The single-player-only first-person shooter has been on the endangered species list for a long time prior to 2022. Not only have fans of the genre been supplied with enough to feast on, but there has also been a surplus of rocking campaigns that feature the FPS point of view. With such a big year for the genre, EA and the new Ascendant Studios announced Immortals of Aveum as a strictly single-player storyline-driven experience that answers the question, “Instead of an RPG, what if it’s a fireball?” I have been hyped for IoA since its initial announcement at The Game Awards 2022, and Ascendant Studios delivered. A brand-new universe steeped in lore, incredible visuals, and, most importantly, this game is one I want to play.
The Heart of Aveum
There are many moving pieces in Immortals of Aveum that never seem to get in its own way. This is helped by Ascendant Studios’ dream team of developers that have already gained a foothold in the industry, the quality cast of characters, and a general passion for the development of the game. From the many lush biomes in Aveum—the Pale Forest, perilous lava pits of the Kalthus territory, to an underground Oremic Ruin—there is care poured into every aspect of IoA’s DNA. There is true depth here.
The land of Aveum has a storied history that spans thousands of years, complete with extinct civilizations, and the mere mentioning of something as common as a horse has the citizens of the universe asking, “What’s that?” Exploring Aveum feels like you are traipsing through a breathing universe every step of the way. There are inside jokes that never drive confusion—even when you don’t read the optional lore—and every character has layers of depth.
There are multiple kingdoms with their own rules—think Game of Thrones but less complicated—the Aveum-adjacent of racism and complex societal constructs. The best part about the density of Immortals of Aveum is it’s there if you want it, but the story is still superb without it.
A Humble Beginning
In Immortals of Aveum, you are Jak, an Unforeseen (the Aveum-equivalent of someone with little to no magic that develops magical abilities all at once) on the streets of a backwater slum city called Seren. Without spoilers, the protagonist’s origin story is a kind of cut-and-paste destruction of home with an emotionally charged event that sees him awakened to his latent magical ability.
This ultimately forces him into the Kingdom of Lucium’s ranks as a Magus (a battlemage). Jak is recruited by General Kirkan, the leader of the Lucium forces and the Aveum-adjacent to Navy Seals, The Immortals. Upon meeting General Kirkan, needed exposition is intravenously dripped into the player with deft hands, and Ascendant Studios never dumps too much info at once.
The player is given the right amount of explanation for what is going on, and this is an excellent design choice. If Jak doesn’t know something, the player doesn’t either, and you’re not supposed to. Hats off to Michael Kirkbride, Steve Devaney and Ascendant’s writing team. This is a Herculean task well done, and it drives Immortals of Aveum steadily through the narrative.
“…Immortals of Aveum, is a triumph and could be considered a new standard for single-player FPS titles in the future.”
Immortals of Aveum sees the world trapped in the turmoils of a thousands-of-years-long Everwar. The Everwar is fought over the control of magic, and it has a few sides to it. The Kingdom of Lucium (the good guys), the Kingdom of Rasharn (the bad guys), and other stragglers that attempt to stay in the middle, such as what remains of the Oremen Realm. The constant struggle over which of the Realms controls magic has brought wildlife to its knees, with many common animals pushed to extinction.
When Jak awakens his latent magical ability, it turns out he’s a very rare Magus called a Triarch, and in true main-protagonist fashion, that means he’s special. Although hilariously enough, the rest of the cast assures him that is far from the case, and the joke never gets old.
Magic is woven into the life stream of Immortals of Aveum and there are three kinds. Chaos magic (coloured red), Force (coloured blue) and Life (coloured green, surprising!). As a Triarch, Jak can wield all three types with ease, of which there’s only one other character noted to have the same special status, the big bad of Rasharn and Aveum Sandrakk. Sandrakk carries this weight around like an unpopular politician; the mere mention of him gets people angry, and it shows.
Immortals of Aveum is populated with characters that feel real. Emotions are displayed across the character’s faces with true expressions. When Jak feels any type of emotion, it’s broadcasted on his face believably. The same goes for General Kirkan or any other cast member. Every character has excellent chemistry with one another. The relationship between Kirkan and Jak feels like a real bond, and they constantly bicker back and forth with one another to hilarious effect.
Another Immortal, Zendara (Lily Cowles), is a Kalthusian Princess and a misanthrope against Unforeseen Magni, and it shows through the angst in her voice. To round out the main cast, Devyn (Antonio Aakeel) is the comedy relief. He gets along with Jak well, and their interactions are genuinely compelling and funny.
These character interactions and excellent direction elevate Immortals of Aveum to what feels like a playable film. The musical score further compounds the excellent sound and voice acting present. Walking around the hub world of the Palathon gives off chill sci-fi city vibes similar to The Citadel in Mass Effect, but where IoA shines brightest is the chaotic magical combat.
I AM THE STORM!
With excellent writing in tow, Immortals of Aveum ships a well-oiled combat system that demands the player’s attention. There’s Green/Blue/Red strike spells that have magazines and reloads, Fury magic that requires a mana bar, Dominion magic (a fancy word for an Ultimate ability), magical shields, dodging, and special abilities to wield while fighting the Rasharnian hordes. The tutorial throws the player into a ‘this does this, that does that’ disguised as an introduction into fighting for the Kingdom of Lucium.
While in a skirmish, you can expect to be magically skating the entire time, utilizing all abilities to make quick work of enemies. Strike spells can be equipped as Sigils (magical catalysts similar to a Wizard’s wand) and each behave differently. Blue spells can deviate from a sniper bullet, a Destiny 2 hand cannon, to even a chargeable javelin, and all three types of strike crush opponents differently. Shredding occurs when the player masterfully navigates the battlefield by utilizing weaknesses against opposing enemy shields, and once the shield withers, the enemy gets blasted back with a satisfying tumble.
“With excellent writing in tow, Immortals of Aveum ships a well-oiled combat system that demands the player’s attention.”
In a harder skirmish, I swapped between a Red shotgun blast, a Blue penetrating sniper round, and an automatic Green mini-gun strike (that homed in on enemies like Halo’s Needler, but Green) to eviscerate my enemies. Using the Fury Spell Vortex operated like a singularity and gathered the enemies in one small area, and using another Fury, Shatter forced a reverse stalagmite to erupt underneath my foes with a great explosion.
This spell synergizing can create a world of hurt for opponents and just feels powerfully satisfying when pulled off. There are also left-hand abilities that help destroy Rasharnians as well aside from strikes and fury spells. Disrupt is a red laser that can be used while an enemy casts a spell, and it almost always one-shots enemies if done correctly. My favourite, of course, is called Limpets, a type of spell that slows enemies so Jak can pulverize bigger enemies with combos. An honourable mention is the Lash, which feels like it was pulled from Epic Games’ Bulletstorm, and allows Jak to pull small enemies or tether to larger ones and pull you toward them. Immortals of Aveum’s combat is FUN.
The landscape of Aveum is littered with collectibles that add lore context or rewards for finding. Think Legend of Zelda’s heart pieces with extra steps because there are serious puzzles required to snag these rewards. Immortals of Aveum also asks the player to complete these puzzles to advance the main campaign. These are not optional.
Jak can acquire a grapple upgrade that allows the Lash to pull him swiftly in a direction, which tests the player’s platforming skills, and the grapple icons can be seen way before unlocking the correct spell. Luckily enough, Jak actually says out loud “I don’t think I have the spell needed yet,” when seeing these puzzles for the first time, as to not waste the player’s time trying to solve something literally impossible.
At times, the slow-down Limpets spell, the Lash, and the Disrupt laser have to be used in tandem with swift timers to solve these puzzles. These are mostly well-designed (except for the few that are truly frustrating), and Immortals of Aveum deploys a Metroidvania-type exploration bonus (such as extra mana for Fury spells or max health boosts) to those who backtrack and solve puzzles that require abilities Jak didn’t have yet. These upgrades can make you all-powerful, and Rasharn can only quiver and hide until they meet their swift demise.
However, there are some small complaints I must contend with. There are magic streams present throughout the title called ‘leylines’, and they can always be seen outdoors during gameplay. While Immortals of Aveum runs at a crisp 30–60 fps on my Xbox Series X, these leylines are animated, and they’re a huge eyesore because they constantly stagger and run at what seems to be 10–20 fps. In a game where everything looks so great, these look horrid.
Also, for whatever reason, there are certain times during gameplay when sprint functionality doesn’t work, and this slows momentum to a crawl (not during cutscenes). I disliked how many boss enemies were re-used in combat encounters, it cheapened the boldness of the first impression each time it happened. First-timers to the FPS genre may have a rough time as well; this game feels fast, fluid, and advanced. This is not a beginner FPS, and that’s also completely okay, but it needs to be said.
Immortals of Aveum is a breath of fresh air. In a gaming universe where open-world sandbox titles, battle passes, and free-to-play titles infest the landscape, Ascendant Studios dares to be different and create an experience that is designed for single-player and could be the result of a mad scientist experiment that combines Bioshock with Wolfenstein.
Immortals of Aveum is a Jak of all trades, with excellent music and sound, incredible acting and direction, and the coup de grâce, exhilarating gameplay that feels addicting enough to not put the controller down. Aside from a few shortcomings, Ascendant Studios’ coming out party, Immortals of Aveum, is a triumph and could be considered a new standard for single-player FPS titles in the future—a complete experience.