More than in recent years, 2023 has been extremely busy for video games. That even extends to the summer, as giants like Final Fantasy XVI and Street Fighter 6 have occupied a season that’s normally dry in terms of big releases. Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 pretty much dominated the entire month of August—and will likely do the same for much of September, given its new arrival on the PlayStation 5—but towards the end of the month, I decided to put that aside to try out a title that ended up being more interesting than expected.
Ascendant Studios’ recently released Immortals of Aveum was revealed back in April, and it’s been an intriguing anomaly over the last few months. Its marketing has promised a fantasy version of Call of Duty, and while the DNA of that franchise is absolutely present here, that’s not entirely true to what the game actually is. What we’ve got here is a fun, oddly engaging shooter that has the vibes of an original series on Syfy during the 2010s that you could see yourself being won over by if you’re able to get on its wavelength.
That Syfy comparison isn’t made lightly, as evidenced by the setup, wherein the titular Aveum is in the middle of a yearslong war between battle mages of two kingdoms, Lucium and Rasharn. In this world, magic users can use only one particular type, which is color-coded as red, green, and blue. Our protagonist is Jak, a street urchin with comparatively little magic power—aka a “lightless,” one of many—who suddenly blooms into becoming a Triarch, so named because he can use all three types at once. Conscripted into fighting for Lucium by Gina Torres, Jak eventually becomes part of the Immortals, a team of specialists specifically tasked with fighting Rasharn’s emperor Sandrakk and his own cabal of lieutenants.
Fantasy is well-trodden ground for video games, but Immortals of Aveum provides a fun spin on things that feel novel in its execution. You’ve seen giant dragons and evil armies in plenty of other games, but not done quite like this. This is most apparent with the Sigils, which are color-coded to reflect the magic types and function as different guns. Red Sigils stand in as shotgun and rocket launchers, Blue like pistols and sniper rifles, and Green effectively operate as machine guns. Each Sigil type feels tangibly different, which is further reflected in their individual designs. So often in games, magic can often just feel like someone waving a stick of varying lengths around (or maybe even their own hands), but Immortals’ magic-as-guns conceit gives things a different weight that makes Jak feel like a magical powerhouse that stands out from a Doctor Strange.
You can feel Immortals’ genre show conventions from start to finish, all of which the game is more than eager to lean into during its campaign. The visual design of each locale feels fantastical and lived-in, with some impressive skyboxes to gander at; and when it’s time for a big action set piece, the sequences are pulled off fairly well. When everything is clicking together, the game becomes its best self, and its grab bag of magic and military tropes blend together into something that feels refreshing, like a mid-game ability that allows Jak to ride the colorful ley lines—conduits of magical power that are often a trope in fantasy settings—throughout Aveum. Even the reload animations do their job in selling that the three magics are distinct from one another.
And while its characters start out a little too quip happy for their own good, they all eventually become endearing in the way that genre shows with these casts usually are. Sometimes you just want to kick back for an hour or two and watch some decently talented actors give their all to sell you on something that’s goofy but can’t help and catch your attention, which Immortals seems to recognize. All the prominent players are given enough time and opportunity to breathe and grow out of the archetypes they initially seem. There are interesting swings taken throughout and all in all, Ascendant is having fun presenting its take on magic and the rules that come with it (because there’s always a cost!).
Immortals of Aveum feels like a game from a decade ago that would’ve been a perfect launch game for a then-new console or as a B-game during the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 days. Taken on its own merits, it’s surprisingly charming, and an impressive debut title from a new studio. It’s just a shame that coming out during such a crowded time means most audiences may not fully get turned on to it until next year.
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