Zipping and dodging between magical bombardment, casting spells and alternating between forms of magic, I'm pulled in to this fantasy world. The moment the combat stops and the characters start discussing places and people I have no frame of reference for, I'm pulled out again.
Immortals of Aveum is the debut title from Ascendant Studios, published by Electronic Arts as part of the EA Originals program. With colorful spellcasting combat in a unique setting for fantasy games, there's a lot to like here. Unfortunately, things get rougher the longer the game goes on, with inconsistent writing weighing down the story.
Players looking for something new in the genre will have fun, but those looking for a deeper narrative adventure may be put off by some of the decisions made here.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible thanks to a review code provided by Electronic Arts. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
Immortals of Aveum: Story and Characters
This magical first-person shooter takes place in a world where Magni rule over those without magic, or the Lightless. While multiple kingdoms battle over the control of magical Leylines in the appropriately titled Everwar, the main combatants are the kingdoms of Lucium and Rasharn.
Developer: Ascendant Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First-person shooter
Install size: 57.2 GB
Playtime: 15-30 hours
Release date: August 22, 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC (Steam), PS5
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Jak, performed by Darren Barnet, is one of said Lightless, who suddenly gains magical powers on the day that Rasharnians wipe out his friends, and is inducted into the kingdom of Lucium to fight as a Triarch, someone capable of wielding all three colors of magic. Over the next few years, Jak trains to join the Immortals, a special order of fighters in Lucium, while also searching for some kind of edge that can bring an end to the war.
Rounding out the cast are Gina Torres as Lucian General Kirkan, Steven Brand as Rasharnian leader Sandrakk, and Lily Cowles and Aakeel as the battlemages Zendara and Devyn, respectively.
Straight away, I want to give props to Ascendant Studios for trying to avoid a lot of fantasy clichés in building its setting. Immortals of Aveum looks and feels more like something you'd see in the MCU than stereotypical fantasy, and the change of pace is appreciated for a big-budget game. At the same time, the setting comes with a frustrating lack of setup or understanding for what is actually going on at a particular time.
I'm a big believer in wanting to lend yourself to the fantasy of a piece of fiction in order to appreciate what it's selling you, but the rate at which Immortals of Aveum chucks information at a player with little-to-no context borders on baffling. Anyone going in should go in expecting to be thrown in the deep end of the pool as someone pours water on your head every time you gasp for air. Optional, collectible lore entries help a bit, but not much.
That's compounded by the writing, which eschews any serious tone for quick quips and one-liners. There are definitely some highlights — Lily Cowles as the unhappy but muscular Zendara dominates any scene she's in — but I often found myself frustrated as any important discussions about world-altering events were frequently undercut by the irreverent tone in which they were discussed.
Immortals of Aveum: Gameplay
The magical first-person shooter setup of Immortals of Aveum is where the game truly shines. I wrote in my preview from a hands-on session months ago that the game makes you feel like Doctor Strange, but with about half the flourish and twice the lethality. Largely, that holds true.
Magic is divided into three colors: Red Chaos magic, Blue Force magic, and Green Life magic. Jak can equip one bracer per color of magic, with each bracer having access to one devastating spell.
In practice, this means you've got three different ways of killing enemies at any given time, and while there's multiple spells for each kind of magic, they hold a general consistent theme. Green spells always home in on a target with rapid fire, blue spells are always surgically-precise, and red spells snarl with explosive power. Most importantly, they all feel extremely good to use, making the gameplay loop satisfying.
Jak also acquires a handful of secondary spells, such as a Lash that can pull enemies in close or be used to swing across ledges. My personal favorite, the Green Limpets, are used for slowing enemies to a crawl but also for solving puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, there's a lot of them, with puzzles scattered throughout both the main story and the world at large. They work well to provide breathers in the frenetic gameplay, having the player stop and think for a few seconds to line up energy beams or use Limpets in creative ways.
Completing the side content is optional, but it's definitely recommended, as you'll often earn upgrades and additional chances to earn Talent points, as well as some rare, powerful gear if you're capable of defeating extra-dangerous foes. You can also upgrade your existing gear and spells by collecting a number of resources from fallen foes, so it's always a balance of trying something new versus improving what you have.
With Immortals of Aveum running about 20 hours in the main story (longer if you go exploring in the side content) I do think a bit more spell variety or wilder ideas would've been fun to play around with. Devyn mentions an aging spell at one point, which would've been wild to see. That said, functionality and practicality are clearly at the forefront of the gameplay here, which I can certainly appreciate.
As you kill enemies, you'll earn Talent points that can be used to improve your forms of magic. With upgrades like increasing the strength of your spell shield, being able to dash more than once, improving critical strike damage, and more, these are a necessity and can't be ignored.
That's especially true in the final few hours of the game, which see some rather bizarre difficulty spikes. Even keeping your gear upgraded, you'll go from tough-but-fair fights to enemies capable of killing you in a single attack if you're not shielded. It's not enough to completely take away from the experience, but it's weird enough to notice.
Immortals of Aveum: Visuals and Performance
More Xbox gaming
Running on Unreal Engine 5, Immortals of Aveum was built for high-end computers and current-generation gaming consoles. That certainly shows with impressive particle effects and lighting that made combat a constant delight to watch unfold. The omission of HDR support is bizarre though, as it would've made the lights and colors of spellcasting truly dazzling.
Running on Xbox Series X, performance seemed fine, with a mostly-consistent 60 FPS through battles and world exploration. A handful of fights towards the end did seem to throw enough particles and explosions on screen that there were a few brief drops, but it was never enough to feel like my performance in-game was suffering.
Immortals of Aveum: Accessibility and Approachability
Immortals of Aveum doesn't have a huge number of accessibility options, but it does include colorblindness settings, something that's crucial given the color-coded magic system. It's also something I notice many titles published by Electronic Arts include, which is a nice trend to see.
There's also difficulty options, which may come in handy for more casual players given the random difficulty spikes that occur in the final third of the game, as discussed above.
Outside of that though, there's not a lot to tweak, and I hope Ascendant Studios is able to provide additional options in post-launch support.
Immortals of Aveum: Should you buy it?
Overall, Immortals of Aveum is a bit of a mixed bag. While I enjoyed a fair bit of my time here, it's disappointing that the story and characters never really come together in a promising way. I get the challenge of setting up a new fantasy world with unusual rules, but chucking as many proper nouns at the player as can be stuffed into a sentence just doesn't feel good.
There's still a lot to like here however, and Ascendant Studios has a solid foundation on which to build a compelling universe if it so chooses. First-person shooter fans that are eager for something new will definitely appreciate the magic gameplay and the experience of becoming a master battlemage.