As first-person shooters can often lean towards gritty or grim environments, it’s always refreshing to see games that try out a new kind of setting. The fantasy genre has sometimes been home to FPS games over the years, such as the original Quake or Doom clones like Heretic, but once again these often fall into darker tropes. This is where Immortals of Aveum, the debut from developer Ascendant Studios, comes in.
Immortals of Aveum casts the player as Jak, an elite battlemage who is fighting in an unending war against a dangerous foe. As the world of Aveum itself crumbles into an ever-growing abyss, Jak and his allies must try to find a way to end the war and work out a solution to the coming end of the world. The way to do this is to utilize three kinds of magic as Jak’s power grows, in an utterly charming FPS that unfortunately does have some flaws.
Sharp Magic Shooting
Ahead of launch, Immortals of Aveum was billed by some as Call of Duty with spellcraft, but this is a major disservice to just how thrilling the combat is. The game is fast and free-flowing, not quite at the all-out chaos of the likes of Doom: Eternal, but somewhere closer to Titanfall 2 in its fluidity. In order to master Immortals of Aveum, players will have to understand how to effectively string their basic combat shots together with dodging and skills like shield and spell breaks, and it’s a fantastic combination that is truly wonderful to play.
It certainly helps that elements like enemy weaknesses are so easily identifiable. Each kind of shield or armor, and in some cases enemy health itself, is particularly susceptible to one of the three colors of magic – long range blue, powerful but volatile red, or rapid-fire green – and chopping or changing between different standard attacks or special moves is easy to do. This is made all the better when tying together flourishes from other skills, and lassoing an enemy and eviscerating them with a close-range red magic blast in Immortals of Aveum is probably the most satisfying example of that trope since Bulletstorm.
Players will find this combat engaging in its own right, but it’s further intensified by some brilliant set pieces, such as a battle on a giant automaton in the middle of the ocean while being attacked by whale-like flying ships. Immortals of Aveum breaks up this pacing a little with a pseudo-open world, introducing Metroidvania mechanics to unlock bonuses with new skills learned. This provides players with a little bit of extra choice and autonomy, although it’s generally little more than a mild distraction before getting back into the meat of its core campaign.
Lore or Bore?
For all the brilliance of its combat, Immortals of Aveum alas cannot keep up when it comes to its writing or storytelling. There’s an unfortunate irreverence in much of its dialogue, particularly from main character Jak, meaning that the cataclysmic events of the plot are never really treated with the importance they deserve. This insincerity does get quite grating.
That said, there are some interesting elements that come up in the game’s lore, with a wider mythology that is thousands of years in its depth. This is given to the player more in additional documentation such as diary entries and written notes that the player finds in the game world, and it’s clear that a lot of effort went into creating a complex fantasy world with a lot of scope to explore. However, it’s easy to miss or ignore these moments, and oftentimes the lore – whether given in a found text or explained to the player by a non-player character – comes across as an info-dump rather than something interwoven into the plot itself.
Immortals of Aveum also pulls its punches a little thematically. The game’s plot sets up some interesting discussions, such as the importance of social class and hierarchy in Aveum society, a forever war that hints at 1984 or Old Man’s War, and exactly what lengths people will go to hurt an enemy, but in the end many of these threads lie untouched. Perhaps these moments could be explored in a (deserved) sequel, but as it stands players are more likely to remember Immortals of Aveum‘s for its awkward quips rather than its themes.
Immortals of Aveum was billed as a great opportunity for many to see the possibilities of what Unreal Engine 5 projects can bring, and it’s fair to say that it’s often a gorgeous game. Although the game sticks to about four or five key locations, there’s variation to be found in setting, from mountainous snowy sections that tie into some fun platforming sections to the lustrous purples of the game’s magic realm. In a title where color is such an intrinsic component of its design, it’s nice to have something vibrant.
That said, Immortals of Aveum does have some flaws in its visual design. On PS5 under default settings the game comes up quite dark, which can mean some moments are frustrating to work through, such as the obligatory underground spooky section where the player has to face unkillable enemies. It has shades of Doom 3, as the title has some tremendous lighting effects that it is desperate to show off, but is willing to do so perhaps at the expense of player enjoyment.
Something that may vary from player to player is how they respond to Immortals of Aveum‘s particle lighting effects. The game is quite cluttered thanks to a bombardment of both player and enemy magic attacks, and it’s understandable if some find this overwhelming, particularly when using a “dominion” attack that takes up most of the screen with bright lights. However, for this reviewer it did add to the overall tone, and playing Immortals of Aveum is essentially akin to running through a violent kaleidoscope with glowsticks in hand.
Our Review Score & Final Thoughts
Immortals of Aveum is not quite the must-have new IP that some would have hoped, but there are some genuine moments of brilliance here. It has absolutely fantastic minute-to-minute combat, and once the player is in sync with their powers it’s a wonderfully fluid experience. Unfortunately its story and writing doesn’t match its gameplay, and its visual design is a bit of a mixed bag, but with gameplay that ranks among the most enjoyable for shooters of this generation so far, those flaws may well be worth overlooking.
Source: Immortals of Aveum / YouTube
Immortals of Aveum releases 22 August 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S. Screen Rant was provided with a PS5 download code for the purposes of this review.