Kalypso has an eclectic, uneven publishing history. Tropico is a great series, but does anyone remember The First Templar? They might be a bit hit-or-miss, but for those on the fence, Immortal Realms is right in the pocket of Kalypso’s strongest releases.
At first Immortal Realms (currently in the Xbox One’s early access program) seems overwhelming, especially for a console player like me — it’s an RPG that’s also a turn-based strategy that also has card collection. It almost feels like the dev team, Palindrome Interactive, threw all their darts at all of their walls and decided that they should incorporate everything that stuck. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Mostly.
In an overall sense, this Early Access version of Immortal Realms falls into the ‘grand strategy’ genre where the idea is to dominate a land in a number of ways. Much like something in the vein of Civilization, all-out subjugation of enemies is one way a player can win, but they can also be more subtle – increasing one’s bloodline and influence will result in a victory as long as the player can fend off all other attackers.
There’s a lot to like here, but I want to get all the negative impressions out of the way now so that I can talk about what I loved afterwards.
For starters, the tutorial is terrible, and seems at a loss in terms of what it’s trying to convey. At one point, I thought I had completed one of the instructions but got stuck and spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I couldn’t progress. Actually starting the campaign (and avoiding the tutorial) works as a much better explanation about how each of the game’s pieces work.
The confusion in the tutorial was not helped by the interface — the UI needs a lot of work. It’s clearly been designed with PC in mind, so something that should be simple like selecting a card from your hand can involve multiple button presses (and even then, I still wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing.) This unintuitive roughness also happens in the combat phase. In one instance, I was trying to see if I could use my archers’ ability to hit a unit from afar, and it required that I highlight the army first and then press the special ability afterwards.
There are other, smaller problems like the combat portion not having enough map variety, and the game’s load times are atrocious. However, the Immortal is still in Early Access and all of these things feel like issues that can be fixed or addressed.
So what works? For me, it’s the balance between the economy (in this case, blood), the card system and how both of those things play out when going into the turn-based combat. There’s a hook here that’s almost sharp enough — the developers just need to figure out how to make all the parts work together a bit tighter.
To give an example, the overworld map is divided into small sections. I was making my way across and taking control of each zone as I went, draining every village I found. The village populations left behind were destroyed, but the blood I gained allowed me to play powerful cards that boosted my character and added to my army when in battle. I destroyed every opponent and the spoils awarded me more cards that allowed me to continue my rampage. Further wins let me level up my troops and increase their competency — my army became an undead locust storm.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars has a lot of potential and I hope that it continues on in its development. Even in Early Access it’s still quite accessible to console players and it does a lot right. I look forward to more balancing and polish, but anyone looking for a game that nails the PC ‘grand strategy’ experience on consoles is sure to enjoy.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is currently available in early access on Xbox One and PC.