Immortals of Aveum: The Kotaku Australia Review

Immortals of Aveum: The Kotaku Australia Review

I like what Immortals of Aveum is trying to do. I think it’s a good little game, one that could be great with a handful of changes to its approach.

Immortals of Aveum is a new science fantasy IP from EA’s Ascendent Studios. It’s about a young street rat named Jak who joins an order of battlemages attempting to end an infinitely long conflict called the Everwar. Coached by a high-ranking mage to wield the three primary forms of magic — blue, red and green — Jak must use all of his wits and cunning to navigate the Everwar and bring some measure of peace to Aveum.

The early part of Immortals of Aveum, before Jak really has a chance to grow as a character, are some of the hardest parts of the story to get through. The dialogue has a real popcorn movie “That Just Happened!” sense of humour, and it’s delivered with the comic timing of a made-for-the-Disney-Channel sitcom from the 2000s. I really struggled to get through these sequences, even as I attempted to wrap my head around the ways the game wanted me to wield Jak’s powers.

As above, Jak’s powers are spread across three forms of magic — blue, red and green. These three powers are actually just thinly disguised guns, the same as you might find in any first-person shooter. Blue magic is single fire bolts that require precision. Red magic is, effectively, a shotgun — a powerful blast of short-range damage. Green magic is a low-damage, rapid-fire sub-machine gun with homing bullets. Though Jak does not use a gun himself, it’s clear that his spells approximate ordinary weaponry — he even has to reload his hand occasionally. Why? Because shooters are designed with reload timings. Though it would like you to think of it as a first-person action game about magic and not a shooter, Aveum must observe the genre’s conceits too.

There is a lot I like, however. While it feels as though Immortals of Aveum might have been closer to something like Doom 2016 in a previous design iteration — an arena shooter where weapon cycling and movement are essential — it embraces the Call of Duty style guide instead. Its blockbuster campaign allows it to stage some truly spectacular setpieces that help you feel as though you’re running for cover, firing spells over your shoulder at the casters advancing toward you. It has a very different flavour to the milsims that tend to dominate this particular kind of shooter, and that’s to its significant benefit.

There are also a few attempts to give your spells some extra utility — your green magic can be used to manipulate certain in-world objects to create bridges for Jak to cross. I quite liked this aspect of its design! It kept my spells from feeling as though they were only stand-ins for ordinary guns, and I would have liked to see more of it. Maybe in the sequel, should the game be successful enough to generate one (and I hope that it will).

Full credit to both the writing and art teams, both of whom have gone overboard on the details. Immortals of Aveum is perched upon a foundation of worldbuilding you don’t see in games very often. It’s so over the top — there’s a word or term for absolutely everything, and an exhaustive history told through lengthy dialogue sequences and in-world journals. It feels like a fantasy novel where the author has gone wildly overboard to appease the most particular of readers and, while it can feel a bit jumbled and crammed in, I appreciate the team going to the extremes it has.

Visually, Immortals of Aveum is a feast. The in-universe mixture of magic and technology held the game create an identity that is its own, and this goes some way to alleviating the pain points created by its fairly standardised shooter design. The HDR colour helps give your spells a sense of vibrancy and life, and its various environments — from subterranean caves to forested hillsides — feels lush and densely populated. Both of these teams are a credit to the game and are, in a large part, responsible for a great deal of my enjoyment here. Excellent work across the board.

In the end, Immortals of Aveum feels like an extended (and I’m sure expensive) demonstration of ideas that have the capacity to be much bigger. It’s not a terrible long campaign, clocking in at around 20 hours, which helps it pave over certain problems that might have held it back if it were any longer. While its main character begins life as an arrogant berk, you do find yourself coming to sympathise with the guy as he grows and accepts his newfound responsibilities.

A solid game, one I could heartily recommend for a rainy weekend or an after-work play when you just need to switch off and blow some bad guys away. Those hoping for deeper substance will find themselves wanting, and should adjust their expectations accordingly. I hope it gets a sequel. I feel Immortals of Aveum deserves one.

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