Immortals of Aveum Hands On Preview – A Work of Passion

jak hdr

Ascendant Studios revealed their debutante title, Immortals of Aveum, at The Game Awards 2022 to fan cheers. Much to EA’s credit, they continue to impress importance upon single-player experiences. The dream team of developers hosted at Ascendant Studios refer to the new Immortals of Aveum IP as ‘something different,’ with CEO Bret Robbins describing Immortals of Aveum as a game that he wants to play. While the initial preview for the title in April specifically honed in on the incredible team around Immortals of Aveum, the story and the development process, this time around, I got my hands on the title for a spell, and boy, did I feel Immortal.

The Human Element

Starting as all good fantasy titles do, you are a special ability-laden Magus — the Immortals of Aveum term for battlemage — named Jak, rescued as an orphan from the streets of a backwater city named Seren. Your mission is to fight for the Kingdom of Luciem after being recruited by General Kirkan, the leader of the Luciem forces and the Navy Seals of the Magus, The Immortals.

Kirkan Immortals

Spoilers and backstory aside, it is apparent great care was put into character interactions in Immortals of Aveum. Each time Jak and Kirkan have any type of interaction, it feels human and organic. This becomes readily apparent during the training — or tutorial — segment, where Jak appears to ask Kirkan every single question that I, the non-Magus player, could think of. This felt like mind-reading with extra steps. Jak literally asks, “If you’re the leader of the entire army, why would you single me out and train me?” The answer I can assure the Immortals of Aveum curious is not ‘Jak is the main character.’

The roles of Jak (Darren Barnet) and General Kirkan (Gina Torres) show excellent chemistry during these interactions, and this relationship is further compounded by the character design team implementing a realistic glassy sheen over the characters’ eyes, going just a small extra step to flesh out character conversation between the Immortals of Aveum. Even when the title jumps forward five years to when Jak is recruited as a full Immortal, interactions don’t overstay their welcome.

Immortals Jak And Companion

Anger, sadness, and even the mischievous feeling of ‘I’m about to break the rules’ are clearly represented on the character’s faces, which is excellent character design peppering already highly detailed biomes and landscapes. An NPC is also given this attention, with General Kirkan remarking how an unnamed soldier has ‘fear in his eyes,’ and it really shows. This loving attention to detail allows the beautiful scenery that surrounds it a chance to shine even brighter. Attention to the finer details is Immortals of Aveum‘s biggest strength.

I Put On My Wizard Hat and Staff

Immortals of Aveum is all about combat, and that’s what it does best. Despite looking absolutely stunning on a PC with high-end specs provided for the preview: an AMD Ryzen R9 7900X processor and AMD Radeon 7900XT graphics card, Immortals is more than just a pretty face. As Jak, you are a Triarch, which is a term reserved for a ‘Jak’ of all trades in the magical world of Aveum. In my short playtime, only two Triarchs were introduced, Jak and the big bad boss of the game, Sandrakk, who leads the forces of the ‘villainous’ — or not main character side — Kingdom of Rasharn.

Green Magus Boss Immortals

The Triarch can wield all three magical types in Aveum, Force (Blue), Chaos (Red) and Life (Green), when normally, Magus (Magi?) can only wield one (General Kirkan is an exception to this loose rule, they can wield two magic types and is referred to as a Diarch). This also goes for secondary characters; the Hand of Sandrakk can only wield Force magic, and your comrade Zendara can only wield Chaos magic. Immortals of Aveum implores the player to think outside the box during combat and play to their strengths. Shooter game veterans, be warned, this is NOT a cover shooter.

There are many forces at play here. There are three types of Strike magic, ranging from a longer-range (blue) shot, a close-range shotgun (red) blast, and a mid-range auto rifle (green) type, as denoted by the colour scheme. While wielding all three types of Strike magic, the player can also deploy Fury magic, such as a ground quake spell called ‘Shatter,’ to flay enemies, especially those hiding behind shields. Watching the quake travel across the landscape is immensely satisfying, ultimately surfacing to trample enemies when it hits.

This more powerful Fury magic uses a Mana bar and can’t be spammed like strike magic; the different kinds have devastating effects. The left trigger activates a Force shield on command, which is incredibly important to extending Jak’s life, and removes the tried-and-true method of hide-then-fire of other shooting titles. With the Force shield, you can run and gun and block while maiming enemies until it breaks of course, then you have to wait for the cooldown to expire.

Immortals 1

As a side note, Immortals of Aveum uses small cues — such as a small dash icon slowly colouring in — to show how long it will take for an ability to recharge. This small detail is incredible for the player to plan ahead during combat. Another small quality-of-life addition is the player cannot use healing items when their gauges are full. This is a godsend for me, considering I always waste consumables in every title I play. Ascendant Studios really thought of everything.

“Immortals of Aveum is all about combat, and that’s what it does best.”

There are secondary weapons available to Jak: a Lash that can pull enemies close for easier damage capabilities, A green Limpets spell that slows bigger enemies unaffected by the lash, and a small Disrupt laser that interrupts magic spells. Combat is fluid and reactionary, and Jak relies on a player that can notice behaviour differences to triumph over the Rasharn-ian hordes. The Limpets spell was my favourite; slowing heavier enemies to reign spell hellfire on them is ultimately satisfying.

Another notable inclusion is enemies will have coloured outlines that reveal what type of magic they’re weak against. This can allow the player to eviscerate enemies by colour-matching and fast-swapping weaponry easily. A trash mob denoted by a red aura surrounded me at once multiple times, and I could make short work of them with Chaos strike magic resembling shotgun blasts. Paying attention and remaining vigilant during combat scenarios is literally vital to victory in these chaotic moments.

Dominion Spell Immortals

Immortals of Aveum demands the player to utilize everything at their disposal to succeed in battle, and the battles are glorious chaotic crucibles in a bottle that test the player’s skill. But the grand finale of combat is performed after charging a finishing move by defeating enemies. Once the ‘Super’ meter fills — here it is referred to as a ‘Dominion Mana Gauge’ —  I pressed both analog sticks in at once. Jak whips out a massive Kamehameha-like ability that unravels almost every enemy it touches.

This grows more apparent during boss fights. After employing everything I’ve learned dealing with lesser enemies, taking down a very dragon-like Howler enemy by exploiting a weakness on the roof of its mouth is exhilarating. Immortals of Aveum clearly invites the player along for a power trip, and this is TRUE power.

Variety is the Spice of Life

During the preview, I kept picking up different coloured essence after defeating enemies and finding chests. This essence is used when Jak chances upon a forge. In Immortals of Aveum, three main weapon types are controlled by a right-arm sigil and a left-arm sub-equipment. The sigils are divided by the magic colour, and the sub-equipment (Limpets/Disrupt/Lash) uses different equips as well. The forge allows the player to fashion new sigils and equips them for the treacherous journey ahead. What isn’t advertised on the forge loadout screen is how drastically different the weapons behave once changed.

Immortals Forge Screen

My Jak was sporting a seven-fire till reload semi-auto Force Strike, which surprisingly functioned like a scout rifle pulled straight from Destiny 2. I also chose a Chaos Sigil that shot a small grenade which exploded on impact with the ground or a target. My green weapon resembled a submachine gun that could have been ripped straight out of the Halo series if the bullets didn’t track enemies. Having a set loadout just felt fantastic, and there seem to be limitless ways to outfit a player’s Jak. Immortals of Aveum almost begs the player to try each different strike spell, as Jak can turn into a real one-man army with the proper loadout.

The forge allows the player to ‘buy’ other equipment, such as two-rings for equip slots, to increase stats for an individual build. I chose two ‘Shatter Rings’ to further increase the Fury Shatter spell’s immense devastation. No one likes enemies that hide behind shields, and Shatter takes out that specific trash. There are also talent trees Jak can divest into, which have three branches for each of the magic types.

Immortals Talent Screen

The Blue branch increases efficiency with blue magic and so on. But there are also perks that help Jak wreak havoc, including a ‘Perfect Guard,’ which allows Jak to parry with proper timing sending his opponent flying. There are 80 talents for the player to mess with, adding to the carnage of Immortals of Aveum. As an added bonus, the player can reset these skills at any time from the menu screen if they want to adopt a particular play style.

Exploration and Puzzles, Oh My!

Immortals of Aveum treats the player to more outside-the-box thinking, with minor puzzles to solve. Littered throughout the landscape are hidden chests, collectibles — that also give rich lore about Aveum — and upgrades, well hidden from the beaten path. Jak also provides the ability to animate statues at a whim, adding a level of complexity to platforming sequences. Some hidden items are impossible to get on the first look, so players will likely have to backtrack to collect everything.

Puzzles Immortals

As if knowing players can solve small puzzles quickly, Ascendant Studios kicks it up a notch and forces the player to use the Limpets spell to slow down specific hazards during puzzle solving. This welcome addition blends into the rest of the Immortals of Aveum without issue. Platforming is also a breeze. Jak can perform a double jump and glide. Even the floor dodge function can be used in the air for faster and more efficient platforming. The distribution of hidden collectibles and many platforming functions almost feels like the developers are daring the player to find new ways to explore Aveum off the beaten path.

A User Interface Dream

I was able to speak to the UI Lead at Ascendant Studios, Jim Ingraham, regarding many of the choices made regarding how the user perceives the game. Ingraham mentioned some of the most important parts of the UI in Immortals of Aveum, saying, “One of the things that I absolutely love is when the UI also helps to tell the story of the game when you couldn’t look at the UI, and know that it’s a part of the world and part of the experience,” specifically honing in on the art aspect, and how the UI is tailor-made for the art style of Aveum.

Ingraham also mentions working closely with Senior Art Director Dave Bogan to create the UI of Aveum by utilizing a high fantasy and military-inspired design to give Immortals of Aveum a unique feel. When asked about accessibility, Ingraham goes into the gritty details, “Another thing we worked really hard on was to make sure that we have another option due to the colour language in our game, so we added shape language as a part of that conversation. So players who have trouble with colour can use shapes instead.”

Force Shot Immortals

This refers to the shift of the on-screen reticle, becoming a circle instead of a triangle when switching weapons. This small concept lets the player know what strike they are using currently without the need for colour. He said, “using colour solely could be a big mistake,” and “having secondary feedback on that is really important” regarding the accessibility in Immortals of Aveum.

Lastly, Ingraham mentioned they scrapped an ability wheel idea and suggested “Combat and the UI should work in tandem and help each other, so animations should help as well,” saying instead of using a wheel that comes up on screen and slows the action down, the UI is supposed to help drive the narrative in combat as well.

“Immortals of Aveum is a unique passion project for some of video game development’s more experienced contributors, and it shows.”

When asked what his favourite part about Immortals of Aveum is, Ingraham detailed, “Seeing people play our game in a way I never imagined is what I’m most excited about.”

Immortals of Aveum is a unique passion project for some of video game development’s more experienced contributors, and it shows. From attention to small details to really bringing the setting to life with new ideas, Ascendant Studios appear to have an exciting addition to an already stacked year in gaming. With the July 20 release date seemingly right around the corner, fans won’t have to wait much longer to experience the Everwar.

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