In a year of remakes and sequels to large franchises – albeit some of them stellar – it’s always refreshing to see new stories being told in video games, with the chance for developers to experiment with new ideas and hopefully breathe new life into a long-running genre.
That’s exactly what Ascendant Studios has aimed for with Immortals of Aveum. Essentially Doctor Strange mixed with Doom and magic, it’s got the seeds of some really intriguing ideas in there. Unfortunately, what feels like feature creep – along with some tiresome concepts – holds it back, not to mention an unlikeable ‘cocky American teenager’ lead character.
An FPS where the bullets come from your fingers, the game is set in the neo-medieval world of Aveum. With factions of differing magic having been at war for decades over the control of magic, Lucium and Rasharn are the last currently standing in the shadow of the Pentacade – a huge statue of unknown origins that arose in the centre of the colonies.
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You play as Jak, an orphan who stumbles into the middle of a crucial battle and – thanks to his annoying wit and charmless need to fight everyone and everything – is quickly identified as a unique type of magic wielder and enrolled into an army as part of the ongoing war. (Spoiler: he never stops being annoying but does become the hero.)
While the story and its characters are by far the weakest part of Immortals of Aveum, despite some of the cast doing their utmost to dine on the scenery, thanks to constant quips being thrown back and forth ad nauseam, the world inside has some interesting lore and ideas that are buried within more than a library's worth of text.
Exposition being delivered through books and papers you find lying around is an aged trope that’s wearing out its welcome within the medium but Immortals of Aveum is quite possibly one of the worst offenders here, and for a brand new IP, it’s a shame. We’d have loved to have had more time to explore the world and understand more about it without the need to smash hundreds of boxes left all over the place.
Combat is the core selling point here, which as we mentioned revolves around casting spells from your hand like a rattling gun. With hands raised, you can switch between spell colours to switch up your attack style. Akin to your basic arsenal of machine gun, shotgun and rifle (green, blue and red respectively), combat can get pretty frenetic as you switch back and forth depending on your tactical needs.
Blue will chew through enemy shields, while red will blast your foes into pieces, provided you’re close enough – which is where your handy Lash earns its place, a spell that allows you to grapple onto the nearest enemy and pull them into your line of fire.
Classed as a control spell, you can also use Limpets to slow time or unleash a huge blast beam that’ll destroy anyone in front of you, or at least confuse them for a time.
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And there’s yet more spells in your arsenal – from the supplementary stuff you’d expect like shields and quick dodges to Furies, which offer a range of more powerful attacks like dropping huge bombs on the battlefield and unleashing blasts of magic energy to break shields and push enemies around the arena.
As you’ve most likely gathered from trailers or heard before, it’s got an air of Doom to it, with fast-paced arenas full of enemies as you move along the game's fairly linear story, bumping into ever more dangerous bosses as you go.
Surprisingly, there's no weapon wheel, and as the story progresses, the difficulty ramps up in a way that makes certain omissions like this glaringly obvious. We all like a challenge, but sometimes it’s just not enjoyable to be fumbling with clunky mechanics as the game throws everything it has at you in the name of a late-game challenge.
As it’s 2023, you can expect RPG elements sprinkled in, with the ability to upgrade your jewellery, bracers and spells to give you an edge in battle. The problem here is it all feels very shoehorned in. Every new +24% damage and +10% critical hit chance left us feeling like nothing really made much of a difference to our experience and like they're just a way to keep you in the loop for longer.
Throw in the many breakable crates and hidden chests you’ll find littered almost every step in front of you and there’s a sense that certain features crept their way in for nothing more than padding.
Immortals of Aveum is the perfect example of a mid-tier experience. There’s some good ideas in there – and some things are executed well – but with so many others not feeling quite right, enjoyment will really vary person to person. We hope Ascendant Studios gets the chance to have a second shot at casting a spell on the genre. If given the space to jettison some tropes and really focus on their concept, there could be something really special here.
Platform reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Immortals of Aveum is out now on Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
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