Title: Immortals of Aveum
Developer: Ascendant Studios
Release Date: August 21, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Electronic Arts
From its early moments, Immortals of Aveum is packed with well-crafted characters that exist in an adventure oozing with lore. It’s an exciting and surprising release from a new developer whose clear vision of fantasy action delivers a genuinely gripping experience from beginning to end. This mix of genres may not make sense on paper, but it works exceptionally well here. Trailers don’t do this game justice, as they only scratch the surface of just how fun it is.
Immortals of Aveum opens with Jak, who lives as a thief with a few of his friends. Here, it’s clear that Jak isn’t a fan of the current conflict called the Everwar. Currently, Lucium is trying to end the chaos brought on by the Rasharn, and that war has just found its way to Jak’s home. Jak is confronted with a choice and opts to join the Lucium army and train to be an Immortal.
Jak is ultimately fulfilling the dream of a friend, but his desire to fight against the Rasharn army expands past the emotions of revenge. The writing for this character is impeccable. His introduction makes him somewhat unlikable and almost goofy, but he grows into a strong warrior. The writing takes its time to establish each character in the game, but Jak often puts the breaks on a little to clear up some loose ends.
It’s as if Jak is there to put real pressure on those who are calling the shots. He’s not without fault, but he’s also not afraid to speak his mind to get answers. Although he does come off as sarcastic, he has the skills and training that limit anyone from walking over him. This complex hero design can only be attributed to the game’s writing. It takes this adventure from a simple magic-based shooter into a cinematic treat of immersive storytelling with plenty of optional lore and twists to keep you hooked.
Outside the story, you’ll explore several large maps and fight against plenty of formidable enemies using a myriad of magical spells. Jak can wield all three colors of magic, which means prepare to use every button on your controller to execute attacks. Throughout the game, you’ll gain access to new spells that provide different ways to approach combat. However, instead of forcing the player to pick and choose which spell to equip from a menu, the developer found a way to map all actions to the controller using a button or combination of button presses.
Don’t be concerned, though, this sounds messy, but over time, you get used to the actions, and it becomes second nature to combo together spells and switch through your arsenal. The three colors of magic are contained in the Sigil attached to Jak’s arm. Each color represents a different type of attack magic, but they also correlate to specific environmental puzzles. This means you’ll constantly switch through these weapons during combat and exploration, depending on the situation.
Enemies in the game have a clear color scheme that dictates which magic they are weakest against. It’s just a suggestion, though, and not required until you reach enemies with shields that need to be broken with specific magic, and even in those situations, other abilities allow you to break their shields without switching Sigils.
Enemies increase in difficulty throughout the campaign. Trust me, I never even used the shield in the first 5 hours, but we became best friends by the end. Still, multiple difficulty options are available at the start of a game. There’s a decent variety of enemies that alter depending on which area you’re in. While they primarily serve to stale progression, you do acquire beneficial material drops that allow you to upgrade your weapons.
Still, I felt like memorable boss battles were few and far between. There’s a clear antagonist, but between those interactions, I wasn’t really attached to the major boss encounters, who eventually turned into semi-typical enemy types later in the campaign. Regardless, I feel like this could have been done to keep the core cast small and focus on their relationships instead of introducing others for the sake of more bosses to fight.
There’s a nice balance between exploration and action as you navigate the levels. With that said, it’s tough not to get distracted from your current mission, given the many optional puzzles to take on. It seems like nearly every area features a distinct puzzle that requires you to utilize magical abilities to progress. Some will need to be returned later on once you have a certain ability, which encourages replayability.
Portals act as fast travel points between zones if you want to return to a specific area. Puzzle designs range from straightforward to head scratchingly challenging. Campaign puzzles are typically more straightforward, while the advanced designs act as obstacles between you and new weaponry or upgrades.
During exploration, it’s as if the developers knew gamers would try everything possible to essentially “break” the game. However, whenever I thought I was in an area I wasn’t supposed to be, I found a treasure rewarding me for my passion to get off the beaten path. The team also likes to tease you should a glimpse of treasure between a crack as if egging you on to try and find a way in.
Alongside puzzles, players will need to get through platforming sections that range from utilizing double jumps and glides to incorporating a grappling hook. I really enjoyed the movement throughout the entire experience. There are some nice physics regarding general movement and jumping that allow you to understand the distance between objects.
These systems evolve across the 26-hour campaign providing new ways to approach combat and traversal until the credits roll. However, I will say that the menuing is a bit cumbersome to navigate. There’s just a lot going on and no real organization when it comes to equipping weapons and bracelets or understanding your essential stats.
The upgrade system is also fairly barebones, with plenty of weapons to choose from but no real information on what any of them do. I would have liked a preview option to decide if a particular weapon is what I’m looking for. Instead, time needs to be taken in and out of menus equipping different weapons to find the right outcome, which is needed if you’re trying to complete a puzzle and need weapons that fire relatively straight or at a fast rate.
Immortals of Aveum is a beautiful game. The character animations appear fluid and expressive, while the environments are rich with branching baths and defined themes. The weapon and ability animations are colorful and bright to make high-action moments epic with impressive blasts of various colors and explosions.
However, the sound design takes the cake as it is brilliant. The voice actors did a fantastic job bringing these characters to life. They are all expressive and emotional, which makes every scene better than the last. On top of that, the soundtrack is insanely good. The music ramps up with orchestrated scores that add tension to the more impactful scenes and keep you engaged during every moment of gameplay.
Immortals of Aveum doesn’t settle for the bare minimum of what a shooter has to be. It excels in writing, controls, and sound design to deliver an epic adventure for all who play. Its unrivaled narrative direction sets itself apart, providing players with a truly magical world to discover. Still, menuing could use some refining alongside providing more memorable boss encounters. Regardless, this is a standout adventure and a great game.
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