Immortals of Aveum
During the 2022 Game Awards, Immortals of Aveum was announced with a teaser trailer that arguably leaned too much on teasing. The quick video featured out-of-context voiceovers from unseen characters talking about war while showcasing some kind of gauntlet. Cut to a character, from the first-person perspective, walking through a door and into a battlefield with dragons flying overhead, explosions, and soldiers running with purpose. The character then lifts their arm into frame to show the gauntlet… and that was it. Now, four months later, developer Ascendant has revealed substantially more about the game, and invited me to visit its studio to speak with the team, and actually play it.
The shortest pitch possible for Immortals of Aveum is Call of Duty, but magic. It’s a pitch any publisher would be eager to embrace and sell, but developer Ascendent Studios has the bonafides. Immortals’ creative director and Ascendent co-founder, Bret Robbins, worked with Sledgehammer as creative director on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare, and WWII, and was also the original Dead Space’s co-director. “My time on Call of Duty, I got a, I think, pretty good eye for what makes for a thrilling set piece or a great action moment,” Robbins says.
How that translates to gameplay is something that, unsurprisingly, feels a little like Call of Duty, but with magic attacks instead of guns. Immortals of Aveum’s protagonist Jak, can use three types of magic, which is a rare feat in this world, and the gauntlet, called a Sigil in the fiction, helps him focus it. The blue magic is for long-range, sniper-style attacks. Red magic functions a bit like a shotgun and delivers powerful damage at close range. Green magic rests somewhere in the middle firing a continuous string of magic attacks that can track the enemy. Jak also has access to a collection of extra powerful attacks called Furies that are limited by a currency picked up on the battlefield.
Along with magic colors corresponding to the different styles of magical weapons, enemies are also represented by the three different colors and take more damage depending on what you’re using. The weaknesses are kept simple. Red enemies take more damage from red attacks, for example. I was grateful for the simplicity of enemy weakness during my hands-on, as things get hectic quickly.
I was able to play an early portion of the game that put me through the basic tutorial before dropping me into the sequence that plays out right after the Immortals’ Game Awards teaser, and was impressed with the fluidity. Instinctively, I pulled the left trigger to try and aim down sights just based on how combat and movement generally felt, but that trigger activates a Lash ability that lets you pull most enemies closer for a well-timed red magic blast. “Not including [aim down sights] was a big decision. We talked a lot about it,” Robbins says, “Ultimately, it came down to the fact that we really wanted the dual hand spell casting where we had left hand and right hand and spell casting, and we want you to be able to use that really easily and fluidly.”
Alongside the impressive magic shooter gameplay, there are opportunities to explore and solve puzzles. Call of Duty may be a relevant touch point for the action gameplay, but moving around and progressing the story looks to other styles of games. “The architecture is a hub and spoke game. You've got a couple of large, non-linear exploration spaces, and you also have a headquarters, and then you have our more linear cinematic missions that branch off of those,” Robbins says. “An analogy would be something like the more recent God of War games.”
Between fighting, I found doors that needed to be opened using different magic attacks and solved a simple puzzle where I had to move a gigantic statue hand into place so I could platform across it. I also found a few doors where Jak commented that he did not have the ability needed to open them just yet, implying there would be opportunities to return in the future. Ascendant is promising a single-player campaign, which it was eager to point out would not have any microtransactions or require an internet connection to play, that will last about 25 hours.
Ascendent was also very focused on making sure the game met a consistent 60 frames per second. Sitting in on an all-hands meeting while visiting the studio, the framerate was brought up by multiple departments, and what changes needed to be made to make sure the game was able to hit it by release. “I feel like, for fast-paced shooters, 60 is really important,” Robbins says. It makes the game feel better and “come alive” according to Robbins. “This also maybe comes a little bit from my Call of Duty background, where hitting 60 was absolutely required. I just think games look and feel better at that frame rate. So, that's what we're gonna have.”
You can look forward to reading more about visiting Ascendent Studios and our hands-on time in an upcoming issue of Game Informer magazine. And you play Immortals of Aveum yourself when the game releases July 20 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.