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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Immortals of Aveum - Magic: The Blathering (Review)



Immortals of Aveum

Released: August 22nd, 2023

Developer: Ascendant Studios

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Systems: PC, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series S/X


The moment I saw Immortals of Aveum’s protagonist on the cover art, I sarcastically guessed his name was Jack, Jake, or Jacob. He looked the sort - the generic white guy hero who’s graced the box art of dozens of games over the years. I’m not sure what started it, but I’ve always felt like a disproportionate number of these standardized protagonists have some variant of the name Jack.


Whether that’s true or something I merely perceive, when I see some pedestrian looking dude in a game’s key art, I default to calling him Jake, Jack, or Jacob, mostly for the sake of sarcasm.


Anyway…


He’s called Jak.

I was fucking delighted as soon as I heard him referred to by name, marking the first and last time this game delighted me.


Immortals of Aveum is aggressively mediocre, a sorcerous first-person shooter that plays, looks, and sounds like the kind of forgettable action tripe released by the bucketful in the PS3/Xbox 360 years - it would fit right in with the likes of Inversion, Quantum Theory, or Haze. Don’t be fooled into expecting a charming throwback, however - none of the games I just mentioned were charming in the least and Aveum is no more endearing than any of them.

Right, there’s this war called the Everwar because it’s a war that’s lasted forever. Nations are fighting over magic, which some people are born with and some people aren’t. Society is consequently segregated between the magical Magni and the less magical Lightless, leading to the kind of prejudice you’ve seen in about a hundred stories with this exact same basic premise.


Cue an obligatory surface-level take on inequality via Fantasy Bigotry(™) that stops at saying “oppression’s mean” because the plot’s too timid to say anything more culturally relevant.


If you guessed that Jak (lol) was born as one of the so-called “Lightless” but suddenly has magic spraying out of his cock after his home is attacked by an evil empire and he gets salty about it, you don’t get to feel clever because it’s so obviously what happens. For extra points, Jak’s initially against signing up for the war until his mawkish friends die, at which point he’s ready to slaughter thousands of soldiers who wear faceless helmets to keep said slaughter comfortably depersonalized - It’s Guilt-Free Videogame Murder 101!

There’s one moment - just one - where Jak chides the token jerkass character for shooting a single wounded enemy. I could only roll my eyes because of course there’s a scene of specifically selective sympathy. Gosh, Jak’s so compassionate… for about half a minute before beginning anew his merry magic massacre.


I’d detail more overwhelmingly trite scenes but I think they’d qualify as “spoilers” despite each one being so narratively shopworn their reveals only made me sneer in disgust. Let’s just say you’ll feel more deflated than astonished when a certain villain takes her mask off. Oh, and there’s an obligatory “who are the real bad guys?” question because, again, of course there is.


These aren’t plot twists, they’re plot affirmations.


Also, I think the hero and his pals are supposed to be likable and relatable, and what they actually come across as is an accident.

The gameplay is as mundane as the writing. Jak can use three types of magic represented by a handful of “gauntlet” weapons. Despite appearances and fancy visual effects, these gauntlets behave very much like standard FPS guns - Blue gauntlets fire semi-auto projectiles and generally act as dependable sniping pistols, Red ones are short range shotgun analogs, while the rapid-fire green gauntlets handle similarly to assault rifles and machine guns. Within each color group are a handful of weapon subtypes, but they generally fulfill that color’s basic combat role.


Naturally, some enemies and shields have color-coded weaknesses to a certain type of magic, but otherwise I’d recommend using whatever has a high rate of fire and relatively large clip size whenever possible. Enemies jump and fly around so much that I found slower, more reload-heavy gauntlets to be woefully ineffective.


There are a few “spells” to break the monotony - a blue shockwave that breaks shields, a vortex that groups enemies together, a red blast attack, and a green volley of magic missiles. Jak can also summon a shield to take a number of hits, which is essential since his Blink dodge is pathetic and has a long cooldown.

For some reason - and I’m not sure which of these is the case - enemy projectiles either all have splash damage or hitboxes far larger than their visual representation otherwise indicates. Whatever the scenario, the result is the same - more than any other FPS I’ve played, strafing is an unreliable damage mitigator and shots that look like they’d miss manage to land all the same. Jak’s own attacks don’t benefit from such generous areas of effect, with only red magic dealing some splash damage.


Everything can be upgraded via a few unexciting skill trees. The game tells you you’re free to either upgrade magic types evenly or master specific colors, but each tree hits a ceiling that can’t be breached without arbitrarily spending points in the other ones, so the suggestion you can focus on any single type isn’t strictly true. It doesn’t really matter. None of this matters.


For Christ’s sake.

There’s a lash you can use to swing from grapple points. I bring this up because not only is the lash itself on a pointless cooldown, so are the grapple points. Yes, the grapple points need a cooldown after use. It’s the one original thing Immortals of Aveum does, and it’s by far the stupidest thing a game’s ever done with a grappling hook.


Controls are frequently unresponsive to such a degree I don’t trust that the buttons I press will initiate their relevant actions. Sprinting seems to obey the clicking of the stick at random, latching onto magical railings when required isn’t guaranteed, and the green gauntlets’ rapid firing just locks up at times.

Oh, and here’s a pro-tip for developers everywhere - if you’ve mapped multiple contextual commands to a single button, make sure they fucking work and that one command doesn’t expend resources. The Square button reloads when pressed, recharges spells with a consumable when held, and interacts with objects when held while looking at the object’s button prompt and hoping it actually works instead of just wasting those consumables.


While we’re having lessons, you’d do well to not fill your levels with unrailed walkways over damaging chasm drops if your combat system encourages a lot of walking backwards.


Melee attacks are stupid. Jak disorientingly and imprecisely slides forward, making the strikes weirdly hard to aim. Funnily enough, it’s not too difficult hitting enemies with it - it’s the many breakable item boxes that are infuriatingly fucking tough to punch since Smuggy McWizardprick will glide right over them. Thank god all the gun magic has infinite ammo, since shooting inanimate objects is easier for our hero than literally just touching them.

There are some insipid puzzles. Many of them involve finding silly lumpy growths hidden in the environment and shooting them with the correct magic to open doors - it’s Where’s Waldo with primary-colored tumors. A few of the more intricate puzzles involve guessing what the developers were thinking, some dreary platforms, and a selection of weak mirror-based puzzles just to cross another stereotype off the checklist.


Immortals of Aveum’s audiovisual presentation furthers its commitment to being thoroughly mid. There's only one positive thing to say about it - the targeting reticule for green magic looks like a clown's face.

The overall art style reminds me of a bargain basement MMO. Aveum is an ornately overdesigned world with glowing magic macguffins that appear faintly technological and big statues strewn everywhere to make it look like the place has history, all surrounded with golds and blues. Our hero’s covered in belts and pouches with no discernible function. As previously noted, all the mooks wear helmets with slits in place of facial features atop silvery armor adorned with glowing bits.


It resembles every videogame at once, while paradoxically looking like nothing at all. Graphical mundanity, validly crafted to inoffensive perfection.

Speaking of paradoxes, I’m quite surprised at how Immortals manages to be both too much and not enough at once. I said the world was overdesigned, yet environments nonetheless feel empty and threadbare. While terrain may be littered with furniture and flora, the actual map layout is often open, flat, and it just feels empty. NPCs appear to have been dropped into levels almost haphazardly, each one silently performing conversational routines even if they’re in the middle of a room talking to nobody.


Animations are particularly bad. They appear to have been motion captured, but I can’t be sure because there’s something unrealistically exaggerated about the way everybody moves. I’ve never accused character models of trying too hard before, but I can think of no other way to describe it. This goes double for facial animation, which boasts a level of uncanny eeriness not seen since Heavy Rain creeped everybody out in 2010.


I’m pretty sure the lip syncing is slightly off.

Voice acting is… fine. If there’s a soundtrack I couldn’t tell you, it’s so forgettable I can’t remember a damn thing about it, up to and including its very existence.


I wish I could say I hated this fucking thing because that would at least mean I had some sort of emotional connection with it. The most intense feeling I can summon, however, is contemptuous disregard.


Immortals of Aveum is so derivative as to make me question the accuracy of the word “uninspired” - this game absolutely is inspired. It’s taken so much inspiration from so much existing media there’s not a single unique element. Less of a story and more the creative slag oozing from a smelter full of adventure tropes, its narrative is matched in banality only by its gameplay. A bog standard, repetitive shooter that offers nothing new and does none of the old stuff well enough to justify doing it.

And that’s how I felt before the mirror puzzles made their contractually obligated appearance.


5/10

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