When Immortals of Aveum starts, it’s not with the bombastic explosions or magical fireworks that several hype trailers have showcased thus far. Instead, it’s more grounded, showcasing a younger Jak with his friend Luna as they rob a patron during a stage play and make their escape, ducking through the various alleys and elevations of Seren, their hometown. Seren isn’t the best location and often sees gunk, known as Lurge, painting its buildings courtesy of the massive Wound in the world of Aveum.
The chapter is devoid of action until the end, immersing the player in the world through little details and the goings-on of NPCs. In the grand scheme of things, it gives Jak his tragic backstory and purpose for becoming a Magnus in Lucium, eventually joining the Order of the Immortals. It’s not the most unique intro, but it does bring the rest of the game into perspective, as it feels more like a first-person action-adventure title than an out-and-out shooter.
"When characters do stop and explain things, you have to endure bouts of exposition, broken up with some of the oddest mishmash of quips and drama I’ve seen yet."
Unfortunately, Immortals of Aveum quickly buckles under the weight of its ambitions, each underwhelming part encompassing a very iffy whole. There’s some potential and hints of fun, but it’s buried beneath several questionable decisions, haphazard combat, a lack of basic options, and characters that are hard to get behind.
Despite the intriguing intro, Immortals‘ pace becomes slipshod, as Jak suddenly begins learning about magic and then undergoing training before the story abruptly lurches forward five years. The world of Aveum is full of magic, siphoned from the mysterious Shrouded Realm for various benefits. It led to an all-out war between the kingdoms, with two – Rasharn and Lucium – left standing and the former on the cusp of victory.
With Jak joining the Order of the Immortals, there is some hope in ultimately turning the tide. Things aren’t what they seem, but the story does a decent job presenting these elements, despite some cliches feeling telegraphed. However, you’re assailed with terms from the get-go – Lurge, The Path, The Pentacade, etc. – and the “walk and talk” pace attempts to keep the action moving regardless of any questions you may have. Notes are acquired, inviting you to stop and read for potentially new information instead of a proper explanation.
When characters do stop and explain things, you have to endure bouts of exposition, broken up with some of the oddest mishmash of quips and drama I’ve seen yet. Moments of levity are fine, especially in a world constantly at war (dubbed the imaginative “Everwar”), but the clever comebacks fall flat more often than not.
"There is no aim assist, aim smoothing or other such options on consoles, though you can adjust horizontal and vertical sensitivity and dead zone sensitivity."
Some of the dialogue is also just plain horrible – an extended exchange between Devyn and Kenzie, mocking the prejudices and perceived differences in their social backgrounds, had me desperately seeking a way to skip cutscenes. Sadly, there’s no option to do so.
Some characters are interesting, like General Kirkan, played by Gina Torres. She’s the real star, adding wry wit and a commanding voice to a battle-hardened leader. Zendara also isn’t too bad, with her assertive and tough attitude contrasting with genuine concern over the state of the world. While the voice actors try their best with the material, some of the dialogue doesn’t land, especially within the context of certain scenes.
Unfortunately, the least interesting character in the game is Jak, the protagonist. Actor Darren Barnet does a decent job portraying his sarcastic shades, but he doesn’t feel believable during the serious moments. The fact that Jak isn’t that much of an interesting character also doesn’t. We know what others think of him and what they believe, or how he’s born and raised in Seren, and thus has some pride about the whole deal, but Jak lacks any interesting traits. He’s as milquetoast as they come and delivers most of the lame dialogue, usually when whining or questioning authority, when he’s not just babbling.
Even if you don’t care about the story, the other selling point – the combat – has its share of issues. First are the controls. There is no aim assist, aim smoothing or other such options on consoles, though you can adjust horizontal and vertical sensitivity and dead zone sensitivity. It’s all the more annoying with how chaotic some battles can be, or how much certain enemies like to move around a lot.
"Each Color has unique properties, whether it’s Blue Magic being used to destroy shields, Red magic stopping rampaging enemies or Green magic stopping their health regen."
Accessibility options include colorblind mode, subtitle size, enabling or disabling camera shake and head bobbing and displaying subtitles during different situations. You can’t adjust the brightness or tone down the excessive spell effects, which bleed into the environments, enemies and lighting to make visibility an issue. Having a transparency slider would have gone a long way. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a field of view slider – the current FoV feels a little too low and initially caused headaches when I played for longer than an hour (which I got over).
The actual combat also leaves a lot to be desired. Jak is a Triarch Magnus, which means he can wield all three Colors of magic – Red, Blue and Green. Red is the brute force style spell, good for lobbing explosive projectiles mid-range or causing extensive damage up close with blasts. Blue is the precision-based attack, from regular shots that cause additional critical damage to charged energy javelins. Green is rapid-fire with more capacity for lower damage but is also capable of tracking targets.
Each Color has unique properties, whether it’s Blue Magic being used to destroy shields, Red magic stopping rampaging enemies or Green magic stopping their health regen. You also have Fury spells, which consume bars of Mana and are accessed by holding the Right Bumper and pressing a face button. They’re good for quick bursts of damage, like Shatterwave for summoning spikes from the ground to destroy shields or Blastwave to knock back surrounding enemies with Red magic.
Eventually, you gain Immolate, a Dominion which acts as your Super, unleashing a Kamehameha-style beam of destruction using all three colors. Melee attacks are also available, and you also gain abilities like Lash to pull enemies close and Limpets to slow targets. Both of these also double up as traversal techniques, with Lash allowing you to ride Leylines to get from one place to the other, while Limpets slow-moving platforms and hazards temporarily.
"Immortals of Aveum could have benefitted from a Destiny 2-style control scheme – where you switch back and forth between two “primary” weapons with a button and hold down the same button to switch to your third."
You’ve probably noticed, but there is much to keep track of. Switching between tools like Lash and Limpets requires accessing them on the D-Pad and pressing the Left Trigger. The Left Bumper is for bringing up your shield, while B is used to Blink or dodge (which starts with a single charge and a cooldown that feels annoyingly long). Couple this with the lackluster aiming options, not to mention breaking Mana Crystals to recharge bars for Fury spells being the same input for opening chests, and the controls can get cumbersome. Not unmanageable but cumbersome.
The battles themselves have potential, as you snipe enemies from afar or pull them close with Lash, then switch to tracking Green shots for the teleporting Green Magnus and Red magic to obliterate enemies that get too close. However, each Color must be cycled in a linear sequence. It’s the same issue that Redfall had, as you switch from one Color to the next in a given sequence instead of accessing the one you immediately need. However, it’s all the more annoying because you may forget the sequence in the heat of battle and unleash Red magic on faraway enemies when you meant to utilize Blue.
Immortals of Aveum could have benefitted from a Destiny 2-style control scheme – where you switch back and forth between two “primary” weapons with a button and hold down the same button to switch to your third. Talents are somewhat decent – they start by providing small boosts to different Colors of magic, before modifying abilities in unique ways.
For example, if your shield breaks from attacks, it deals damage and slows down time to allow for an escape. You can also have Limpets cause Decay, which deals damage over time. Nothing is going above and beyond what you’d expect in terms of upgrades, but some decent choices are still available.
"Immortals of Aveum does have some positives, like the art direction and world design, but they’re far from incredible."
The encounters and enemy variety can feel repetitive, with new threats introduced past the halfway point. Enemy AI has some minor issues at times, like jank when you’re Lashing them from high ground or suddenly stopping and not responding despite taking damage, but they’re not constant. The boss fights help break up the pace, even if I wish there were more of them (and fewer unskippable cutscenes).
Changing how Colors work – like turning precision Blue magic shots into javelins that deal more damage at the cost of your “capacity” – requires equipping different gear. On the one hand, this is a decent idea, as it encourages you to try different equipment and makes them feel unique. On the other hand, if you find something you like, it must eventually be discarded in favor of something with a higher Power or preferred stats.
The cost for respeccing Talents and crafting items is high, to begin with, but you gain more Gold and Essences as the campaign progresses. Still, it encourages hitting up every chest that you come across to keep pace with the upgrades.
Immortals of Aveum does have some positives, like the art direction and world design, but they’re far from incredible. Lustrous architecture and ruined battlefields await while traversing a field of green or various floating land masses as the sun sets providing some of that epic feel that the developer envisioned. Unfortunately, something is up with distant details – there’s a strange pixelation on objects, creating a jarring effect when viewed from afar.
"There is some backtracking through familiar areas in the campaign, but at least you can use new abilities in previously closed-off sections to discover new things."
Some scenes feel overexposed, but again, there are no options to adjust the brightness or even HDR (if the latter is implemented at all). Characters also have a strange blur on their faces, sometimes during conversations, which looks awful, but it pops up randomly. The frame rate is mostly consistent with drops during cutscenes with lots of particles or moments in the campaign.
As for the world design, there are chests littered about, whether it’s the easily smashable ones with Gold or those requiring the completion of nearby puzzles. Many of the latter involve shooting crystals with the corresponding Color of magic, but you have to manage timing-based challenges and platforming throughout the campaign. When the puzzles themselves don’t feel esoteric, they’re serviceable, even if their inclusion in some places feels odd. I’ve yet to figure out what the red eye ornaments do or how to activate them, and it’s driven me insane on more than one occasion.
You also have Fanes, which provide unique challenges, like fighting off several enemies or platforming across surreal environments. They’re decent, especially the latter since it breaks the monotony. There is some backtracking through familiar areas in the campaign, but at least you can use new abilities in previously closed-off sections to discover new things.
"However, the iffy aiming and weird control scheme, not to mention the repetitive nature of most encounters, doesn’t feel great."
Overall, Immortals of Aveum has left me with mixed feelings. While the technical issues can be fixed with more time and polish, some inherent design decisions are baffling more than anything else. The story has some intriguing set pieces and an epic scale, driving home the nature of the conflict, but its tone often veers off course in favor of inane humor. Even some of the likable characters can’t escape from it.
A satisfying gameplay loop could have made up for it or provided a compelling reason to continue. However, the iffy aiming and weird control scheme, not to mention the repetitive nature of most encounters, doesn’t feel great. It is somewhat fun to explore and see what secrets lie in wait, but the moment-to-moment combat needs some tuning. More variety in how encounters work also would have been ideal.
As uninteresting as he can be, the best analogy for the game is ironically Jak himself. When pushed to deliver a heroic speech, he fumbles awkwardly, references some events we’re supposed to care about, and then ends resolutely on…something. It works, but it’s not the best, and you hope for something more to build off of this while continuing to be thoroughly whelmed.
This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X.
Combat has some interesting options available, with each Color serving a purpose. Exploration can be entertaining when the puzzles make sense. Solid art direction and an intriguing setting. Some strong performances from the cast.
Image quality and distant details become issues, muddling the overall presentation. Narrow FoV becomes headache-inducing. Horrendous dialogue at times, which disrupts the tone and kills any interest in what's going on. Annoying controls, from the lack of options to an unintuitive switching between Colors. Repetitive encounters. Visibility issues due to all the spell-flinging and general chaos.