itself, a ‘hub and spoke’ approach giving a touch of Metroidvania to the proceedings as certain puzzles can’t be solved without spells earned much later in the game. Most puzzles are fairly straightforward – shoot the matching spell colour on the obvious (or hidden) switch, occasionally do it in a particular order while a timer runs down. The most fiendish will have players traversing, shooting and also trying to slow-down doors and platform using an early secondary spell power, while the later puzzles tend to focus on aligning a spell refracted through arrays of crystals. There are plenty of hidden nooks and crannies around the world of Aveum which encourages thorough exploration and is generally the most effective way to obtain upgrade materials for Jak’s ‘weapons’. A definite highlight of the overall experience, combat is somewhat marred on console thanks to a combination of dual-wielding weapon switching using the left D-Pad which isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be during the oft frenetic combat.
Not long into the proceedings Jak is armed to the teeth; spellcasting devices, magical rings, bracers and other artifacts hanging from every extremity. The three main schools of magic – Blue, the stock standard ranged attack, Red, the up-close panic-button and Green, a rapid fire burst that tends to sacrifice accuracy for speed – each come with a particular armament that can be upgraded or replaced using the aforementioned materials. Completing some puzzles will reward players with new weapons and accessories which can be constructed, upgraded or deconstructed to recover some materials. Players can go quite deep on this system if they want, but it will likely depend how heavily on the difficult setting they stick with as to how much it’s necessary. I played roughly two thirds of Aveum on the regular difficulty which feels about the right balance, were it not for some obvious difficulty spikes in some encounters that don’t feel anywhere near as calibrated as others throughout the game. While there are perhaps half a dozen battles in the entire game I would suggest were out of step, it’s an easy thing to massage as the developers gather more telemetry data and continue to patch the game, as one major patch which fixed a number of performance issues has already released prior to this review.
Outside of a few dodgy encounter designs, the other area that Immortals struggles with is its pacing, which is all over the shop. To me, this feels like a result of other design decisions, including the semi-open world nature which enables backtracking and a story that is perhaps a touch too big in scope for its foundation. Attempts to sow twists in the story make it feel more drawn out than it needs to be, while a drip-feed of abilities across more than half of the game mean it could be a dozen hours between a puzzle being encountered and being solvable by the player. In the grand scheme of things, these again are elements I fully expect to see improve in the future.
Immortals of Aveum is an ever-so-slightly overambitious, overlong debut effort from a studio that has gotten the key conceit down – designing a game that nails nearly all of its core systems on the first outing. I’d encourage anyone looking for a shooter experience that hearkens back to some older design principals while still feeling modern to go out and grab it. As for myself, after rolling credits I’m very much hoping there is something in the pipeline for a few months or years’ time. Ascendant Studios have proven they have what it takes to put together a solid 25 hour plus experience – I’d love to see what they could do with something a little tighter, like an expansion, or with a few years of sequel polish lathered on top.
Immortals of Aveum was reviewed on an Xbox Series X console with code kindly supplied by the publisher.