When video games don’t perform well, be it commercially or critically (sometimes both), it’s easy to take shots and pan everything wrong with them. This could have been better, that could have been better – the development team should have gone with this instead of that. On top of the usual challenges, development can often be a lot more complicated than we think. However, sometimes, the most well intentioned plans don’t pan out.
As such, you look at games like Immortals of Aveum from Ascendant Studios and wonder how it ended this way. For context, the fantasy first-person title was released recently on Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC after first being announced at The Game Awards 2022 last December. It’s led by Bret Robbins, who previously worked as a creative lead on Dead Space and at Sledgehammer Games on Call of Duty.
The idea was born from examining a Call of Duty level and wanting to make a fantasy version with fireballs, dragons, battle mages, etc. Frankly, it’s not the worst idea, and while magic-based games have had their successes (Hogwarts Legacy) and failures (Forspoken), there’s certainly an audience. After leaving Sledgehammer, Robbins formed Ascendant Studios in 2018, and Immortals of Aveum has been in development ever since.
While it may have initially come off as an indie title (which makes sense since Ascendant Studios is independent), Immortals of Aveum is far from it in terms of budget and scale. It has a fairly well-rounded cast, with Gina Torres and Darren Barnet voicing their characters and lending their likenesses. Developed on Unreal Engine 5.1, its visual fidelity looked to compete with triple-A titles while pushing current hardware to its limits.
If that weren’t enough, Electronic Arts is the publisher. Granted, it’s under the EA Originals label, but that shifted from emphasizing indie titles to more big-budget affairs. Immortals of Aveum is a full-priced title, costing $60 on PC and $70 for current-gen consoles. Triple-A or not, it’s pricing itself in that range and competing for your attention while also drawing scrutiny when it doesn’t meet expectations.
While sales are up in the air, the Metacritic aggregate has been less than endearing. The Xbox Series X/S version has an 83 Metascore out of 10 reviews, but the PC version scored 67 based on seven reviews. The PS5 version is at 70 from 52 critical reviews. Not too terrible – some of the worst games of this year, from The Lord of the Rings: Gollum to Redfall, have fared a lot worse.
However, even if it seems like a mixed bag, there are problems with the game, from its controls and storytelling to the overall combat and presentation. The PC version leaves much to be desired from its performance – 66 percent of user reviews on Steam are positive, indicating a “Mixed” score. Many have complained about performance and optimization, with some struggling despite having fairly powerful hardware. Issues like DLSS 3 implementation, high CPU usage and stutters are reported, along with everything else.
Not that the game runs flawlessly on consoles – I reported issues on Xbox Series X with distant details, image quality, brightness and more, and though there weren’t a lot of frame rate drops, they were certainly present. It may be due to many things, from building a full-fledged first-person title with large environments and multiple systems while trying to push new technology like Unreal Engine 5.1 to not having enough time for optimization.
After all, despite being in development for so long, the announcement and release of Immortals occurred within seven months. The first trailer with gameplay wasn’t revealed until April 2023, and it was set to release in July before facing a delay, likely due to optimization issues.
While the game is a disaster, at least for me, others may approach it differently. However, with this level of talent, the development time, what we’ve seen till now, and the price, I don’t think anyone expected the reception to be this mixed. Asking “What went wrong?” is difficult because the overall design of Immortals comes across as very deliberate.
The magic is supposed to be super-flashy, perhaps with the hope that technical issues wouldn’t exacerbate visibility issues (at least on Xbox Series X/S) as they do. The storytelling and dialogue are supposed to embrace what many consider “Marvel movie writing,” though I posit that it’s closer to some of the weaker MCU films than the best.
It’s meant to be like an epic fantasy film, but in first-person shooter form with loot, RPG-like stats and upgrades, crafting, Talent Trees, platforming challenges, lore, environmental puzzles, Metroid-like backtracking and secrets, dialogue choices (that ultimately amount to nothing) and massive boss fights. It all sounds like a lot – and it is – but somehow, it all works within the context of the setting and story.
However, for something that feels like it’s competing with triple-A titles for your wallet, the overall experience is very uneven. Of course, we don’t know if the studio or Electronic Arts decided on the pricing. At least there aren’t any microtransactions and Battle Passes, for what little consolation that provides.
At the end of the day, Immortals of Aveum achieves what it wants to be – a flashy cinematic shooter with spells, dragons (well, the one dragon I spotted thus far) and a fantasy world where magic is key. It’s just that despite “working,” the overall package doesn’t come together very well. Sure, you may feel like it could have been something more, but I had the overwhelming sentiment of “This is it.”
And sometimes, it just isn’t that great. The overall sum can’t overcome the disparate nature of many of its parts. We may hear about cut content and changes, or how the overall direction was supposed to be different (perhaps like Luminous Productions’ Forspoken). Perhaps, it was meant to have a more serious tone before it was decided to have everyone dish out one-liners, clever comebacks and banter.
We also don’t know if the pandemic impacted the development and perhaps derailed whatever the team was planning for certain things, be it performance or mechanics. Immortals of Aveum is available now worldwide, regardless, and it’s kind of just out there.
Maybe it’s that Gamescom is ongoing, and there are bigger announcements to be had. It feels like there should be more buzz around it, though positioning it around when titles like Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon also release probably doesn’t help. There’s also Starfield, which doubtless many will be playing on September 1st, thanks to owning the Premium Edition.
Time will tell if it becomes a franchise like Robbins initially envisioned or if multiplayer makes its way in. Instead of a bang, it feels like Immortals has released to a whimper – there, but just barely. Things may have been different if – we may never really know. For now, it’s just that forgettable.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.