PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
August 22, 2023
An incredibly cinematic experience with a talented cast and fast-paced combat, running smoothly as one of the first big releases on Unreal Engine 5, Immortals of Aveum is set up to be a wondrous adventure, to say the least. The first title from developer Ascendant Studios, a crew that boasts experience from top-tier titles like Bioshock 2, Call of Duty, Dead Space, and more, Immortals of Aveum feels ambitious for a debut game, tapping into strong production values that make for a technically satisfying tale under the EA Originals banner. By focusing on a relatively linear experience that doesn’t waste any of its runtime, this spell-casting, magic-blasting epic ensures that the fun doesn’t stop, much like the Hollywood blockbusters it’s trying to emulate.
In this mystical world of Aveum, you play as Jak, an “Unforeseen”, someone who unexpectedly manifests magical abilities later in life. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz, so Jak quickly finds himself involved in the Everwar, where grand armies jostle for control over magic in the realm. Jak, along with a crew of entertaining characters you’ll meet along the way, must band together to save the world and ensure the magic doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The overarching narrative in Immortals of Aveum might not be particularly unique but is delivered with a real gusto that suckered me in regardless.
This is largely in part due to the cast, who make a real effort to bring these characters to life. Jak is played by Darren Barnett, who you’ll probably know as heartthrob Paxton Hall-Yoshida from the brilliant Never Have I Ever. He’s known as more of a handsome goofball in that show, but Aveum gives him far more intense material to chew on, which he delivers with an earnestness that I couldn’t help but find endearing. Early trailers (and other releases) this year had gamers concerned that his quips would become annoying, but I’m happy to say that his delivery is strong throughout and is nowhere near as infuriating as other titles that come off as trying too hard to be witty.
“The fully voiced cast goes a long way in increasing the quality, even enhancing the writing…”
He’s flanked by Gina Torres from Firefly, Suits, 9-1-1 Lone Star, and others; she is powerful and commanding as General Kirkan. She is a dominant figure on screen whenever she speaks, a testament to her acting chops. Antonio Aakeel adds some real levity to proceedings as Devyn, an intelligent but largely comic-relief character who you could say is the “heart” of the team. Yvonne Senat Jones also gives a heartfelt performance as Jak’s best friend, Luna. But it’s perhaps Zendara who surprised me most. Lily Cowles of Roswell fame gives a strong and funny performance as the large army commander, who quickly captivates in the odd-couple friendship pairing with Jak.
The fully voiced cast goes a long way in increasing the quality of Immortals of Aveum, even enhancing the writing and narrative that could have felt paper-thin otherwise. There’s a large number of cut scenes that keep the story moving along, and again harkening back to Hollywood blockbusters, they mix the silly with the serious to flesh out the characters in this universe and make for an entertaining jaunt.
Unreal Engine 5 also does go a long way in making the game visually enticing. Some of the play areas you’ll come across are large and with a lot of detail to them, with bespoke art throughout, as epic bridges overlook the treetops and ancient technology mixes with magical gems to make the war-torn environments pop. Each biome also feels distinct, with lush forestry, snow-covered mountains, and caves full of dangerous lava. The illumination and reflection look top-notch as sunlight bounces around the place, particularly highlighting the interior of the Grand Hall in Palathon with the light bursting through the large windows and onto the whites and golds inside the palace-like structure. Character models also look impressive, as they traverse glowing, floating platforms and manipulate giant statues. It’s smooth as butter, too; I only experienced one or two instances where the frame rate dipped while there was a huge amount of particle effects on screen, but otherwise found Immortals of Aveum to be a real treat for the eyes.
Described early as “Call of Duty with magic”, Immortals of Aveum takes a first-person shooter approach, replacing assault rifles and shotguns with different spells that can be shot out of your hands with similarly fatal results. There are three different forms you will flip between, as Jak has the rare ability to wield all of them. Force (blue), Chaos (red) and Life (green) are usable as core attacks, before evolving with other spell abilities that can be triggered on the fly. It’s easy to compare the magic forms to guns that they’re replicating, but the spells bring them into a more mystical territory; force feels like a single-shot rifle, but comes with the ability to shatter enemy shields from a distance. Chaos is a stronger, shotgun approach, with large AEO attacks to take down multiple foes and one that allows you to fly forward with a painful punch. Life feels like an SMG, with projectiles that seek out multiple targets.
I found myself sticking to Force as a solid solution for both short and long-range enemies, but different enemy types will force you to use a certain form to do damage to them, so you’ll find yourself bouncing between colours on your wrist frequently depending on the situation at hand. This is easily identifiable by the colour of the enemies, or the colour of their shields, which makes them pretty readable from a distance. While a “one size fits all” approach might work for earlier sections of the adventure, later fights force you to adapt your strategy and utilise all of your skills. While it might be tempting to upgrade your favourite colour as a priority, I’d perhaps try to keep things balanced so you don’t get caught off guard later on when you must be proficient in all of them.
Additionally, other spells come into play outside of those core forms that allow you to play with your approach and experiment further. On the defensive side, a blink ability serves as a quick dodge, and you’ll also have a shield that you can pull out to block foes, triggering a cool slow-motion response when it eventually breaks under pressure. A Lash spell is basically a grappling hook that can be used in certain situations, but also to pull smaller enemies closer to you for a close-range attack. You can even slow down specific targets using Limpets, helpful against faster foes that just won’t stand still, or disrupt spells using a red beam that damages the caster. It sounds a little overwhelming when listed out here in this way, but Immortals of Aveum does a decent job of introducing you to mechanics and spells one at a time so that it doesn’t feel like too much when playing. In fact, the variety makes each combat encounter feel exciting, even though they can get a little repetitive.
Inevitably, as you’re moving from area to area and enemies spawn in to attack you, déjà vu begins to creep in. Enemies are mostly fodder without too much of a challenge as you encounter them in the world, and I found myself seeing the same variants pop up pretty frequently. There are big ones that run at you with a melee attack, and there are annoying flying foes who zip around and require a certain form to take them down quickly or they’ll snipe you from a distance with ranged attacks. Weird giant dog-like beasts appear fairly frequently too, along with crab-type creatures. It’s not that they’re unappealing in and of themselves, but they do wear pretty thin as you roll on and see them over and over.
“…the amount of colourful particle effects that fill the screen when all this is taking place is wild and thrilling.”
Boss battles give a decent challenge when you first encounter them; for example, one giant shoots devastating laser beams at you from their head, which is the exact moment and location you have to attack them to make them vulnerable. Another one teleports from location to location, leaving a ghostly trail of where they’ve been, forcing you to follow them and capitalise on their positioning. So much of Immortals of Aveum is about shooting colourful magic blasts out of your hands, so some additional mechanics such as these are very welcome. It’s a shame then that these initial bosses get re-used and make re-appearances… often. The first time you take them down with their giant health bar depleting is very satisfying, but seeing them come back with less fanfare but being equally annoying took the wind out of my sails.
A couple of poorly-placed checkpoints also made for some irritating moments during my playtime. On a few occasions, I found myself respawning into an area absolutely packed with enemies (and in one instance a boss), with only one health potion in my inventory. At least three are available at the start usually, so being forced to tackle rooms hyper-cautiously or even find cheesy ways to survive instead of going into it with my usual spells-blazing approach wrecked some of the pacing. It made the battles far more difficult than they needed to be if I’d just loaded back in with the usual amount of potions having my back, and worked against the flow that the game otherwise does such a good job of keeping
Still, Immortals of Aveum is at its absolute best when there is a giant battlefield full of different enemy types that you have to take down with all of your skills. The repetition at least makes sure that you’re prepared for what’s to come, and some stellar moments can occur when you’re juggling different magic types, throwing abilities out left, right, and centre while swiftly dodging, chucking your shield up to deflect a last-second attack from a giant enemy before blasting his face off with your shotgun… err… red magic. It’s bloody cool, and the amount of colourful particle effects that fill the screen when all this is taking place is wild and thrilling.
Other setpieces help the game from merely becoming a shooter with nothing else to do; an early moment has you navigating a bunch of glowing platforms high in the sky, all moving around and snapping into place, creating pathways for sweet platforming and mini battle arenas. You’ll need to animate structures and statues to unblock paths and create new ones, or use Leylines (mystical flying foxes) to navigate through each location to find hidden treasures and loot. Your magic is not only used for battle, either – several puzzles will have you using the various types to trigger switches, cause platforms to appear, or solve other riddles. None of them are too tricky that I couldn’t complete them, but a few did make me stop and scratch my head as I scoured the area for a nearby solution. This change of pace focusing on platforming and puzzles serves as a nice detour from the constant fighting, and I enjoyed the diversions.
With plenty of spells to unlock and an intriguing world to explore, Immortals of Aveum should provide more than enough options to satisfy whichever playstyle suits you best, with a linear narrative that should take you over 10 hours to complete, and that’s if you’re focused purely on the main story path. The abilities you unlock will allow you to revisit past areas to find new pathways, so there are some light Metroidvania inspirations there, with loot to be found, crafted, and upgraded. It’s not an open world but has distinct large areas to explore at your leisure, with fast travel points throughout. The skill tree is also relatively flexible, allowing you to focus on certain spells that you wish to prioritise. The story culminates in a very satisfying conclusion which of course I won’t spoil, and additional challenges to go back and complete for the completionists out there. It certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a gorgeous and satisfying version of the wheel that manages to excite despite its shortcomings.
Immortals of Aveum boldly attempts to deliver an epic cinematic experience about a war involving magic, and it succeeds in its ambition. Fast-paced combat that places the game firmly in the shooter genre combine with satisfying platforming and puzzle-solving to make for an adventure that stays focused on its linear story while offering extra secrets for those who want to explore beyond its core narrative. There’s some repetition here and there that can be frustrating, but when you’re blasting colourful magic spells across battlefields of enemies like a violent fireworks display, it’s hard not to be impressed. Visually stunning with an excellently committed cast, Immortals of Aveum is a satisfying adventure and an impressive debut from a studio clearly not afraid to defy expectations.
About the Author
Luke spends his time making radio, playing video games, binge-watching TV, getting unreasonably invested in wrestling, hosting bear events and hanging out with his beautiful pets.
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