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Immortals of Aveum Review

2023-08-24 07:50
EA Originals is an Electronic Arts initiative that sees the world-famous publisher partner with independent
Immortals of Aveum Review

EA Originals is an Electronic Arts initiative that sees the world-famous publisher partner with independent studios to release titles that sit outside of the company's usual gaming catalog. Through EA Originals we’ve gotten A Way Out, Unravel, and the 2021 Game Awards winner, It Takes Two. Now, EA has collaborated with developer Ascendant Studios to publish the latter's debut game, Immortals of Aveum, to PlayStation 5 (as well as PC and Xbox Series S/X). The $69.99 first-person shooter swaps submachine guns for dazzling magic in a fantasy-meets-sci-fi mashup. It's fun to play, but a lackluster story, relentlessly quippy dialogue, and overly simple puzzles wear on you over time.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

Mages of War

The Everwar is a conflict between the Lucium and Rasharn peoples that has ravaged the lands of Aveum for centuries. Simply put, it's a war that determines who controls the world's magic. In Immortals of Aveum, magic is a natural resource, and its overabundant use caused a chasm to form between the two kingdoms.

You control Jak, a young man who grew up on the streets of Saren, a Lucium city. After an inciting incident that results in Jak’s found family being stripped from him, he discovers he is a Triarch Magnus, a person who wields three types of color-coded magic. Jak soon rises through the Lucium army's ranks and joins the Immortals, an elite strike force sworn to protect Lucium.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

Numb Narrative

The story invites heavy discussion about fascism, legacy violence, and how war has no good sides, but it mostly drops all those ideas after skimming their surfaces. Like Forspoken, Immortals of Aveum's narrative is over-encumbered by hefty, gibberish-laden lore and quippy dialogue riddled with cringy writing cliches. There is a core dissonance between the stakes and the tone of the dialogue. For example, Jak’s commanders and brothers-in-magical-arms drop huge, apathetic exposition dumps, but there's also an encyclopedia in the codex designed to get you up to speed on Aveum’s politics and history. Why should you read it when the game’s characters don't treat the subject with the proper enthusiasm?

The villains, the Rasharn, have little to no characterization. You know they’re bad because they wear masks, except for the major Rasharnian characters who occasionally remove them. You learn little of their culture, politics, or reason why they're fighting. Rasharn is led by a tyrant, Sandrakk, who has the most “character” of all the Rasharnians you blast away, and he's the polar opposite of Lucium's plucky, quippy heroes. Sadly, Sandrakk has mostly one-dimensional motivations.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

Cool Combat Options

Thankfully, Immortals of Aveum has terrific combat. Your weapon is the Sigil, a gauntlet that battle mages wear to focus their magic and cast spells. You can tap three magic types: Blue, Green, and Red. Blue is your mid- to long-range weapon; Green is your quick-firing, machine gun-like weapon; and Red is your close-range weapon.

Besides the three gun-like spells, Jak possesses several other color-coded abilities for dispatching enemies. For example, there are Controls, equipment used to interact with the environment and manipulate enemies. Then there's Lash, a magical chain that pulls enemies closer so you can blast them with Red Magic. Jak also has a handful of more powerful spells, Furies, that break enemy shields, destroy buffs, and cause area-of-effect damage. Finally, Jak's powerful super move lets him channel the three magic types into a powerful, enemy-wrecking beam called Dominion. There are many defensive tools, too, including a shield, dodge, and jetpack-like hover ability so you can get to the high ground.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

These mechanics, tools, and spells feel great. Enemy encounters are frenetic, always demanding that you stay moving. Likewise, the battles are filled with satisfying moments, such as blocking a barrage of enemy spells with your shield and countering with your own.

That said, Immortals of Aveum lacks cohesion between its many spells and tools. Yes, some are designed to work in tandem, but the combat lacks Doom Eternal's shooter-puzzle elements that require you to manage valuable resources by attacking foes with specific weapons. On the other hand, this makes Immortals of Aveum feel like a classic first-person shooter from an earlier era. It’s simple combat that gives you lots of options. It shares more DNA with Destiny or Halo, as opposed to Dishonored.

Immortals of Aveum also features a loot-and-gear system with items of various rarities and effects. There’s a decent amount of character customization, so you can make a build that best suits your playstyle. However, the loot-and-gear system feels arbitrary, as though it exists simply to give you a reward for opening the chests you find in the environment. The game is mostly linear, so I simply equipped the newest bracer or ring. Rarely did I give much thought to the equipment. In fact, I wished that I had fewer gear options and more opportunities to upgrade Jak's powers.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

Overly Simplistic Puzzles

Immortals of Aveum is divided into several semi-open zones that unlock as you complete the story. It clearly takes inspiration from the Metroid series, so there's plenty to do if you choose to diverge from the game’s main path. Sometimes you'll find yourself in a room that requires hitting a red, blue, or green gem with the corresponding magic to open a door or chest. These "puzzles" rarely felt satisfying, but I was relieved by their simplicity out of fear that the game's fast pace would grind to a halt.

Hidden throughout the game are challenge rooms called Shroudfanes. Finding the gateways to these rooms involves platforming or gem-blasting puzzles. Upon entering a gateway, you’ll find yourself on floating, geometric rocks in a beautifully rendered cosmic realm. Shroudfanes offer additional combat challenges and puzzles, with six Red Shroudfanes containing powerful enemy bosses who offer the game's best gear—if you defeat them.

(Credit: Ascendant Studios)

Graphical and Sonic Wizardry

Immortals of Aveum is one of the first AAA releases developed with Unreal Engine 5.1, and it really showcases the engine's power. AscendantStudios is a modest-sized team, but it has released a game that looks like it was made by hundreds. The character models are detailed and well-animated, especially in cutscenes. Likewise, environments have rich, detailed textures that are punctuated by beautiful lighting effects.

The flashy combat truly showcases the graphical might. An impressive amount of particle effects burst from every magical blast and enemy defeat, giving the magic types personality. Red Magic bursts violently from your fingertips, Green Magic elegantly swirls around your Sigil, and Blue Magic is sharpened to a point.

The dynamic music is equally as impressive. Chill, lo-fi beats accompany your relaxing jaunt through these environments until a combat encounter occurs. Then, the music changes into a hype-filled score that encourages you to blast enemies. Just as the final bolt is fired from your Sigil, the music expertly returns to those relaxing beats.

In terms of performance, Immortals of Aveum runs well at a mostly stable 60 frames per second, even during wild battles. There were a few issues in testing, such as the occasional odd character lighting during conversations, fuzzy textures when entering new areas, and a stuttery final act. However, many issues were addressed by the game’s day-one patch.

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Less Chatting, More Spell Casting

Immortals of Aveum is a fast-paced, visually impressive adventure. It features some of the best game feel of any contemporary shooter, and its visual flair makes for a varied and frenetic experience. Unfortunately, its best moments are held together by a story that feels neither new nor interesting. While we certainly can't recommend it wholeheartedly, it might be worth checking out if you're looking for a classic-style first-person shooter with great visuals and don't mind an annoying narrative and dull puzzles.

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