Immortals of Aveum Review
Immortals of Aveum is the answer to the question, “what would happen if you crossed a fantasy game with a first-person shooter?” In the world of Immortals, mages are the foot soldiers of war, firing deadly spells at one another across the frontlines. Those spells require power, and that power is a limited, natural resource, which has led to the Everwar, a war that has been raging between the two factions of Aveum, the Lucium and the Rasharn, for longer than anyone can remember.
Magic comes in three colors, emanating from below the ground and then emerging to crisscross the world in rivers of power known as lay lines. Not everyone can wield magic, at least with enough power to become a mage, and those who do usually have a talent for a particular color of magic.
You play as Jak, a young man living on the streets of Saren, a Lucium city that is built underneath a massive bridge. The world of Aveum is more mana-punk than high fantasy. Most of the architecture would certainly look at home in a The Lord of the Rings movie, but the fashion has a certain Medieval punk cosplay vibe to it, and the dialog would feel right at home in a modern action film.
When the Rasharn assault Saren, Jak’s small adopted family of fellow street kids is shattered, and he finds himself facing off against several of the invading mages. In the heat of battle, he discovers a latent magical power within himself, one that allows him to control the three colors of magic with equal ease. Recognizing that Jak is a rare Triarch Magnus, the Lucium commander Kirkan takes him under her wing.
The game has you play through most of this preamble, but then fast-forwards the story five years, sparing you from having to live through Jak’s training and formative years on the battlefield. The Jak you will play as from here on out has a good command of the three colors of magic, and will only get more powerful.
The game’s first-person shooter aspects are manifested in the three colors of magic. Each color roughly corresponds to one of three weapon classes typically found in shooters – red magic is powerful but short-ranged (shotgun), blue is for aimed, ranged shots (rifle), and green is a rapid-fire burst magic (SMGs). Magic is cast through sigils, forearm-mounted metalwork which can affect your spells’ damage, fire rate, and other factors. You’ll switch between them much as you would between weapons in a shooter, and you’ll be finding and equipping new sigils throughout the game in much the same way that you would be upgrading your weapons in a shooter – or an RPG for that matter. You’ll also be able to improve your powers by spending the skill points you earn when leveling-up in one of three different skill trees. There’s one tree for each color of magic, so you can choose to specialize in or to balance your skills between the colors at the expense of being able to reach the highest tier skills in any of the colors.
In addition to the weapon-spells cast through your sigils, you’ll also be able to cast spells with your offhand. These spells all require the use of some sort of artifact or totem, so you’re essentially equipping your choice of offhand spells rather than being free to cast any spell that you’ve learned over the course of your adventures. These spells do come in some forms that can damage enemies, but for the most part they provide some type of support or capability, such as a magical shield for protection or an energy whip which can ensnare enemies and bring them closer to you. Rounding out your arsenal are your Furies, basically ultimates that can be unleashed once you’ve charged them. The Furies come in handy when you’re in desperate need of a little crowd control.
The game’s controls are tight and responsive, so if you’ve played your share of shooters, you’ll have no trouble slinging spells at enemy mages. Battles can certainly fun, with spells arcing around you as you unleash your own flurry of deadly magic. The spell effects take full advantage of Unreal Engine 5.1 and look fantastic.
However, the game doesn’t really afford you the freedom of playing to your preferred weapon’s strengths. The reason for this is that most enemies are vulnerable to just one color of magic. If you spot an enemy vulnerable to red magic coming towards you, you can’t really use the range to your advantage since you’re going to have to wait until he is close enough to engage him with your red magic. This is more of a disappointment than a deal-breaker early on, when enemies are fewer in number but manageable. As you get further into the game, though, the difficulty curve is ramped up by throwing ever increasing numbers of enemies at you. The game’s levels are linear, and it serves up its battles arena-style in which you’ll have to survive waves of enemy assaults within an enclosed area. When there are a lot of enemies present, the battles feel less tactical and more of an exercise in spinning the weapon wheel to the right color as quickly as possible while keeping track of where the health pick-ups are in the arena. There’s also a certain sameness to the battles, not quite a monotony, but definitely a feeling of repetition such that there aren’t any that standout in my mind after playing the game. There are certainly plenty of shooter games that I can still remember battles from, even years after playing the games.
Aside from the battles, there are three main activities while traversing the game’s levels. The first is finding chests. As you follow the main path, every alcove, side path, adjoining room inevitably will be occupied by one or more chests. While they do occasionally yield loot, most of the time they contain an essence from one of the colors of magic. These serve as the game’s crafting materials, and you’ll need enough of them to warrant looking for every chest you can find. The crafting system is a bit overcomplicated, and is made more so by the fact that you can only craft items at special stations, which is also the only place you can see the recipes. There’s not exactly an abundance of these stations, either, so when you do come across one, you’ll need to spend a lot of time seeing what’s available and then deciding how to allocate your resources. In the end I’m still not sure if the additional bonuses were worth the time spent navigating through the stations’ options.
The next non-combat activity is provided by the game’s puzzles. The puzzles all operate on the same basic mechanic – locate the switches and activate them with the corresponding color of magic. Some add timing elements or require a little platforming between triggers, but there’s nothing here that will challenge your puzzle-solving prowess here. Your reward will usually be, of course, a chest containing an item of gear or crafting essence, but occasionally they will yield access to a Shroudfane. These are challenge realms that exist on another plane, much like you may have seen before if you played Dishonored or Immortals Fenyx Rising. The challenges here involve defeating enemies and navigating moving platforms, all the while avoiding falling off of the floating islands into the void below.
While playing the game I encountered bugs at fairly regular intervals, the most common of which was losing all response from the triggers. And since the triggers control your spells, there’s nothing to do at that point but quit and restart. At other times I found myself trapped in spots that I was able to get into, but not out of. Unfortunately, the game’s save points are fairly spaced apart, so each time I had to restart I was faced with replaying stretches of the game, which invariably included ducking down all of the side routes to open all of the chests that I had already taken the time to do before.
You can certainly have your fun with Immortals of Aveum – its world is unique and there simply aren’t enough magic shooters of this caliber out there. The bugs are annoying, and have hopefully been patched by the time you’re reading this, but if not, you’ll have to have a little patience with the game. It’s not a must-play shooter – better battles as the game progresses instead of a “more is better” philosophy towards enemies and more freedom to experiment with different spell combos rather than just matching colors would help, as well as more interesting and challenging puzzles.
Final Rating: 70% - A great-looking magic shooter that needs to play better.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.