Plenty of great first-person shooters take players on globe-trotting adventures using modern military technology, to World Wars, and sometimes the moon or even hell. Immortals of Aveum carves out its own place in the broad genre of shooters by setting its first-person action in the fantasy realm of Aveum, and it’s refreshing to shoot at ax-wielding knights, magic sorcerers, dragons, and more.
It helps that Immortals of Aveum mixes up its competent shooting with unique, puzzle-like twists to keep most encounters fresh and exploration exciting. Developer Ascendant Studios greatly emphasizes the narrative, and it’s hit or miss, depending on how well you gel with the cast’s cliche personalities. Nonetheless, I rolled credits impressed with this team’s first crack at this world and its mechanics, even if the final product could have used more polish.
Jak is a Lightless, meaning he’s unable to use magic, but through a traumatic series of events, he becomes not just a magic-wielding Magni but eventually an Immortal, the most elite of magic users. This places him near the highest ranks of Lucium’s Lights Army, fighting in the Everwar. Jak is powerful and capable of wielding three types of magic: Force (blue), Life (green), and Chaos (red). Blue magic serves as Immortals of Aveum’s sniper or long-range rifle-type weapon, green is the machine gun of this world, and red is the shotgun. Each type of magic is more effective against specific types of enemies, adding a welcome element of strategy to every combat encounter. Jak fires magic through sigils he wears on his arms, and there are various sigils to find around Aveum, each with different stats, upgrade paths, and more. There are a few other gear pieces to find and while upgrading each is straightforward, I’d be lying if I said I was invested in these stats.
Immortals of Aveum has all the systems needed to create a build for Jak – you can focus on Fury abilities, which are special attacks that require an easy-to-find resource to use, or on enemy shield destruction, for example – from sigils to amulets to rings, arm bands, and more. But I rarely felt pushed to explore in this direction, mostly because I was getting along just fine with the gear with which I had fallen into a cadence. I didn’t mind ignoring gear, though, because the action is good regardless of what I equipped.
Standard enemies, of which there are plenty, can be taken down however, but stronger enemies have specific shields attached to them coordinated with a type of magic in your sigils. For example, if an enemy has a blue shield up, you must use your blue magic to take it out. I love how Ascendant uses this to morph enemy-filled encounters into puzzle arenas. Immortals of Aveum is also challenging because of these mechanics and I died often. Still, I almost always knew what I did wrong, which enemy I should have targeted first, and when I should have used my special Fury abilities or even my tri-magic ultimate move. I could feel my combat competence growing with each encounter, and I used more of each arena’s platforms, grapple hook rigs, and other platforming elements to glide around areas taking out swaths of enemies.
Outside combat, Ascendant goes to great lengths to fill its world with things to do. With light Metroidvania elements, even after rolling credits, there are plenty of places for me to revisit to find new gear, complete unique challenge rooms, and defeat remaining bosses. I’ve never seen more chests in a game, but being able to blast them open with a quick trigger pull made it easy to dip a few seconds off the beaten path to find what’s inside. Throughout the main missions and side exploration, I found gems on walls that interact with magic. If I shot a red triangle gem with red magic, it might open a door to a previously hidden chest. Many exploration-based puzzles require multi-magic shots to open new doors quickly, and Ascendant continued adding enjoyable layers to these puzzle-based mechanics throughout.
What I especially like about Immortals of Aveum is it gives me plenty of space to breathe in between action with semi-open-world exploration, puzzles, dozens of collectibles, and more. I often strayed from the path to pull a platforming thread and see where it took me, which was often to a worthwhile reward. However, sometimes the game gave me too much space between the action. More than a few times, I’d be ordered to go to the War Room so I’d walk there and watch a cutscene. Then, I’m told to go to my quarters in the Palathon, the Lights Army’s base hub. After another cutscene there, I’d be told to walk back to the War Room for another cutscene, and I wish all of this would have been one big cutscene – walking 20 seconds in between each brought me no joy or player agency.
I’m surprised how much I enjoyed Immortals of Aveum’s story, especially given how often it threw proper nouns in my face alongside typical hero-speak and fantasy jargon. Aveum is a fantasy realm, but its characters and world feel modern. You won’t find anything new regarding character growth and personality, and I saw where the narrative was heading from a mile away, but Immortals of Aveum’s story is saved from tropes and mundaneness with a refreshing straightforwardness in its message and politics. Sometimes an evil kingdom is a kingdom full of fascists, and it is nice to hear these characters call that out, even if, overall, its themes are muddied by pacing and cliches.
I wish Immortals of Aveum had more time in the oven to cook. It runs at 60 FPS, but when the combat gets hectic, which is often, there are noticeable dips. The visuals look muddy and scratchy at times too. However, Ascendant is aware of performance issues and a day-one patch aims to address them.
The game’s score is good fun, too, mixing a classic fantasy orchestra with 808s and other hip-hop beats to great effect. It’s the bow atop the game’s modern fantasy shooter wrapping.
Delivering something different and unique in a genre clogged with games set in real-world wars and battles, or at least meant to emulate them, is a commendable effort and pays off here for Ascendant. Immortals of Aveum is a great first outing, mixing the fantasy genre’s vibes, storytelling, and world exploration with the gunplay of a modern shooter. Its magic action almost always feels great, except when the game’s performance turns a fun explosion of magic and colors into a muddy mess. The story, which took me 16 hours to get through, is predictable but competent enough to get Jak to the next set piece, and there’s plenty left to explore and accomplish after rolling credits that I’m excited to check out. Ascendant made a good call emphasizing exploration and combative puzzle-solving just as much as its first-person action, and Immortals of Aveum is proof this genre still has a lot of room to grow outside of the usual, expected releases.