Immortals of Aveum Review – A Blast from the Past

Immortals of Aveum makes a big impact with punchy magical combat and blockbuster bombast.
Immortals of Aveum Review Key Art

Immortals of Aveum feels like a long-lost AAA video game that somebody only just uncovered from a time capsule buried during the early 2000s. It’s obsessed with full-bore action, led by an edgy and angsty protagonist, and set in a perpetually war-torn world that feels charged with post-9/11 cynicism. But in 2023, Immortals of Aveum oddly (and amusingly) feels like a welcome gasp of fresh air.

Increasing homogeny and the lament of endless sequels at the big-budget end of the spectrum were certainly talking points in video game culture decades ago, but the arrival of Immortals gives me a little more clarity in seeing the hole that we’ve found ourselves in now. By going out of its way to take just a few more swings than we’ve come to expect from big publishers in recent times, Immortals of Aveum stands out from the rest. 

Image: Ascendant Studios

Immortals captures the bombastic, over-the-top identity of first-person shooter campaigns, like those of Call of Duty and Titanfall 2, and injects it into an original techno-magical fantasy setting. In the world of Aveum, magic is at the forefront of the arms race, weaponised and militarised, with countries waging an endless war to control the source of all that power – with more complex consequences hiding beneath the surface.

You’re cast as Jak (Darren Barnet), a smart-mouthed street rat whose capacity for great magical prowess and even greater angst is awakened when a short-lived character that plays his best friend and mentor falls unfortunate victim to the disposable woman trope. Jak is taken in by Kirkan (Gina Torres), the leader of an elite military squad known as the Immortals, and trained to be a powerful tool in the never-ending war, with the hope that maybe he can finally put an end to it.

Lushly detailed environments, a booming score, and a strong set of performances (aided by impressive facial capture) help Immortals deftly ape contemporary Hollywood style in its storytelling. Torres’s Kirkan is a clear highlight, as are the comical Devyn (Antonio Aakeel) and villain Sandrakk (Steven Brand). Those actors together create the oscillating tone that sees high-stakes melodrama regularly undercut with lighthearted gaffs and sarcasm. The plot beats move along at a fast clip, the fantasy setting is made more approachable thanks to characters using modern colloquialisms, and there’s even the important social message that’s broadly touched on, too. Immortals of Aveum has all the swagger of a blockbuster – and all the strengths and pitfalls that come with it, too.

Image: Ascendant Studios

Where Immortals more clearly shines is in its punchy and agile first-person “magic shooter” combat. Jak has access to three different styles of magic, each of which corresponds to a style of projectile. They’re unlimited in resource, but need to be ‘reloaded’ like a gun at certain intervals. Blue magic focuses on accuracy (like a rifle or railgun), red magic focuses on short-ranged explosive damage (like a shotgun) and green magic involves fast, rapid-fire attacks (like a machine gun).

It’s hard to disassociate from the idea that Jak simply has a gun for a hand, at least at first. But just as the game evolves from its opening Call of Duty-style campaign setpieces to reveal a slightly more measured, Metroid-inspired structure of world exploration, its combat also evolves from the frantic feeling of a Call of Duty multiplayer match to something more akin to the cerebral “combat puzzles” seen in Doom (2016). And where Doom (2016) sought to modernise its classic namesake, Immortals feels like it does the same to Doom’s 1990s magical contemporary, Hexen.

Read: Interview – Ascendant Studios wants to make magic hardcore again

A suite of considered magical tools and powerful abilities are gradually introduced to complement your magic ‘guns’, which include blobs that slow enemies down, an amulet that stuns with a concentrated beam, and an excellent magical lasso that whips enemies into melee range, and never misses. Jak also gains access to resource-reliant magical spells that cause devastating area of effect or single-target damage, and he also has a shield he can manually put up to absorb damage in lieu of the game’s wilful ignorance of cover.

Altogether, this arsenal of tools means that being an effective combatant in Immortals of Aveum isn’t purely an exercise in precision and reaction. That can work, but things will take far longer than they need to, and the large variety of enemies can hit very hard and very fast. Instead, a rigorous level of quick strategic thinking is needed to shuffle between different strategies and attack combinations most suited to the combatants currently on the battlefield.

Being assaulted from a distance on all sides might require throwing up your shield, and quickly picking off archers before the shield breaks, or perhaps closing the distance with the lasso. A group of giant, rampaging golems might be handled by slowing down their movement, giving you more time to aim for the exposed crystalline weak point on their back when they swing. Or maybe you’d prefer to double-jump high into the air, transition into a hover state, and unleash an explosive blast from above when you’re floating above the middle of the pack.

Around halfway through the adventure, the combat rooms begin to really test you, and things can be over for Jak in a flash with a few poor judgements, forcing you to rethink your tactics. Immortals of Aveum isn’t afraid to throw up some brick walls, and being able to finally get into the groove, ably juggle your tools, and quickly carve your way through a mass of enemies is the best experience Immortals has to offer.

Screenshot: GamesHub via Ascendant Studios

Environmental platforming puzzles and the aforementioned Metroid-style of world construction break up the pace of the action, and help to build a tangible sense of scale and cohesion in the world. This can have different effects, depending on your mood. Sometimes I was glad to traipse peacefully through the environments and listen in on conversations, or revel in the experience of traversing the world with what are essentially long magical ziplines, marvelling as I zipped past previous battlegrounds. At other times though I would be on a high after a big boss fight, and itching to get back into the action, but finding myself stuck wandering around to look for a switch, or trying to stop myself from skipping through optional dialogue.

The RPG-style gear system, in which you can upgrade your tools and craft new ones, feels like an unnecessary adoption of modern AAA design trends. Different types of bracers can change the behaviour of your spells – your green magic can take the form of seeker bolts or a rapid-fire, chaingun-like form, for example – but having to stay on top of their overall ‘gear power’ and pay attention to minor statistical increases feels like busywork, especially when part of the game’s skill tree is largely devoted to increasing raw power, too.

Screenshot: GamesHub via Ascendant Studios

The ambitious bombast of Immortals of Aveum comes at a technical cost as well, at least on the PlayStation 5 version. In what I assume is an effort to prioritise the smooth motion of action amidst the dazzling chaos of combat, the game doggedly prioritises framerate, at the cost of the overall image resolution. It’s the right decision, but it also results in Immortals on PS5 suffering from a hazier, muddier picture quality overall, lacking an expected sharpness and definition, and still suffering from the occasional drop in framerate regardless. It’s possible these issues may be addressed in a future patch.

Still, for all its minor technical faults, slightly overcomplicated systems, and the innate foibles of aspiring to mimic the Hollywood style, Immortals of Aveum excels at heart- and fist-pumping combat. It benefits from a good cast, and an original scenario that is unique enough to be interesting in its own right.

That an expensive-looking crowd-pleaser tries several new things feels like a small, welcome miracle, but maybe that’s overthinking it. What you want out of a blockbuster is a chance to go with the flow, let yourself get pushed to the edge of your seat for a few hours, and walk out with your blood pressure up a notch and a smile on your face. Immortals of Aveum does all that very well.

4 Stars: ★★★★

Immortals of Aveum
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Developer: Ascendant Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 22 August 2023

The PlayStation 5 version of Immortals of Aveum was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are scored on a 5-point rating scale. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran