Immortals of Aveum
“Immortals of Aveum is a colorful magic FPS that’s sometimes too snarky for its own good.”
Exhilarating magical combat
A hefty adventure
Overly quippy dialogue
Immortals of Aveum is much more than Call of Duty with magic. I came to this realization as I was running for my life through some deep catacombs.
While looking for a missing Immortal (a powerful magical being) that could help protagonist Jak in the fight against the Rasharn empire and its evil leader Sandrakk, I had to visit the dark and creepy Underdwell. Once I got there, I started to encounter Aelori, beings that magic can’t kill. After being on a bombastic power trip with a variety of colorful spells for several hours at this point, I had to play much smarter as I stunned enemies at the right time in order to escape.
This exhilarating enemy design and combat scenario isn’t something I’d find in a modern Call of Duty, and it made me appreciate how distinct of a project Immortals of Aveum actually is. The debut game from Ascendant Studios, Immortals of Aveum is a first-person shooter that swaps out guns for magic. The fact that former Sledgehammer Games dev Bret Robbins founded Ascendant has caused a lot of Call of Duty comparisons.
I went into Immortals of Aveum expecting a linear, on-rails Call of Duty campaign-style experience but found a game with levels that were more vast than I expected, a world with intriguing lore, and vibrant combat that kept me on my toes, and constant switching up what magic I was using. It’s a solid choice for those looking for an inventive shooter game that stands out from the crowd in that genre, although boring puzzles and cloying dialogue drain some magic out of the experience.
In Immortals of Aveumplayers follow Jak, an initially magicless kid who’s thrust into the center of an endless war over the control of magic after he turns out to be a triarch — a spellcaster that can use three different kinds of magic. He’s initiated into the Immortals, an elite group of battlemages from the Lucium kingdom fighting against the Rasharn empire and its cruel leader Sandrakk as a magical wound that could destroy the world constantly expands. As the game goes on, though, that initial conflict ends up not being as black-and-white as it initially seems.
Players encounter many more characters, factions, and magical MacGuffins through the adventure, but I’ll save you from the jargon-filled specifics on those. I typically have a low tolerance for games that lay on lore and world-specific jargon too thickly early on, but I found Immortals of Aveum’s pacing brisk enough where that never became a real issue. If someone walks in with no context on the game’s world, they almost certainly won’t understand what’s happening. Thankfully, the story eases players into this world in a compelling way and aligns it with Jak’s journey. I learned about the world alongside the hero.
Politically, Immortals of Aveum is also more affluent than its Call of Duty dev origins would suggest, tackling themes like endless war, climate change, and the fact that there are no real “good guys” in war without falling into typical military plot pitfalls. All of the elements were there for me to enjoy Immortals of Aveum’s story, but one thing holds it back: quippy dialogue that constantly defies characterization and tone.
At times, it feels like everyone in Immortals of Aveum is written exactly the same.
Immortals of Aveum is yet another piece of media that pulls from the Joss Whedon playbook (Firefly’s Gina Torres is even in the game) and makes every character a snarky jerk who can’t stop spitting out one-liners. Typically, I’m okay with this writing style if it makes sense for the characters, as it did for Frey in The prophesied. It even makes sense for Jak, as he’s a streetwise, quick-witted kid who never really grew up and was forced into a war.
What makes a lot less sense is when all of the army generals — good and bad, experienced or not — are exactly the same. At times, it feels like everyone in Immortals of Aveum is written exactly the same, which makes me care less about specific characters and their relationships with each other. Thankfully, strong performances by the likes of Darren Barnet, Gina Torres, Steven Brand, and more bring life to the cast; I just wish their characters had more distinct material to work and didn’t always have to cut the tension with some snide comment.
Who needs guns?
When Jak’s not quipping in Immortals of Aveumhe’s exploring or fighting. The FPS pedigree of Ascendant Studio is on full display here as they’ve crafted a flashy shooter with solid combat designs that find clever ways to substitute guns and other tech with magic. As a triarch, Jak has various red, blue, and green magic at his disposal, and all of these come in handy in specific situations and adopt the usefulness of certain weapons.
Generally, red magic is like using a shotgun, as you’ll deal heavy damage at close range. Blue magic is more like standard rifle fire used to break shields or land a precise hit on an enemy. Green magic, my personal favorite, usually functions like a machine gun as it quickly fires lots of bullets that hone on enemies. On top of all that, Jak also has more powerful Fury spells, a shield that can block some damage, blink to quickly dodge and attack, and grapple both enemies and certain points in the environment. While I have my preferred tools — I love sucking enemies into a vortex and then blasting them with as much red or green magic as I could — I can never rely on just one weapon or strategy to get through every encounter.
Certain enemies can only be damaged or are weaker to specific colors of magic or other spells at Jak’s disposal. Every encounter is a bit different, and I constantly had to think on my feet as I ran and dashed around levels while determining which kind of magic would be best to get me out of the situation I was in. It’s not quite at Doom Eternal’s level of every combat encounter feeling like a puzzle that needs to be solved, but it still provides an exhilarating power trip that rewards thoughtful play.
Great visual and combat design ensures every encounter is varied enough to sustain its hefty 15- to 20-hour run time.
It also helps that every spell is a visual marvel. The spellcasting animations are detailed and memorable — Jak pumping his fist to reload red magic is a particular favorite of mine — and particle efforts galore help give each blast a vibrant impact. Immortals of Aveum also runs well for the most part on PS5, with the frame rate only really dipping in one mid-game boss fight where it goes full bullet hell for a bit (the PC version is in a significantly worse state, though, according to our computing team). Great visual and combat design ensures every encounter is varied enough to sustain its hefty 15- to 20-hour run time.
Bigger than you think
I was surprised to discover that the game’s structure is most similar to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It’s technically linear and always tells the player where to go next, but every place players explore is a bit open-ended and can be revisited later on. These light Metroidvania touches make it enjoyable to return to places I’ve already explored and to look for buff-granting Shroudshrines or new abilities. There are a couple of caveats, though.
The map, unfortunately, doesn’t make exploration very easy as it struggles to portray each level’s vertically, path-blocking obstacles, and the tools needed to unlock those roadblocks. Immortals of Aveum’s puzzle design isn’t strong either; the most clever one I experienced had me stunning an Aelori on a pressure plate. Most of them just ask me to shoot three frustratingly hidden marks or complete laser puzzles that don’t fulfill that magician fantasy nearly as well as combat.
The rare puzzles where I could manipulate a statue with green magic are fantastic; I wish there were more moments like that. And ultimately, I wanted Immortals of Aveum to have uninterrupted highs. There’s a lot to enjoy with its intricately crafted world, colorful combat, and exploration, but only a couple of moments toward the game’s climax matched the visual spectacle of that bullet hell boss fight or the intensity of the Aelori chases in the Underdwell, and the snarkiness of that dialogue in those sections was hit-or-miss.
Still, as a first outing for a new studio whose work has been compared to Call of Duty games that it’s not actually that similar to, Immortals of Aveum is a surprisingly creative experience. Those looking for an FPS that’s a bit off-kilter from the norm will appreciate the design risks it takes, and its science fantasy world is one I wouldn’t mind returning to and learning more about. And you won’t catch me undercutting that sincere recommendation with a snide joke.
Immortals of Aveum was reviewed on PS5.