The realm of first-person shooters is largely inhabited by games with military and sci-fi themes. In recent years, FPS games with other themes—particularly fantasy—have somewhat fallen by the wayside. Enter Immortals of Aveum, a big, bright, and beautiful techno-fantasy shooter from EA and the San Rafael-based developer Ascendant Studios. Focusing on a single-player campaign in a carefully-crafted, lore-rich world, Immortals of Aveum is looking to give this beloved genre a magic jolt of new life. We had a chance to look at the game and talk to the game’s director, and we’ve come away spellbound.
You may not be familiar with Ascendant Studios, but you’re likely familiar with some of the past games the staff has made. Ascendant CEO and Immortals of Aveum director Bret Robbins has a legacy of work on numerous titles, including the Legacy of Kain series, the original Dead Space, and several Call of Duty titles. It was while developing CoD that the idea of Immortals was birthed: when looking at a level design for CoD, he thought about what the scene would be like in a big, bombastic fantasy setting instead.
A world of fantasy
The world of Aveum features a land torn apart—quite literally—by a millennium-long Everwar for control of magical leylines. As the conflict continues, a bottomless rift called “The Wound” grows ever-larger, with a mysterious, towering statue at its center seemingly staring down on everything. Here, you take control of Jak, an aspiring Immortal who was plucked from life as an orphan in the slums to become a Magnus battle mage. He has the rare ability to wield all three “colors” of magic: A Triarch, as he’s called. With these skills, he battles the forces of the almighty magic forces of Rasharn, a superpower warring for leyline control with Jak’s homeland of Lucium. But what long-buried mysteries and secrets is this Everwar obscuring?
What exactly is an Immortal? Despite the traditional definition, these Immortals do not possess eternal life. It’s a name meant to strike fear in the hearts of foes—after all, who is less afraid of death than a person the concept wouldn’t apply to?
“Basically, they’re like the Navy SEALS of our wizard world,” says Robbins. They’re taking on the forces of Rasharn, but human soldiers are far from the only threat they’ll face: Elementals, magically-animated Constructs, and terrifyingly resilient Archons. But some of the most memorable encounters will be battles against other expert spellslingers. According to Robbins, “When you have a wizard-on-wizard battle, that’s when things really get crazy.”
Tools of the Immortals
The setpieces in Aveum are stunning in visuals and gameplay intensity. You aren’t going to be a back-row wizard slinging spells behind a bigger, buffer unit—you’ll need to get up close and personal with waves of fierce enemies, all eager to maul an enemy Magnus. While the fantasy setting is different from the genre norm, longtime FPS players will find a lot of familiar-feeling skills in Jak’s arsenal of magic. For example:
- Breachfire acts similarly to a shotgun.
- Stormshards are rapid-firing homing projectiles.
- Javelins are chargeable projectiles you can hurl at enemies.
“The more you get to play with them and see how they work, the more depth, surprises, and fun you’ll find,” says Robbins. “The challenge (in design) was making these spells feel as good, or even better, as shooting a gun.”
Jak also has lots of ways to move around with panache, as Robbins explains. “You can double jump, hover over enemies, use a Lash spell where you can latch onto anchors in an arena or pull enemies closer, and even teleport dodge.” Jak also has a shield spell for when you need some extra defense. “I didn’t want to make a cover shooter, where you’re hiding and shooting—I want players to feel more powerful, like a gunslinger,” Robbins continues. “You can walk into an arena, really assess it, and own it.”
The depth of magic
Augmenting these magical abilities is an in-depth gear and character enhancement systems. Jak can find or buy Sigils, a crucial focus for his magical power. These Sigils grant stat boosts and buffs and can also alter how certain spells work, effectively changing loadouts. Totems are another piece of magical kit that apply various boosts, though they’re focused more on movement abilities. Magic Rings augment and transform the grenade-like Fury spells. Finally, there are Bracers, gauntlets that boost Jak’s defensive abilities. Combine all this gear with a Talent Tree to power up different magic colors, and you’re looking at a considerable amount of customization.
But finding everything will take careful exploration—the stages are packed with secrets, puzzles, and hidden areas, so you’ll want to take time to look around. Robbins was eager to tell us all about Aevum’s hidden treasures. “When you get a new spell, you can return to previous areas and unlock new things. We’ve also got the Shroudfanes: mini-dungeons hidden throughout the game that have specific challenges or unique bosses—they have some of the best gear in the game.”
Ultimately, all of the gameplay and story elements are in service of creating a unique fantasy gaming experience unlike anything else. “I want players to really fall in love with the world,” says Robbins. “We’ve created a great story and a great combat system, all wrapped under the umbrella of Aveum. I truly hope the players will come to enjoy this world and the story and characters we’ve written.”
Look forward to becoming the slickest spellcaster around on July 20 when Immortals of Aveum launches on PlayStation 5.