Pew-Pew Finger Guns

HIGH A lavish production set in a well-formed universe…

LOW …Damn near ruined by the twerp I have to play as

WTF It somehow got made in the first place

I think we need to be a little careful poo-pooing a game that is essentially the thing that many of us have been demanding. Case in point, Immortals of Aveum.

It’s a big-budget, triple-A, story-driven singleplayer original IP from a brand-new studio with a pedigree, it has a somewhat original idea at the core of its gameplay, and it comes with zero microtransactions or season passes. It is a whole, complete, product not hindered by many of the things that drive modern players crazy.

By any measure, Immortals of Aveum is something worth celebrating. The days of the ‘A’ or ‘AA’ game are practically gone, with every big release from traditional third-party publishers either being a safe bet from a existing franchise or something with deeply nefarious economies designed to extract money from consumers above all else.

There are a lot of games competing for our money this fall, and since there are so few like Immortals of Aveum, that comes with being placed under a larger microscope and heightened expectations. I was shocked to see Immortals of Aveum was an EA game, but upon closer inspection it’s branded as a “EA Original”, which is their in-house label meant to support indie developers — in this case, Ascendant Studios, a new studio headed by former Dead Space creative director Bret Robbins and a collection of former EA and Activision developers who self-funded the project’s creation. In other words, this isn’t exactly a huge risk for EA.

So what did Ascendant Studios make? Well, they made a first-person shooter with an assortment of rifles, machineguns, and shotguns, but these are replaced with “Sigils” — magical devices that attach to the user’s arm, replicate the actions of very familiar guns, and the bullets are replaced by magic lasers and explosions. Aveum also uses a traditional health system accompanied by health packs, and there are various grenades and AOE spells with cooldowns. Sometimes green bullets work best on red enemies and vice-versa. The red, blue, and green magic is legitimately referred to in-game as “red, blue, and green magic”.

The shooting is quite solid and once the player has a fully stocked arsenal, there are some large-scale and entertaining battles against dozens of enemies that will test the player’s skills. It has a very old-school difficulty arc where things start easy and end punishing, which I appreciated, but others may not.

So, in essence, Immortals of Aveum is a ‘Magic Shooter’, and while the core act of playing is absolutely in-line with what one would experience in a standard FPS, the presentation of its combat is its strength. The pyro and ballyhoo on display make for a refreshing experience, and it’s certainly more aesthetically pleasing than yet another military shooter. Indeed, Immortals of Aveum is a truly exceptional-looking title and one of the few releases from the current console generation that actually looks ‘next gen’. Lots of colors, exceptional particle effects, huge vistas, great detail in the environments, and relatively stable performance make for an experience that looks like it cost a lot of money.

The developers have created detailed lore surrounding Aveum, and they do a fantastic job of making protagonist Jak an excellent ‘fish-out-of-water’ archetype to help the player absorb a world with thousands of years of history and many Specifically Named Important Things. I like the vibe a lot, and it has a very teen drama/Young Adult fiction vibe to the writing that works well. For parents worried about the tone and content of modern games, I see Immortals of Aveum as a good choice for teens.

Unfortunately it’s not all rainbows with Jak. While he’s set up as a good vehicle to introduce the player to the world and lore, he’s also every bad lesson the videogame industry learned from Nathan Drake fifteen years ago, rolled into one unlikable putz. He’s overly sarcastic and never takes even legitimately dark subject matter seriously, instead choosing to answer every question with a very unfunny quip. He has surprisingly little growth over the course of the script.

There’s also a borderline offensive attempt to have Jak be the victim of discrimination from a fellow Immortal due to his origins, and I cannot stress how grating it was having a snarky white bro be upset about the racism he was experiencing — racism is a legitimate, real-world issue, but the devs show little tact in dealing with it. There are scenarios in which this could’ve been done effectively, but not with this main character. This whole angle should’ve been scrapped, or at the very least the three white males who are are credited with writing the game should’ve consulted with someone of color for a dramatic re-tooling. The larger narrative is interesting, as is the world, but this character and the tone choices made do a lot of damage.

Immortals of Aveum is fine. Better than fine, actually! It has a lot of Very Nice Qualities. It also isn’t as successful as it could’ve been in a few key areas, but I wasn’t angry about putting 15-ish hours in, even with seemingly every big game on earth being released during the same time period.

It’s the kind of straightforward game that I desperately want more of, but its occasional faults combined with strong competition and a top-dollar price have made it an afterthought less than a month after release. A year from now, a lot of people are gonna buy this on sale for less than $20 and be impressed — that’s not going to help get Immortals of Aveum 2 greenlit, But I do hope the studio finds enough success now to get themselves another project off the ground. They clearly have a lot of potential.

RATING: 7.5 Out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Ascendant Studios and published by Electronic Arts. It is currently available on XBX/S, PS5 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 14 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated and contains Blood, violence, and Strong Language. I’m gonna be honest: this is a pretty weak M rating. While the story has heavy themes they’re not presented in an overly violent manner. When people get zapped to death with a spell they usually disappear without any blood, and I don’t remember much extreme violence outside of a couple of cutscenes. Language is definitely PG-13, but nothing major. Parents with a teenager into the subject matter wouldn’t find this too objectionable.

Colorblind Modes: There are three colorblind modes present: Deuteranomaly, Protanomaly, and Protanopia

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and/or resized. Gameplay-based subtitles are detailed, and battles are really a cacophony of noise, so there aren’t any audio based clues that aren’t represented visually. I’d say this is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The controls are not fully remappable on consoles. A full controller layout is available in the options menu.

Jarrod Johnston
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