I was given the chance to watch a little bit of gameplay from Ascendant Studios' Immortals of Aveum back in April, and I came away with the hope it could do well and the cynicism that it might not. Fast games rarely translate quite as well when you watch someone else play them.
Luckily, from what I've played, Immortals of Aveum builds on the legacy of games like Call of Duty and Titanfall, whilst giving it a 2023 graphical and technical upgrade. Though I'm still not sold on the story just yet, the gameplay has me hooked.
I recently got invited out to San Francisco to play the game for a handful of hours and, in that time, I managed to play the start of the game where you develop powers, and a later section where you are let loose on the world. Here's how my opinions changed about the game in that time.
Jak of all trades
Playing as Jak, a mage who has only recently developed his powers, you are being trained for combat. Part of the last defensive line called Immortals, you are given powers to defend the world from an encroaching force. The world is made up of leylines: crucial lines of magic that can boost the capabilities of those who control them. Your role is to capture what you can to stop your enemy from building up momentum and wiping you out.
Jak is a cocky kid who fits the archetype of many 00s protagonists so far. His personality is pretty barren and he whips one-liners at the rather stoic chief. This dynamic is a little tiring, but cracks started to appear in the first few hours that suggest this could develop further in the full game.
As he is a figurative late bloomer, Jak is given access to three central types of magic, coming with unique skill trees and resources. This means you can settle on a build throughout your playtime that can complement your playstyle. You are encouraged to work on all of them so the creativity isn't huge, but it's just enough to fuel moment-to-moment progression.
Shoot for the stars
Gameplay feels fantastic in Immortals of Aveum. As well as the usual shooter fare like Call of Duty, it feels rather like 2016's DOOM - fast, frenetic, and loaded with jumps, dashes, and more. Using ADS with attacks is rare, being reserved for certain spell types, and this shows in just how the game flows together.
There's a very classic design to combat encounters, with the game often split up into many arenas with cover to get behind. It doesn't try to hide those very gamey structures, instead showing them to you immediately. There's a charm to this relative simplicity that makes sprinting from one area to the area smooth and fast.
Each of the three central spell types are based on certain guns, with blue being precise and intentional like a rifle, red being the close-range shotgun, and green being the fast-firing SMG. Instead of relying on a certain spell type, you are incentivised to swap between them, with different enemy and damage types.
Gameplay is complemented well by just how smooth the movement feels in Immortals of Aveum. Guns flip out and reload quickly, sprinting is fast, and a timed dodge means you can get away if you have pushed too far into enemy territory. While you will take damage, you are never harshly punished for going for something cool.
If you don't like how the game feels initially, there are dedicated upgrade systems with new loadouts to unlock and skills to purchase. There is an EXP system of sorts, that awards you points, which you can pump into each of the three spell types. This gives you new abilities and raises the stats of your hits.
I found the best build was one that focused on one central spell type but diversifies points to upgrade them all. As shots are situational, you want to swap in and out of your attacks multiple times in each combat encounter. Though I'm still not quite convinced on the story, I saw depth for puzzles that intrigued me.
A little more depth
As well as traditional attacks, you have special moves like a grapple that pulls enemies closer and one that slows enemies down. These can also be used on the environment to slow down fast-moving traps or pull platforms towards you. They're never distracting for platforming but also don't tend to slow down gameplay too much.
Though we will have to wait for the full release to see how far those upgrade systems go, you can use resources gained from dead enemies to buy new spells and upgrade your current loadout. There is quite a lot of text on the load-out menu but the main thing that differentiates spells is their use, not their stats. This is a great approach to loadouts that rewards players for working out their favourite play style.
After just a few hours with the game, I'm far more excited for Immortals of Aveum than I was a mere week ago. Though I still have some reservations in regard to its longevity and story, it's a game I can't wait to explore for myself when it's out in July.