If I had one word to describe each moment in Immortals of Aveum, it would be “fast.” Another could be “fluid.” To finish my alliterative description, “frenetic.” Every moment in Ascendant Studios’ upcoming magic-based FPS could be described with any one of those words - or all three simultaneously.
Immortals of Aveum is set in the titular world of Aveum. Ravaged by an endless war (aptly dubbed the Everwar) over the magical Leylines that crisscross the land, the various kingdoms in Aveum have struggled to survive. Centuries have passed since the war began, and now Lucium and its allies are on the verge against their enemies from the Kingdom of Rasharn.
You take the role of Jak, a Battle Mage who has the power to control all three types, or colors, of Magic. This makes Jak a Triarch, trading that mastery over one color of magic for versatility on the battlefield. Jak grew up on the streets with no magical abilities readily present. However, it turns out he’s an Unforeseen - a person with magical abilities that manifest later in life.
As a result of this, as well as role as a Triarch, Jak joins up with the elite squad of the Lucium arm - the Immortals - in order to put an end to Sandrakk, the tyrant of Rasharn and another Triarch himself.
In my nearly few hours with Immortals of Aveum at a press event in Redwood City last week, I had the chance to play through an early tutorial and early story mission in Aveum, as well as a mission a few hours into the FPS where Jak had leveled up a bit to get a taste of the upgraded powers over the course of the game.
Master of Magic
Jak is a Triarch, which means he is a Magnus who can control all three forms of Magic. Force, or Blue magic is Force, acting as a precise blast, almost like a rifle in a traditional FPS. Chaos, or Red magic, is more like your shotgun or close quarters weapon, harnessing raw and malevolent energy to dispatch enemies. Green is Life magic and is fluid, seeking out its prey to deal its damage.
It’s easy to think of each of these various magic skill lines as gun types from a traditional FPS. The analogue is easy here since the team comes from a traditional FPS background. However, I’m happy too that each of these magic lines feel distinct to use. It’s outrageously satisfying to pull off a headshot using Force magic against an enemy Nightblade archer who just lept into the air above me, and I absolutely loved the heat-seeking nature of the rapid-fire Life magic. Honestly, it reminded me a bit of the Needler from Halo, each round thumping into enemies with a satisfying thunk.
Each magic type is harnessed using a Sigil, or gauntlet, around the Magnus’s forearm. This gauntlet focuses the energy the Magnus is drawing from the Leylines, and they themselves have characteristics all their own.
“You can use magic, but if you don’t have a sigil you can’t really focus or perfect it,” Senior Art Director Dave Bogan told me during the press preview. This description helped Bogan when designing the look of the sigils themselves, eventually likening the magical objects to a type of jewelry.
“[The sigil] is directly tied to magic - they need to look different from one another. They need to somehow embody the magic itself.”
Each sigil looked so unique and took on the characteristics of the magic itself. My first Red sigil looked as though it was teeming with raw, unfocused energy, its red aura spilling out in between the laced gold metalwork that encased the red gemstones in the sigil itself. The Green sigil almost looked alien, organic, and alive as it pulsed with energy. I oftentimes found myself just swapping each sigil between fights just to look at them.
The sigils themselves have unique damage and magic characteristics as well. While early on the Red Sigil is more of a shotgun blast, sending a wide, close-quarter AOE of magic into the face of any oncoming Rasharnian, later on a new sigil called Lucent Burstfire turned the Chaos magic into more of a grenade launcher. The fast, focused beams of energy from the first Force blue sigil can be replaced with a slower, more deadly beam of Arclight that deals death from afar.
Each sigil has an “ammo” limit which seemed limitless but does require a recharge every so often to slow things down a bit. Mana is plentiful throughout Aveum (I mean, the Leylines are literally right there), but this Mana instead fuels the larger, more powerful spells that can devastate an enemy force.
Immortals of Aveum Magni have access to multiple types of spells, from the standard Strikes that make up the bulk of the damage you’ll do, to the powerful Furies. One such Fury is Shatter, a Blue magic spell that sees a wave of energy travel through the ground in front of Jak, erupting in a shower of rocky spikes at the target. It was a satisfying way to take out groups that might be a problem from a distance while I dealt with the ground troops all around me. It also helps to take out enemies who might have magical shields when other means prove futile.
Each Fury has its own purpose, too. While Shatter is great for crowd control AOE at a distance, Red’s Blastwave is a great defensive spell, dealing AOE damage up close and personal. Early on, Immortals of Aveum does a great job of introducing these spells gradually, with Jak learning them through various spots in the story. Even in my brief time with Immortals, I felt like I was getting more and more powerful.
The greatest conceived magic system means nothing at all if it doesn’t feel good to actually play. Thankfully, the FPS chops of Ascendant Studio are on full display here with a shooter that is both inviting for newbies while also still complicated for those who love a challenge.
Running through the first story mission, Jak moves with ease, weaving spells and swapping gauntlets with flair. Given that our demo was on a well-equipped PC (Ryzen CPU paired with an AMD RX 7900 XT), I opted to play with mouse and keyboard in my demo, but controller support is there as well. Personally, I can’t play FPS games on a gamepad, the option is there for those who prefer it.
It’s not perfect. You can use the mouse wheel to scroll between your sigils, but only one way - I found that scrolling down on the mouse wheel did nothing at first. As I unlocked more Totems - objects that Jek holds in his other hand to cast Control spells - it would instead scroll through those. This could likely be solved by tweaking settings, but it’s a weird default.
While the stages were fairly linear, each moment was packed with some sort of action. Set during the middle of an ongoing battle for a tower that controls a Leyline, every corner of the screen was ablaze with activity. Enemies teemed in view, slinging arrows or angling to get in close for the kill. In the sky, the Leyline dominated while ships flew and smoke rose from the battlefield. Every corner there seemed to be an eruption of magic as each side’s army of Magni clashed for control.
I felt right at home there, then, as I added to the flash of magical energy, sending streaking surgical strikes with my primary Blue spell Arclight while taking the brunt of enemy clap backs on my magical shield.
I love this shield, though I do feel the visual feedback could be more impactful to let me know if I’m blocking even glancing blows. The shield is an immediate conjuration of Force magic to absorb incoming attacks (Jak even uses it at one point to cushion a fall from a height), and I can even shoot through it. It comes at the cost of mobility, though, and the shield isn’t invulnerable. If it gets hit with something strong enough or just gets hit enough overtime without recharging, it’ll shatter, leaving Jak defenseless for a time.
Part of what makes the combat feel fast, fluid and frenetic as well is that you never want to stand still. Oftentimes Jak is surrounded by enemy combatants, some rushing in close, but many attacking at range with their own spells. Standing still makes it very easy to be killed quickly, so I found myself constantly on the move, rushing from one enemy to the next, dispatching them with a flick of the sigil.
Jak has more than just the Strikes and Furies in his arsenal as well to help put down Sandrakk’s forces. Spells such as Controls help to augment combat further and provide some utility during combat. Lash pulls enemies in close, allowing for a well-timed blast from the Chaos sigil to dispatch them with ease (and take out pesky ranged enemies is a more satisfying manner). Green’s Limpets send blobs of Life magic to stick to an enemy - or moving object - to slow it down briefly. One puzzle in the story mission required Jak to slow a collapsing ceiling to get through a puzzle. The Limpets came in handy, though learning their timing did take a minute - especially since it doesn’t seem the quantity of Limpet globules doesn’t necessarily impact the slowdown overall.
Rushing around the battlefield, and ruins of the crumbling tower around me, I thoroughly enjoyed the rush and fluidity of each movement. Jak swaps sigils with a flick of his wrist, sending the flamboyant gauntlets into a spinning transformation into its next iteration, ready to strike. Weaving between each school of magic for max effect takes practice, but over time this felt second nature. Immortals of Aveum lets you build Jak how you want, making it so you can specialize in one type of magic more than others thanks to a giant talent tree, but it feels most effective when all three types of magic work in concert.
It’s helped by the fact that enemies are vulnerable to their like magic types - so a Blue magic wielder is damaged more by Blue magic, and so on. Picking the right spell in the heat of the moment is crucial to getting through fast and unscathed. This type of on-the-toes thinking and being able to weave properly adds such a layer of complexity to the gameplay that is most welcome - however, it doesn’t make it inaccessible at the same time. There is nothing saying you can’t lash that Blue archer and blast him with a Burstfire gauntlet from the Chaos school - but a surgical Arclight Strike might be more effective in the long run.
The visuals help sell the moment-to-moment fluidity so well. Built using Unreal Engine 5.1, Immortals of Aveum takes advantage of features such as Lumen and Nanite to bring the world to life. The sci-fi meets fantasy setting feels right at home in a struggle over the magical energies that fuel the world itself, its Magitech flair feeling unpredictable at times as well.
One moment I’m seeing large ships flown by Rasharnians in the sky, the next a dragon - yes a dragon - is swooping me up and carrying me off and away from the front lines.
Each character design feels rooted in this world that mixes fantasy elements with science fiction in this beautiful blend of the two. Chainmail accents seamlessly fit more futuristic-looking armor, while the individual sigils the Magni wear seem to blend with that character beautifully.
But the helmets are my favorite. Taking inspiration from Japanese robot cartoons, Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons and more, Bogan has created some of my favorite character helmets I’ve seen in a game in a long while. I especially love the Hand of Sandrakk’s almost sea-monster meets TMNT’s Shredder vibes that just feel both foreign and familiar at the same time.
The various kingdoms are given more character through their people’s armor as well. Rasharn is a beautiful place with rainbow beaches, as Bogan explained to me in our interview. Their armor is beautiful to behold, with striking colors that help bring beauty to what are otherwise the villains cast in the story.
Meanwhile, the Army of Light’s Lucians feel more utilitarian. Armor serves a purpose, nothing more. They feel more rooted in traditional fantasy, with large heavy armor on their infantry that feels more manufactured than carefully crafted. The Immortals all have their own distinct look, but even then there are similarities between the various members, including the incredibly charismatic General Kirkan.
The world of Aveum is also beautifully detailed, from the ruined hellscape that is the battlefield in front of the Leyline tower to a nearby forest that felt teeming with life despite the Everwar raging around it. Large ruins from an ancient civilization are littered everywhere, from giant statues to underground caverns, lending a feeling of immense history to the world Ascendant is building with Immortals of Aveum.
Finally, I’m not sure the spells would feel as impactful or be as interesting to wield if they didn’t look impressive at every turn. During combat, every corner of my large 4K screen was full of particle effects that were just entrancing. The streak of Blue when I fired that sigil leaves an impression, while the hot blast of Red energy when popping a shotgun round-off never got old.
The combination of magic meets sci-fi came to a head during one of the boss fights in our demo: a showdown with the aforementioned dragon. Using every aspect of Jak’s skills felt paramount here, as I could pepper away with Force while using Life’s machine gun-like fire to keep up the damage overall.
The dragon hit like a ton of bricks, though, with attacks easily breaking my shield when it was up. Jak can double jump (and eventually can unlock a hover), so it came down to timing jumps and dodges, using the shield to absorb what I could if I misclicked in the heat of battle.
Unfortunately, this is also where the demo fell somewhat flat for me. At first, the dragon felt pretty fierce, but as I fought him the attack patterns and telegraphing became a bit too predictable. As a result, it fell into a type of dance where I would jump over its flames, dodge the swooping wing attack, and just get out of the way when it went on a bombing run that reminds me of a swooping B2 Stealth Bomber. It was fun, but not as climactic a battle as I had hoped when the dragon plopped down the challenge me.
All in all, though, while my time with Immortals of Aveum was not nearly as long as I would have liked that day, I am eager to see how the full experience feels. What I played was enough to whet my appetite, and I found myself thinking about my time with Aveum long after I left Los Angeles. I want to explore more of the lore the studio is crafting and see more of the world. How powerful can my battlemage become?
I’m just going to have to wait till July to find out.
Full Disclosure: Travel and accommodations were paid for by Electronic Arts for this event.