REVIEW – When Ascendant Studios and Electronic Arts dropped the first trailers for Immortals of Aveum, they immediately grabbed my attention. It looked like a chaotic FPS cocktail, but after grinding for 25-plus hours, I can vouch that this game is far from a one-trick pony. Sure, there are kinks to iron out, but color me impressed.
The game brilliantly walks a tightrope between whimsy and gravitas. While there are narrative hiccups, the storyline pulled me in and far exceeded my initial expectations. What the trailers downplay is that there’s some surprisingly deep lore here that kept me on the edge of my seat, hungry for more.
Earth is dead, Aveum is our last shot
When I fired up Immortals of Aveum on my PS5, I wasn’t prepped for a narrative rollercoaster. But man, was I wrong. The setting, Aveum, serves as Earth’s magical doppelganger, embroiled in global conflict after the discovery of magic. This version of Earth is a war-torn hellscape, offering a fresh take on the ‘end-of-the-world’ trope.
You’re in the shoes of Jak, a dude who sees his pals mercilessly killed by Sandrak, our villain. Sandrak is a rogue Magnus—a master of magic who decided to use his powers for all the wrong reasons. Jak joins the Army of Light, aligning his sights on putting an end to the perpetual conflict and taking down Sandrak. Clichéd? Sure, but it’s a classic hero’s journey done damn well.
The game presents its world in a compelling way. The mechanics of magic, built around “ley lines,” add an intriguing layer of complexity, poised to evolve as the story unfolds. Jak isn’t the most groundbreaking protagonist—he’s your classic rogue on a high-stakes mission—but he grows on you, developing in meaningful ways as the tale progresses.
The dialogues are mostly spot-on, adding believability to the characters you meet. While not everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, each character’s motivation is transparent. The motion capture technology is on point, making the facial expressions and character movements feel authentically life-like.
The narrative isn’t shy about flipping the mood, injecting humor one moment and showing the dark, sobering reality of war the next. Gameplay-wise, it’s not overly punishing, but it keeps the stakes high enough to make you care about the looming threat of Sandrak’s victory. The voice acting helps to bolster the already engaging storyline.
The only snag I hit was how the game occasionally fast-tracks potentially epic narrative moments. The pacing generally hits the mark, but there are points where it feels rushed, undermining what could be significant emotional beats. One reveal, which I won’t spoil, stands out as a prime example.
Frenetic and challenging combat
Navigating Aveum’s world of magic is all about mastering its tricolored system: red, blue, and green. Jak, our protagonist, has a unique ability to wield all three simultaneously—a rarity among Aveum’s mage populace. Blue operates like a sniper rifle, delivering precise, high-damage shots; red functions like a close-range shotgun, and green is your rapid-fire automatic rifle or SMG. It’s not just about the firepower, though: you’ve got to choose wisely, switching your magical arsenal in real-time combat situations. Each gauntlet you acquire and upgrade via a classic RPG progression system is designed for these tactical shifts. And let’s not forget, there’s more to your loadout than just gauntlets. Rings, bracelets, and other trinkets can also enhance your magic or provide defense against enemies’ spells.
Besides your standard magical shots—known as sigils in Aveum—you’ve got special magics that can be quick-cast for higher damage at the cost of some energy. This layer of combat adds an exhilarating flair to the battles, sometimes turning fights into dazzling light shows of particles and projectiles. My PS5 did struggle occasionally, but aside from some minor graphical hiccups and frame rate drops, gameplay remained mostly smooth.
Combat encounters often keep you on your toes. Portals randomly pop up across levels, spawning various minions, and you’ll also get to clear out ‘infested’ zones filled with snake-like enemies, as teased in the trailers. Most enemies, however, are of the humanoid or anthropomorphic variety. Where Immortals of Aveum really turns up the heat is in its hidden arenas. When you stumble upon a wide-open space, brace yourself: you’re either about to face a boss or a rigorous test of your combat skills. The high-octane action here is reminiscent of what you’d experience in games like Doom.
Supplementing your magical abilities are various gadgets that add a tactical layer to the combat. For instance, the game introduces a grappling hook, which not only adds a dash of acrobatics to fights but also allows for quick getaways. The hook only latches onto specific ‘anchors,’ but you’ll find plenty of these throughout the arenas. You’ll know you’re in an arena battle when you spot multiple grapple points specifically laid out for combat maneuverability.
Accessibility is another plus, as the game offers several options for color-blind players. However, it lacks one basic yet crucial feature: a brightness control. At least on the version I played, there was no way to adjust screen brightness, forcing me to fiddle with my TV settings. Assuming this issue gets fixed later, it’s a minor gripe, but it’s a glaring omission if left unresolved.
A more significant issue is the game’s resolution, which leaves much to be desired when displayed on a 4K TV via the PS5—think pixel-fest. As of September 1st, there’s no patch to remedy this, and it’s a factor that inevitably weighs down the final score.
A touch of Metroidvania
Immortals of Aveum throws in a sprinkle of Metroidvania that caught me off guard. The game world is compartmentalized into semi-open areas, each holding objectives that are tantalizingly out of reach—until you advance further in the story and snag those skill unlocks. While the game lacks traditional collectibles, the essence of all three magic types incentivizes exploration. The 3D map bears a striking resemblance to Jedi: Fallen Order, with deceptively straightforward settings that hide a wealth of secrets. The cream of the crop? The Light Temples. These bad boys offer everything from platforming challenges to boss battles and are a treat for anyone looking for optional but rewarding content.
While I did find myself wishing for a way to mark objectives on the map, the areas aren’t sprawling enough to make you feel truly lost. As you delve deeper into the narrative, fast travel and other means of getting around become available. That said, the side content isn’t particularly captivating; I found the main story to be the main draw. But, if you keep your eyes peeled en route to missions, you’ll stumble upon some intriguing puzzles and hidden areas worth a gander.
As for exploration rewards, you’ve got three key types: two kinds of chests and energy orbs scattered across Aveum. The standard chests glow intensely and usually cough up gold or some essence. The larger ones, though, require a bit more effort to access and may contain equipment. The energy orbs you’ll need to shoot down using the corresponding magic type, and it’s worth it—they grant you much-needed XP for leveling up.
Navigating through the game’s menus is a breeze, especially if you’ve dabbled in recent RPGs. You won’t get bogged down in stats or attributes; the weapon balance here is tight, keeping things focused on gameplay. I wrapped up my journey with a weapon I picked up early on, underscoring the game’s well-thought-out design.
Classic RPG progression with talents and equipment upgrades
When it comes to leveling up, that’s where you’ll feel the RPG vibes the most. As you play as Jak, experience points rack up whether you’re smiting foes or collecting those floating XP orbs scattered around Aveum. You can channel these points into a skill tree to boost your powers.
Three types of magic, three skill trees—pretty straightforward. You’ll have to decide which magic deserves the lion’s share of your points. But, here’s a pro tip: diversify your magic investments. Although you’ll be switching up your magical attacks in combat, juicing up a particular magic type for that sweet, sweet burst damage never hurts. Enemies with elemental shields? Blast ’em with the corresponding magic color, and then go in for the kill with your powered-up magic. Stall too long, and their shields regenerate.
Be choosy with your skill points; some upgrades are game-changers. Anything that beefs up your magic’s damage output is a solid pick, especially when later enemies become annoying damage sponges.
Your weapons have three levels of upgrade goodness, usually costing you a mix of gold and essence. Each gauntlet comes with its own stat sheet, and even two sigils from the same category can be as different as night and day. Take red sigils, for instance: some might offer rapid-fire shots, while others give you one big-damage blast. Find a weapon that clicks with your style? Max it out by pouring in the appropriate type of essence.
And you bet there’s a rarity system. Like a zillion other RPGs out there, Immortals of Aveum slaps on a rarity label for sigils, usually influencing the kind of buffs you can stack.
Immortals of Aveum has much more depth than I expected
When I first set eyes on Immortals of Aveum, my initial thought was, ‘Ah, it’s essentially Doom but sprinkled with some magic.’ The game also bears a striking resemblance to Shadow Warrior and Ghostwire Tokyo when it comes to its gameplay mechanics. However, it transcends those surface-level similarities by offering far more depth than you’d initially suspect, particularly in its narrative layer.
If you’re a fan of frenetic shooters like Doom or Shadow Warrior, you’ll find plenty to love in Immortals of Aveum. My time with the game was intensely enjoyable, especially given how it not just invites but practically compels you to get experimental with a variety of magical powers and abilities. Now, don’t let the ‘shoot-em-up’ veneer fool you. The game is rich in RPG elements and boasts a complex narrative. So if you’re in the mood for a mind-bending story combined with explosive action, look no further.
Despite its genre-melding qualities, at its core, Immortals of Aveum remains a quintessential ‘video game’s video game.’ It doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but what it sets out to accomplish, it does exceptionally well. Even on the ‘Normal’ difficulty setting, there were moments where I found myself utilizing every ounce of my gaming acumen to nail down those intricate shooting combos. It’s a playground that aims for one thing: fun. And if you wish to dive deeper, there’s a rich lore to lose yourself in.
+ Complex and exciting story
+ Varied combat mechanics that encourage experimentation
+ Well-designed gameplay and RPG elements
– The rhythm of the game is sometimes too fast, which distracts from the epic story moments
– Pixelation and other graphical problems that cannot be fixed
– The side content is not as engaging as the main story
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Ascendant Studios
Style: FPS shooter with RPG elements
Release: August 22, 2023.