Roll those shoulder joints, flex your forearms, and throw some gang signs. Def Jam this ain’t, battlemage. Immortals of Aveum is the most exciting AAA first-person shooter to make its way onto the scene in a hot minute. This is a magical behemoth of a game set in the rich and original world of Aveum. A setting that blends ancient superstructures and elemental abnormalities with a widening void in its centre that is growing as warring nations draw upon the limited magical resources at its core. There’s a heap of otherwise interesting worldbuilding here relegated to text logs in typical shooter fashion, but the actual artistry on display in the environmental storytelling shows that this is more than just a shiny new IP in a sexy Unreal 5 visage. While I won’t be musing over my dozen-odd hours in Aveum come awards season, it was nevertheless a great long-weekend fling.
Our unlikeable protagonist Jak is a mystical Unforeseen, a magic wielder of the proletariat with hidden potential. This battlemage doesn’t have a whole lot going on beyond making sarcastic observations while everybody else tells him to shut the fuck up. Fortunately, this first-person adventure relegates almost the entirety of Jak’s abrasive personality to the cutscenes. After Jak witnesses tragedy as a teenager and discovers his untapped magical abilities, he is conscripted by his nation’s military. He rises through the ranks as a loyal bootlicker, joining the elite and paradoxically mortal ranks of the Immortals of Aveum. This special forces unit pretends to wage an everlasting war between your Lucians and the opposing Rashanians, all the while living it up as war heroes in grand floating palaces while the world maintains a status quo of balanced conflict. There are threads of an exciting universe with interesting power dynamics playing out in the background, far more so than we are normally treated to in the AAA first-person shooter space. So, aside from Jak being a fool, I urge you to read on and strongly consider if this game might scratch a very exciting itch for you.
The choice-driven dialogue is generally lame
Immortals of Aveum always manages to consistently surprise and capture your attention when Jak is behind instead of in front of the camera. Yes, no one particular element of the combat or story will linger in memory a year from now, but this game has nevertheless hit it out of the park by being consistently entertaining. The world of Aveum is compact yet freely roamable and has fast travel. The curious player can find all manner of unique equipable gear, currency, hidden bosses and challenges. I went from an open-zone forest with heaps of nooks to explore and secrets for the patient platformer, ended up in a mystical void where the walls and floors would morph in front of me, and then found myself in snow-capped mountains and cave systems. It all looks amazing and feels great to traverse in first person, with double jumps, grapples, hovers, and dashes between you and hidden rewards.
The scale of the visuals and the imagination on display is ethereal power fantasy at its finest. Epic, hallowed battle mechs preside over fragmented battlegrounds of ancient sites torn asunder while colourful magic leylines (the objects of the Everwar) weave mystically through the canopy above. All the while you’re double jumping through this entwined landscape of nature and magical structures, rendered in a jaw-dropping manner. It only rarely trips as the screen becomes obscured behind the fireworks display cast upon the eight-odd group of beasts, elementals, and battlemages in front of you. Mostly the game runs great, but the visual options are all but non-existent. At least this one-size-fits-all approach to graphics largely looks the business, but some occasional blurriness and texture pop-in might tarnish the illusion.
The visual framing of this world is often sublime
Combat doesn’t pull any punches, with every encounter feeling tailored to challenge you to the correct measure at any point in the game. It has the frenetic urgency of games like Doom Eternal, which demands the player remain constantly agile while trying to scope in ranged attacks at rapidly encroaching enemies. Combat outside of missions is otherwise relegated to scripted and identifiable encounters in the world, meaning that it becomes easy to dodge around them when you return later on to explore. But as you progress forward in the game, the threats only evolve with your arsenal. You have three flavours of coloured spells on tap, and matching these with an enemy’s elemental colour is most effective. Without spoiling too much, this game is constantly empowering you with powerful new super spells called Furies, an RPG gear system, skill trees, the whole shebang. And you will want to get a good handle on these, particularly the three-pronged skill tree, in order to overcome the increasingly tight, mounting challenges.
The combat never buckles under the weight of each new element added with every chapter. Instead, it expects you to fire off on all cylinders, limited only by your imagination. It is so easy to launch a double jump into a sustained hover over an enemy, while simultaneously maintaining your shield with one hand and projectiles with the other. I highly recommend getting your hands on an Edge or Elite controller, something with back paddles, as you can and will want to be pressing no less than four buttons at a time. It is holy, satisfying hell to dash, hover, block, and blast seamlessly without one action cutting off the other.
The platforming is also a pleasant surprise, taking the usual Metroidvania approach of providing tools that open up the environment at the same time as combat and puzzles. Each new Sigil or item unlocked means access to new puzzles that frequently reminded me of the best platforming of Destiny 2 and laser puzzles of The Talos Principle.
The battlegrounds of the Everwar are glorious
By the sixth chapter of Immortals of Aveum, I realised I was enamoured. The breadth and surprises that I had just experienced left me reeling. Surely, I thought, there cannot be much more to this already rather epic experience. So I challenged it to see if it would introduce one major gameplay surprise with each ongoing chapter. Pleasantly, it met these expectations. Immortals of Aveum is often terrific, borrowing DNA from the greatest first-person shooters and creating something that is genuinely impressive enough to stand with them. Minus the perplexing lack of heart in the otherwise promising story, and the rather trying characters.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X // Review code supplied by publisher
- Ascendant Studios
- Electronic Arts
- PS5 / Xbox Series X|S / PC
- August 22, 2023