The pitch for Immortals of Aveum seems simple: it’s Call of Duty with sorcerers for soldiers, magic spells for guns. You’re still a man on a mission in the middle of a worldwide conflict, but instead of Tom Clancy high-tech espionage with all guns blazing, you’ve got sub-Tolkien fantasy meets Marvel movie flash and thunder. It’s an interesting twist on the FPS formula, with all the required bombast, battles, and blockbuster set pieces, so why is the result so underwhelming?
Here, there are definite parallels with recent Marvel efforts. There’s too much focus on lore and world-building at the expense of a storyline and characters you care about, despite some impressive motion-captured performances here and there. The realms of Aveum have descended into an endless ‘everwar’ between kingdoms of feuding magicians, each determined to hold all the power. Worse, the world itself is collapsing in its own magic eco-catastrophe, creating a growing zone of decay and disruption known as the Wound. You play Jak, a raw and reckless young mage hoping to join the Immortals of the title; a sort of team of sorcerer superheroes fighting the armies of Sandrakk and the kingdom of Rasham.
If that sounds like a lot to be getting on with, we’ve only just scratched the surface, with Immortals of Aveum determined to assail you with jargon and epic exposition at nearly every turn. What’s more, Jak is the kind of cocky, snarky but vulnerable upstart that becomes quite obnoxious within the first few hours. Throw in the kind of lazy, witless comic banter that’s become the default tone for superhero movies, and you’ve got a game where the storytelling detracts from the action when it should be making it mean something. There’s an intriguing eco-fable buried in here somewhere, but you’ll have to dig to find it.
Immortals can be a stunning-looking game, and all those spells, flying bodies, and fantasy landscapes makes for some impressive spectacle
The action is frantic...
The action itself is more interesting. While the individual chapters play out much like Call of Duty missions, moving from battle to battle with the odd huge set piece to spice things up, the actual fighting has more in common with the run-and-gun combat of a Doom or Halo. Jak has three colours of magic at his disposal, but they’re basically variations on classic FPS themes, with blue magic covering your rifles and carbines, red magic working as a shotgun, and green magic operating like an assault rifle or SMG. Most battles see you quickly surrounded by large groups of enemies, and the trick is to move fast, dodge and shield from incoming fire, then blast back with the magic that each of your foes likes least. At its best, it’s frantic, breathless, and extremely satisfying.
Sadly, there’s more to it. As well as the offensive spells, focused through a fancy-pants bracer on your right arm, you have a selection of more defensive spells on your left arm, giving you a shield, a magic bullwhip, or a limpet grenade that slows enemies or objects. On top of this, you have a cluster of more powerful ‘fury’ attacks you can call on by squeezing the R1 button on your controller and tapping one of the face buttons. Beyond that, you need to keep a thumb handy for topping up your health and magic power, or for pushing down both thumbsticks to unleash your special high-damage beam, provided you can power it up by slaying enough foes.
But the wizardry is woeful
All of this stuff is crucial when you’re out-spelled and outnumbered by a horde of magic-wielding goons, particularly given Immortals of Aveum’s penchant for throwing in massive enemies with near-unblockable attacks. It’s a challenge to keep moving, blasting, and switching magic while you work your fingers into knots over the controls. This makes it weirdly hard to find any flow in the fighting; the kind of flow that a Doom, Halo, or Destiny makes look easy.
This isn’t the only area that leaves you thinking maybe less would be more. There’s a central hub area where you can chat to your fellow Immortals between missions, but it’s too big and most of the conversations feel like a waste of time. There are complex crafting and upgrade systems for your skills and gear, but these seem to be here because other games have them, not because they make this particular game more interesting or fun. It says a lot that, while you can have countless variations on your core spells, it’s rare that any feel exciting or radically change the way you play.
Meanwhile, the efforts to mix things up with puzzles or a spot of platforming would be more engaging if the puzzles and the platforming were smarter or better-paced. There are some exceptions where the game hits on a genuinely great idea, but these don’t appear soon or often enough.
Let’s not go overboard with the negativity. Immortals can be a stunning-looking game, and all those spells, flying bodies, and fantasy landscapes makes for some impressive spectacle. With a little practice and some beefed-up weaponry, the core combat is pretty sound most of the time, occasionally creeping towards great.
Yet it’s a game overburdened by the weight of its own systems, saddled with an irritating protagonist and an unengaging plot. Play it for short stretches and you’ll find there’s some magic left in this fantasy FPS, but not enough to make it anything more than a mildly entertaining stopgap between more imaginative games.