Ascendant Studios have created a pretty unique take on the shooters of the early 2000s which is lots of fun
You know I actually found myself really surprised when playing IMMORTALS OF AVEUM the new first person shooter from Ascendant Studios.
There’s many of the hallmarks of a triple A shooter, big bombastic set pieces, impressive acting performances and you of course dear player are the chosen one mysteriously responsible for bringing balance to the world.
They don’t really make games like this any more, that is a standalone brand new series, but after sinking in hours into the cool world of Aveum maybe they should.
Jak is our “wise-cracking” protagonist who honestly feels like he’s stepped out of a magical portal into 2023 from games long past.
The fantasy world of Aveum is locked in a perpetual magical Everwar where only two major factions remain, Lucium and Rasharn.
Instead of having to eek out a meagre life of crime in shanty town Seren, Rasharnians attack and surprise rare magical powers awaken which means old mate Jak can take his sarcasm on the road on a mission to avenge his lost family.
Like many games at the core is a rock paper scissors like mechanic of colour coded spells, but ultimately it’s even simpler than that as rock beats rock and scissors beats scissors. You switch between each of the weapons you have at hand (heh) matching red short range spells to red enemies, blue long range spells to blue, and rapid firing green spells to green foes. You can of course mix and match, but you’ll want to match your weapons to the enemy type to gain maximum advantage, with some abilities only countered by their corresponding colour.
It’s a really neat system which is paired with a range of secondary abilities that really encourages you to mix and match as you play. Keep a shield up to block incoming attacks as you shoot, or lasso an opponent towards you into close range.
There’s also a pretty large skill tree to navigate as well which adjust each of your abilities, within each of the three magic schools. While there are the more mundane 10% reduced reload speed, there are far more interesting abilities like an enemy knock back when your shield breaks or increasing the amount of dodge charges. Progressing through the unlocks evenly also allows for some hybrid abilities to that require a number of points in multiple different categories.
It leads to some pretty dynamic and varied battles as you roll through each of your abilities and movement skills to try and kite and outmatch your opponents, with the magic feeling wild and dangerous in a really satisfying way.
A fantastic world
IMMORTALS OF AVEUM is a proper noun heavy high fantasy world. Get ready to learn about pentacades, Magnis, courts of Lavenry and leyline fonts. It’s pretty complex which I actually love but if this sort of fiction isn’t your thing it helps that Jak is basically just a cannon who gets pointed at whatever needs to be destroyed.
There is definitely a hoorah “good guy with a spell can take out a bad guy with a spell” vibe to IMMORTALS. Its laid on pretty thick in the early part where Jak conscripted into the marines, sorry Light’s Army, where he tries to earn entry into the navy SEALS, apologies, the Immortals. While that does develop pretty nicely with some allusions to real world biological collapse the whole thing does feel very “American.”
The performances are top notch Gina Torres shines as Grand Magnus Kirkan and I couldn’t help but be drawn to Leonardo Nam’s Captain Selko sporting a genuine Australian accent that fits perfectly in this fantasy world that isn’t overplayed.
What Ascendant have done beautifully is craft a really stylish and distinctive visual look for the villages ruins and paths you’ll be traversing, with nice if relatively static sets to explore. There is a level of detail that is really gorgeous to just stare at. It’s paired with a trap beat fantasy soundtrack by composers Tom Hawk and Jamie K that means Aveum just feels cool to chill in as you explore.
That extends to the characters and enemies as well, they obviously draw from the science fantasy genre conventions but feel modern, diverse and varied across the main cast. The armour looks great and makes me reminisce to the time I would doodle knights and soldiers in my notebooks. There are enough belts, pouches and buckles that even Tetsuya Nomura would be proud.
In many ways IMMORTALS OF AVEUM feels like a bit of a throwback, there is a sheen that reminds me heavily of HALO, large chunky environments packed with little unique details in a world much larger than you are.
It brings to the table modern gameplay, beautiful graphics and some great character performances
It’s fun and visceral and I hope that we get to play more of these style of games, which has landed within a pretty busy release schedule. If you can sneak it in amongst the blockbusters, you’re in for a fun ride.
A copy of MMORTALS OF AVEUM on PlayStation 5 was provided to SIFTER for the purpose of this review.