A challenge: hold your arm at a right angle to your torso, bent at the elbow so you can see your wrist and hand in the corner of your eye. Keep it there for as long as you can. Hurts after a while, huh? This is the default position for Jak, awesome FPS wizard with a magic gun arm, and possessor of a personality so inoffensive that when I am not playing the game I struggle to remember he exists. I noticed how hard it is to hold your arm in wizard mode when I was about 10 hours into the 20-or-so span of Immortals Of Aveum, and half way through is too early for a game to make me go all Cinema Sins out of boredom.
Despite this, I very much appreciate Immortals Of Aveum taking a crack at a good old-fashioned mid-length action adventure. There are shining moments where it’s great fun (though sometimes by accident; I have never, in my life, laughed so hard at some tiny wee orphans being exploded in front of me), but it’s let down by its FPS combat becoming too repetitive too early, which is the kiss of death for a game built around shooting stuff. It also commits the terrible crime of taking itself too seriously, but then I level that charge at most fantasy I encounter.
Jak, the literal man that you are, is an urchin plucked from shanty-townery when it turns out he can wield each of the three flavours of magic (shotgun red, machine gun green and one that you will use most of the time blue). He is thus pressed into Aveum’s side on the Everwar, a big fight over the control of magic, as part of the Immortals. They’re the de facto leaders of the army basically because of how powerful they are, and also because the main one is played by Gina Torres. You can engage with the fantasy worldbuilding as much as you want, really, because in practice all it means is that Gina Torres and her two best friends (Bodybuilder Magician and Wry Nerd Sorcerer) send you on missions to collect things and bring them back to your base, which hardware editor James calls ‘the castle of enforced 10% walking speed’.
The land itself is probably the most impressive thing about Immortals Of Aveum – though, like most games I play now, I think they should have made the maps more focused and with less optional traversal secret bollocks to discover. You start in a woody, vaguely alpine area, but get to pew pew your way through snow, white-rocked waterfalls, and deep dungeons full of glowing purple bits. A lot of it is incredibly beautiful. There’s a solid attempt here and there to break free from the chains of conventional world design because, after all, you can make your world anything! As long as it has boxes of health crystals and some pillars or staircases to provide battle terrain, why not cover your library in big weird gobs of melty metal? Every so often you’ll tune in to the fantasy static and hear something about how the melty metal is actually learning excreted by the library guardians as sweat, and nod to yourself as you continue blasting everything.
The blasting is really the focal point, as Immortals Of Aveum was arguably conceived as ‘what if Call Of Duty… but magic?’. But whoever built the huge temples here did not see fit to include waist high walls; this a run-and-gun in style, more akin to a Doom or a Wolfenstein. You blast magic from the bracer on your arm – and the design here is intelligent, attaching different designs and even noises for each colour of magic, so you can easily tell them apart even in the heat of battle, and even if they don’t actually feel very physically different to use. Within that you can equip different versions of bracer that change up your attacks. Maybe you pick fewer blasts traded for higher damage on your red shotgun magic, or enemy seeking green rounds vs lower damage shots but 80 of them. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself reaching for your blue arm, though, because it has the most consistent balance between damage and speed.
Like Doom, you’re supposed to constantly switch between your magic gun fingers, and the game gives you extra tools to work in tandem. There are special attacks for each type of magic, and special tools with cool downs, including a whip, shield, and a stun beam. When you’re approaching a moment of flow you whip a floating archer towards you to blast them in the head, throw up your shield just in time to block a big hit from the giant flail bastard, and swap to your stun to spellbreak the enemy mage and make her explode the three lads next to her as well. Plus, you can upgrade your abilities, so maybe when your shield shatters it explodes, pushing that big flail bastard back so you can red-blast him in the face.
If you’re not concentrating it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One wonders if the surprisingly high tech requirements, of which my new mid-range PC doesn’t even meet the recommended, might in part be down to the sheer number of different coloured light particles flying everywhere all the time. But it’s just as easy to check out and get a bit bored. You get most of your key abilites dumped on you quite quickly, and then the pattern is to huff over to somewhere, getting intermittently mobbed by half a dozen trash crabs, until you reach a tall building of some description where you’ll have a cutscene and a boss or mini-boss fight. As predicted, despite some interesting enemy design, these are largely bullet sponge jobs where you slowly circle a pillar until the big thing falls over, although in one particularly aggravating case I huffed it to the tall building in question, entered a cutscene for an ambush, and then was knocked out by falling debris. I woke up back at the castle to Wry Nerd Sorcerer saying, “Wow, that ambush sure went bad!” I honestly wouldn’t know.
Loads of the more fun stuff in the story happens off-screen, too. There’s a thin veneer of class struggle, and a smack of environmentalism, and one faction just accidentally wiped themselves off the map, which is cool, but you never really get your teeth into any of it. At the same time, Immortals Of Aveum leans towards the quippy end of Marvel speak, but never properly lets itself have real fun. You press X to reload magic by clicking your fingers, you don’t need to do the exploding orphans sob story set-up! Given that Jak starts off as a teenager before a lot of time intensively training his right delt is dissolved into a ‘five years later…’ fade up, you can see Immortals Of Aveum being a YA fantasy series that absolutely kicks off on Booktok.
You know what I’d buy, actually? I’d buy an anthology collection called Tales From Aveum, that has stories about a carpenter who’s building a mansion in the shanty town clinging on the sides of a giant bottomless pit, and the bored noble who’s a secret magic assassin, and whoever it is who has to train new recruits in arm strength. Make it more focused, pick a lane with your tone, and baby, we’d have a stew going.
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