When I saw the announcement trailer for Immortals of Aveum in the winter of 2022, I was surprised by my own interest in the game. Immortals came from an unproven studio founded four years prior by Bret Robbins, a AAA creative director who most recently built a trio of Call of Duty titles: Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare, and WWII. Ascendant Studios, his independent venture, was partnering with EA on its debut game, a first-person shooter in a militaristic fantasy world. On the surface, it didn’t sound like something I’d be drawn to.
But Immortals of Aveum caught my eye. Its cinematics were beautiful and the trailer showcased frenetic combat with bright beams of magic, all while actors Gina Torres (Firefly) and Darren Barnet (Never Have I Ever) narrated an epic story of rebellion, political sabotage and dragons. From a first-person perspective, the protagonist’s hand movements were quick and sharp, and they looked like a satisfying build-up to powerful attacks.
With a few months of hindsight, I remain interested in Immortals of Aveum and I think I’ve figured out why. There aren’t a ton of first-person action games that rely on mechanics other than guns — Dishonored, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Hexen come to mind, but it’s a small field overall. That might be one reason Immortals of Aveum stands out as something fresh, but it’s also nice to see a new, AAA-level game that’s single-player and narrative-driven with a contained campaign, rather than an open world of live-service features. Learning more about Ascendant helped, too: Robbins was also the creative director of the original Dead Space and his team included former Telltale Games members, lending weight to the assertation that Immortals of Aveum would center a dense storyline.
I played a demo of Immortals of Aveum at Summer Game Fest 2023, and it was gorgeous. Its cinematics were particularly impressive: The motion capture was smooth and the character models were finely detailed, with delicate eye markings and layers of gear. The clarity of the cutscenes made it easier to get lost in the dialogue and the ravaged fantasy world of Aveum, even in a short period of time.
Gameplaywise, I had access to the blue type of magic, which granted me two abilities: a whip that pulled enemies toward me, and a burst of balled-up energy, spammable as fast as my finger could press R2. I also used the Animate ability on a giant rock hand, using a telekinesis-type power to manipulate its fingers and bridge a gap between two cliffside landings. Playing with a gamepad on PC, I found the mechanics to be almost too smooth, with my reticle often sliding beyond my intended targets, but this is something I think I’d get used to after 30 minutes longer with the game. Even with the hyper-lubricated controls, I appreciated the lack of a noticeable aim assist.
I didn’t encounter the sheer number of enemies that Ascendant has shown off in trailers for Immortals of Aveum; my hordes maxed out at about eight. But by the end of my play time, I felt like I’d started to learn the rhythm of the game’s combat, and I can see it becoming frenzied — in a great way — with the addition of new magical powers. And, sure, some more enemies.
The most jarring part of the demo was actually traversing the terrain — there were plenty of craggy mountainsides and rock walls that looked perfectly climbable by modern action-adventure standards, but they weren’t. Maybe I needed to spend more time learning the intricacies of gap-jumping and ledge-grabbing, but I found my character to be slightly less spry than I wanted, unwilling to fully double-jump or pull himself onto platforms. However, the movement restrictions seemed purposeful, and the game wasn’t sluggish by any means: Immortals of Aveum felt more like a puzzle game than a climbing adventure, with a series of locked stone doors and multicolored gems to throw magic at in specific patterns.
My demo broke once, when a bug prevented a stone door from opening, and a developer had to get me back on track. I was assured that the game will be in full working condition by launch day, in about six weeks.
Ascendant Studios is independent, but it’s marketed as a AAA team and it has about 100 employees. Immortals of Aveum certainly looks like a big-budget game; it’s built in Unreal Engine 5 and heading to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC on July 20th. I remain intrigued; I’m excited to get my hands on a few more magical powers and see where this world of high-fantasy politics leads.
Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest right here!
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/immortals-of-aveum-first-look-a-little-more-magic-and-this-might-be-wonderful-133034089.html?src=rss