Actually, They *Can* Be Killed
HIGH Great malleability in approaches to play.
LOW That tutorial.
WTF It has been tracking my progress since early access.
I took a look at Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars while it was still in the Game Preview program on Xbox. My feelings at the time were basically that it was very solid, but I had a few quibbles about performance, UI, and map variety. I’m happy to report that these things have now been (mostly) addressed in the full release.
IR:VW is a turn-based-strategy with grand-strategy elements, a levelling system for its leader characters (Lords), and some card collection, all successfully combined into a cohesive and enjoyable experience.
The main objective of play is similar to a grand-strategy title — expand and claim land, manage the economy (blood), fight and then expand again.
An overview map is where expansion takes place, with the player moving their troops around from area to area. When enemies are encountered, IR:VW shifts into a grid-based battlefield that has obstacles and random buffs that can be collected. Turn-based tactics are in play for these skirmishes.
While the player controls groups of soldiers, the main damage dealer in any fight is the Lord — a general who has magic spells and higher damage. These bruisers can single-handedly turn the tide of battles, and not only is their skill tree is deep and diverse, the buffs apply to all heroes. This is useful because it means players don’t need to grind EXP with a newly-added Lord before they’re meaningful in combat.
The campaign serves as a good intro to the mechanics and successfully tells a story while adding spice to the formula by setting limits on what the player can do. For example, it requires the player to go through an early map without hiring armies in the (later) conventional fashion and makes them rely on cards to bolster troop numbers instead.
The Skirmish mode is more of a sandbox, and where I spent a lot of my time messing around with different tactics like turtling up in a Keep and attempting to dominate from there, or going on rampant expansionism and seeing if I was able to defend my wide borders from all comers. (Answer: not always).
While many of the UI issues I had have been fixed, the combat maps that load up whenever an encounter with an enemy army occurs still feel terribly similar. This is a problem since it’s boring to actually go through these fights manually, but if I chose to auto-resolve a battle, the results were often incredibly punishing even when I had superior numbers. The result is that I either had to play the same maps over and over again or suffer casualties.
Putting the issue of tedious battles aside, Immortal Realms is still an enticing product, especially on consoles where there’s not much else like it. For console fans waiting for something substantial, yet less labyrinthian than some of Kalypso’s other offerings, spending time draining blood from the countryside is a great way to go.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Palindrome Interactive and published by Kalypso Media. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO-X. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Violence and In-Game Purchases. The game is all brooding gothic, murder aplenty and dark themes of innocent peasant slaughter. Definitely earns its M rating.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound. Text cannot be resized, nor can the color be changed.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The Y axis cannot be remapped. There is no screenshot of the game’s controls. The A button confirms actions/selects items, B button cancels actions. The D-Pad is used for navigating sub menus, X button triggers specific character menus, Y button triggers others, the Left Stick scrolls the map/moves the cursor, the Right Stick controls camera. The Right Trigger ends a turn.