Brand new IP published by EA? AAA game as the first release of a new studio? A first-person shooter where you shoot magic bursts instead of bullets? All this describes the game created by young developer Ascendant Studios, which aims to reinvigorate the first-person shooter genre. Does he manage to forge something worthwhile and new from the secret? Or will the magic dry up?
- Developer: Ascendant Studios
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Release Date: August 22, 2023
Immortals of Aveum takes place in a world full of wonder and magic called, well, Aveum. Here, magic is part of the lives of the vast majority of the inhabitants, both military and practical. There’s some lore and history here that you gradually unlock as you play (as well as a few revelations or two), but the gist is that there are three types of magic in this world: red (chaos), green (life), and blue (power). ). Each one has a different nature, for example green is capable of healing while red has more destructive tendencies, and generally each person can only use one color of magic. Aveum is a world embroiled in what is known as the “Eternal War,” which, as you might have guessed, refers to a war spanning centuries with no end in sight. Again, there’s a rich history to immerse yourself in here, but as the game begins, the war approaches a possible end: the last defending nation of Lucium is attacked by its enemies, Rasharn, led by the ruthless Sandraak.
Okay, enough background, in the game you play Jack, a young orphan who is just trying to find his way in life before the Forever War comes knocking on his door. More precisely, it burns it. Facing certain death against Magnus’s enemy, he awakens as a “Triarch”, someone capable of using all three colors of magic. So, the story begins with the vengeful Jak (his door was burned, remember?) participating in the war and trying to obtain the prestigious title of “Immortal”…
Ascendant Studios describes the game as a “magical first-person shooter,” and that’s pretty accurate. As a battle mage, someone who harnesses the power of magic on the front lines, you destroy enemies using something called a “Seal”, which you can equip one of each color. Each piece of equipment in the game has rarity levels and can be upgraded using earned currency. Seals focus your magic and change the way you release it. Essentially, they act as a kind of “gun”, changing the rate of fire, the amount of ammo, the range of your magic, etc.
The three colors themselves play out differently, giving you the opportunity to really experiment and find what works for you. In general, red symbols are melee oriented, almost like a sort of “shotgun” type, with a low rate of fire but high damage. The green symbols reminded me of machine guns or automatic weapons, as they have a high rate of fire and a lot of ammo, as well as the ability to homing and searching for enemies. Blue symbols have more control and can hit enemies from a distance, but have a lower rate of fire. These are the basics of the colors, but each color also has three different types of symbols, and even within those types you have a variety of different buffs or attributes that they provide.
I know it sounds overwhelming, but as you play the game it all gets introduced to you at a good pace, and even then it essentially just boils down to nine different weapon types. Let’s look at the blue symbols as a quick example. You have the Arclight, which fires instantly and hits enemies at long ranges, but it can take a while to reload and it often doesn’t have much ammo. Then you have the Javelin, which requires you to charge an attack, but does a ton of damage and can hit even further. Finally, there is the Shrikebolt, which has more accuracy than the red or green symbols, but still fires quickly and has a lot of ammo. So we know there are magic “guns” in the game, but what about the enemies?
Whenever I play an action-oriented game, no matter the genre, the one thing I always pay attention to is the variety of enemies. This essentially makes or breaks so many games for me, and I’ve had problems in the past even with games that were exceptionally well reviewed. With Immortals… Well, it gets the job done.
Most of the enemies and bosses in the game are divided into three colors, each of which presents a different challenge. For example, enemies using blue magic can create a shield around themselves that prevents damage until you break through it. Green scavengers can create a healing shield that, if not broken, can cancel out all your damage. And red mages create armor around them that reduces the damage you deal. As you can imagine, you also deal more or less damage to these shields depending on the colors you use and the attributes of your symbols. A general rule of thumb is to use magic of the same color against different types of enemies: blue destroys barriers, green destroys regeneration, and so on. But depending on how you use your talents, switching to a specific color after destroying a shield may be the most effective. Which, hey, brings us to the next section!
Along with various glyphs and other equipment (small upgrades like rings or bracers that give you various attributes like reduced charge cooldown), Immortals of Aveum has a thankfully simple talent tree. Of course there are three sections, one for each color. By fighting enemies and exploring the world, you gain “ascension points” which are then used to unlock nodes. These unlocks can range from simple things like “increased critical damage” to more complex upgrades like melee attacks that can destroy shields. Some upgrades are linked to other trees, requiring you to develop, say, red talents before you can unlock a specific blue ability. Each talent you unlock also slightly increases your damage of that color.
This creates a system where you choose between investing in a specific color, spreading talent evenly, or perhaps narrowing it down to just two. Luckily, the game allows you to reset your talents at almost any time for a small currency cost, which, at least as far as I’ve noticed, hasn’t increased since using it. I was initially aiming for a more balanced talent tree, but after focusing on a couple of abilities that I really wanted, I found myself investing in blue first. A quick check later also revealed that the power of my blue abilities was significantly higher than other colors (meaning my blue symbol would do more damage), so I reset and narrowed my choices to become a sort of blue “primary”. I dealt so much damage with my blue glyph that I’ll still use it on most other colored enemies after I break their shields.
There are other combat mechanics in Immortals of Aveum, such as certain spells you unlock throughout the game that can slow enemies, pull them towards you, break their shields, interrupt their spells, and more. But a lot 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 seal while under a shield, so you’ll need to learn and master this ability quickly if you don’t want to die constantly, especially on Immortal (Hard) difficulty. on which I played the game.
I’ve gone on and on about the different combat mechanics, but how well do they actually fit together? Answer? Really damn good. Combat in this game often feels like a sort of “dance” as you constantly switch between enemies, sigils, abilities, and survival mechanics; for example, breaking out of a fight or throwing yourself into a corner followed by a double jump to give yourself a break. Even on the highest difficulty, I didn’t find the game unfair. Most of the time I died due to my own carelessness, either by landing in a bad spot or taking unnecessary risks using a magic spell (which uses both hands and thus cancels your shield). The combat visuals can be a bit too showy at first, but I found that I only rarely lost track of who or what I was fighting, even when my screen was full of magic and explosions.
As someone who focused on blue magic, my shield helped me survive and thrive, even among half a dozen enemies. I had a build so that the initial damage to my shield would heal me, and my shield would instantly recover after the dash. Combined with a few more magic barrier buffs, and as long as I was on my toes, I rarely fell in battle. Not that the game can’t be challenging, mind you. After completing the story, there are several encounters that are meant to be the “finale” and which certainly get more difficult. Moreover, I encountered one of them when I was very unprepared. Yes, it didn’t end very well…
I know this review has been going on for a while, so I’ll quickly touch on the next few items. I think the biggest gap between players will be in the story and character performances. The narrative of Immortals of Aveum can be quite serious, but at times it is imbued with comedic overtones. I found Jack, played by Darren Barnett, to be a breath of fresh air compared to the average protagonist. He took the right moments seriously, but never missed an opportunity to make a joke here and there to ease the tension. I know comedy is subjective, but I at least enjoyed the humor in the game. I found Jack to be sweet, sociable and, most importantly, not a complete idiot. This is largely due to Darren and his voice acting. He brought Jack to life very convincingly.
Of course, the game has a whole cast of characters, each played by different actors, and for the most part they do a good job. By the end of the game, I got used to almost all the actors, even the characters I didn’t initially like. As for how the story progresses, it reminded me of an old action movie or video game that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still tense at times. I appreciated this because I don’t think every game needs to be incredibly deep or poignant. Sometimes just being a game and having fun is more than enough.
It’s in the visuals that I find the game’s biggest flaw. While the magical nature of the world, its scale and its inhabitants were very well developed, it is the actual resolution that the game outputs that I take issue with. I played on Xbox Series X and throughout the game I couldn’t help but notice that the resolution and texture quality were very often noticeably low. To the point where sometimes I started to think it might have been a mistake. This was doubly disappointing, since most of this world is fine. On the other hand, I only occasionally noticed frame drops, although I also use the screen with VRR enabled. The music and soundtrack also helped bring the game to life.
As for errors, in 20-25 hours of playing I had two crashes on the main screen. I also had a moment where my waypoint was pointing me to the wrong place, but a quick glance at the level map and I knew where to go. The devs have mentioned that there will be a day one patch coming out, so hopefully that will prevent others from experiencing these few glitches. Overall, however, I found the game to be polished and bug-free.
Immortals of Aveum turned out to be very worthy, and therefore it is doubly unfortunate that in the eyes of the public it looks like another passable action game in the spirit of Testament and Atlas Fallen. Electronic Arts failed to present the game properly, and therefore most gamers will never know how interesting it is to travel around Aveum, look for caches with artifacts in the nooks and crannies, fight against squads of motley enemies, defeat giant bosses and with the feeling of “I am the king of the world!” fly, clinging to streams of mana. Almost everything about this game is good, even if it’s not great. I would like to believe that at least over time she will gain the recognition she deserves.
- Unique Fusion of Genres
- Immersive Worldbuilding
- Visually Stunning
- Satisfying Combat
- Smooth Performance
- Uneven Pacing
- Underdeveloped Characters
- Sloppy Dialogue
- Bad PC Performance