What if Call of Duty was set in a fantasy world where wars were fought with magic? That’s the question new developer Ascendant Studios set out to answer over five years ago, and its answer is the hugely promising PS5 first-person shooter Immortals of Aveum. We were lucky enough to be invited by EA to see the very first footage of this action-packed single-player release earlier in the month – and came away enthralled by what we saw.
Although the developer admitted to exploring multiplayer and co-op options, it was clear that it was 100% focused on the single-player campaign for launch, which should keep players busy for over 25 hours when the title rolls out on the 20th. July 2023. Along with the various battle gauntlets that make up the main action, you’ll also find secrets, branching paths, gear upgrades, and a dense story filled with lore. This is a traditional single-player experience through and through.
The pedigree behind the release is also seriously impressive. The project is the brainchild of Bret Robbins, a veteran game director who got his start at Crystal Dynamics, before eventually moving to EA where he served as creative director on Dead Space and later ran the Call of Duty franchise at Sledgehammer. Games. These influences are obvious to see in the roughly 20 minutes of gameplay footage we enjoyed, but more on that a bit later.
Although it was published by EA Originals – the subdivision responsible for the critically acclaimed It Takes Two – it’s clearly a AAA production, and more than 100 veteran employees of franchises like BioShock and Borderlands have spent about five years to put it together. The title is built in Epic’s revolutionary new Unreal Engine 5 and takes advantage of all the fancy new features in technology; it also runs at a fast frame rate, as you’d expect from a team run by Call of Duty veterans.
Although the plot is dense, the gist is that you play as a character called Jak, a combat mage recruited into a special forces division named the Immortals due to his unique ability to command several different types of magic. The backdrop to the story is that there is an ongoing conflict between the factions called Everwar, and you are obviously going to play a crucial role in the outcome of this battle. The setup looks a bit generic, but the cutscenes are really impressive, with great action and animations.
Gameplay, however, is where the release looks poised to shine. While entirely magic-based, it’s not a slow spellcasting experience; in fact, battles have the blistering pace you associate with series like DOOM, as you charge onto the battlefield, leap through the air, and fire. Spells come out of the protagonist’s seals in quick bursts, more akin to the kind of assault rifles and submachine guns you’ll find in a Call of Duty game. It looks intense.
Adding depth and variety to combat is a leash you can use to reach higher ground or pull enemies towards you, as well as a shield you can use to defend yourself – and also shoot through. This hampers mobility, so you can’t have your shield up all the time, but it’s obviously necessary when you’re under fire. You will unlock new equipment and skill points as you progress, which can be used to improve certain characteristics. Some spells, like the ability to slow down time, are also used to solve puzzles.
As mentioned above, Jak can use three different types of spells, with red acting as a shotgun and green having guiding powers. Blue is the more traditional Assault Rifle, and there is an element of color matching in combat, where certain enemies will be susceptible to certain types of powers. All of this will require you to change your approach frequently, and clearly different mixes of enemy types will challenge you in unique ways.
The result is a combat system that feels fast and frenetic; you may be a mage, but you’re actually a sniper, waltzing into battle and dealing damage in breathless, acrobatic set pieces. The speed of the action, combined with the sheer number of on-screen particle effects, really gives it that fantastic Call of Duty feel – which was clearly the developer’s goal. While it draws obvious comparisons to DOOM, we haven’t seen a shooter like it in quite some time.
The developer also hinted at Metroidvania-like elements, mentioning that as you progress you’ll unlock new spells and powers, which open up previously unexplored paths in previous levels. These will result in new secrets and items, which will further help you improve your character’s abilities. We got a glimpse of the gear screen and it’s pretty familiar, although we liked the more subdued focus on stats compared to what you see in live service nightmares like Suicide Squad: Kill. the Justice League.
The developer’s commitment to single-player and fast-paced, unfettered fantasy combat impressed us. It’s the classic type of single-player campaign that’s been underserved in recent years, and the Call of Duty experience has clearly informed a fast-paced gameplay style that looks and sounds great. The Immortals of Aveum might not have been on your radar before – it wasn’t on ours! – but it is rare that the presentations of the developers impress us so much. It could be a bit magical!
Thanks to EA for inviting us to take a look at Immortals of Aveum, and to the team at Ascendant Studios for providing us with so much insight into the development of the game. The title is due out on July 20, 2023 Are you already caught up in the charm of this release, or do you still need to see more? Use your inner powers in the comments section below.
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