What Bret Robbins and the team at Ascendant Studios have accomplished thus far with Immortals of Aveum is nothing short of absolutely astounding. I was recently invited out to EA Headquarters in Redwood City, CA, to go hands-on with the game, and what they had to show has me completely blown away. I was also able to sit down with Associate Art Director Julia Lichtblau to talk a little bit about the game, the development process, key design and story inspirations, and more that we’ll touch on throughout this preview.
Immortals of Aveum is a single player first person magic shooter that is set in a world powered by three different strands of magic, simply referred to as red, green, and blue magic. Those who wield this magic become Magni, battlemages, including your character, Jak. However, Jak isn’t your typical Magnus. His powers came to him at a later age, so he didn’t grow up with it, and on top of that he is able to harness the power of all three colors of magic, making him a Triarch. Now he’s set to join the Order of the Immortals, an elite spec-ops force in the Luciun army as they fight to push back the Rasharn tyrant Sandrakk who is trying to take over Lucium, and the entire world, and control all magic.
We were given three hours with the game, playing through three different parts of the game, including the Training Grounds where we get introduced to the three different types of magic, the Sigils used to focus it, and totems for additional spells. The second mission took us to some Luciun ruins, a cinematic story level that ended in a fantastic boss fight. The last mission we embarked on was in the Pale Forest, which primarily focused on puzzles, traversal, and combat. Thankfully, all three parts in this preview session were fairly free of major story spoilers, but instead laid down a strong foundation for what players will have to look forward to in July.
In the Training Grounds we get to learn a little more about Jak’s backstory, but I won’t spoil that for you here. What we do learn is that Jak is truly invested on a personal level with the ongoing conflict with Sandrakk, but before he gets to join the Immortals on the battlefield, he must first learn how to control magic. Being a Triarch, Jak has to learn to control all three kinds of magic, which he learns isn’t a common gift, or burden. While a Triarch may be more versatile in combat, mastery can be more difficult than for a Magnus whose focus is a single color of magic. We see this as we progress through each section of the game, particularly when facing a plethora of enemy types that each have different strengths and weaknesses at the same time. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first we need to know what each type of magic does.
Each magic type is controlled by a sigil that when equipped allows Jak to learn a number of attack, utility, and defensive spells. We start off with blue magic, accurate and ranged attacks, much like using a designated marksman rifle. These magic attacks are semi-automatic with deadly accuracy at mid to long range, though are still very viable in close encounters as well. Blue magic is also used to summon a shield to block incoming attacks, though it does have a limit and will break if it takes too many hits. The second sigil Jak acquires is to harness red magic, which Jak says “feels angry”. Red magic is particularly violent, representing more explosive attacks, like blastwaves and shotgun blasts. The third color is green magic. Attacks of this color are like using a submachine gun, being effective at close to mid range with a fully automatic rate of fire. Green magic also gives Jak the ability to animate specially marked objects in the environment to create new pathways.
All three magic attack types have a usage limit before they have to be ‘reloaded’, which is where we see some clear inspiration from Bret Robbins’ past. Robbins was one of the brilliant minds behind franchises like Dead Space and Call of Duty, as well as some action adventures, like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. We can see much of that influence carried over, particularly from Call of Duty, in the ‘gunplay’ from using these basic magic attacks. To reload a color’s ‘ammo’, you simply press ‘X’ on your Xbox controller or Square on your Playstation controller, like you would in Call of Duty. You also switch between the different colors by pressing ‘Y’ or Triangle. This familiarity made it super easy to jump right into any combat encounter I had throughout the session.
Totems are the next tool in our magic arsenal that help us use spells that aren’t focused through a sigil. We get our first totem in the Training Grounds, which stems from blue magic. This totem acts as a tether, allowing us to grab an enemy and pull them towards us. I found this rather fun to use to pull enemies and drop them off nearby cliffs or to have them come face-to-face with a red magic attack. You’ll pick up more totems later in the game.
Lastly, we were introduced to furies, more powerful spells that take mana to cast. The first fury we acquire (blue) is used to break enemy shields by sending a wave of rock spikes that burst from the ground. Later on we got furies for a cluster attack (green) and a blastwave (red), though there will be more to find in the future, with up to four being able to be equipped at a time. Furies are accessed by holding the right bumper on the controller and then pressing the associated face button. Up to three furies can be unleashed before the mana meter runs out, though they do regenerate or can be fully reloaded with mana crystals.
After going through the basic tutorials, we get to put our new knowledge to the test with our first boss fight. It’s not a particularly difficult one, but the point is to give you a better understanding of how to use all the different attack types and other spells while also giving you a taste of what you’ll have to look forward to. My foe was dispatched quickly and I was able to move on to part two of my adventure, the Luciun ruins.
The second part of our adventure placed a huge emphasis on the cinematic storytelling in Immortals of Aveum. Picking up 5 years after our visit to the Training Grounds, now the Rasharnian forces are literally knocking on our doors, threatening to take away our resources, our magic. Should they succeed, if Sandrakk gets what he’s after here, it’ll spell the end of Lucium. But that’s not all Jak has on his mind as it’s also Selection Day, the day initiates become Immortals. Whether or not Jak will get to finally take up the mantle of Immortal depends on how he handles himself on the frontline.
Every part of this world has been beautifully crafted with so much care and personality. The land of Aveum is divided into 5 kingdoms, but we won’t get to see all of them as unfortunately many have fallen in the ongoing Everwar. However, Julia has promised that there won’t be a lack of diversity in the many landscapes you will see, saying there are over a dozen different biomes and tons of different locations to explore. A large part of her focus during the development of Immortals of Aveum has been on the environments, and you can clearly see her passion coming to life in this gorgeous world.
We start off at one of the ley towers and your objective is to make your way to the forward bastion to help repel Sandrakk’s forces. The streets are littered with rubble from fallen structures and battles are raging in the skies above you and around every corner. Here we get to see more combat as you take down the various foot soldiers who have managed to breach the defenses, and we get our first look at the game’s skill tree, referred to as Talents. There’s a skill tree for each color of magic, each with plenty of pathways to unlock the skills and abilities that suit your playstyle.
You finally make it out to the front, only to then come face-to-face with a winged beast that picks you up and carries you into the sky. A few well-placed shots to the beast’s face causes it to let you go and you fall to the ground. Unfortunately, you’ve now landed in the Yltheum Ruins and have to find your way back to the bastion. After regaining my bearings, it was time to start the trek.
The impact of Unreal Engine 5 is on full display here. The ruins are absolutely gorgeous, with steep cliff faces, various flora and fauna, intricately designed structures, and so much more. As I started to make my way, it was hard to not just stop and stare, to admire the scenery. In terms of world design, Julia and company took inspirations from worlds like Middle-earth and other more romantic fantasy ideas of castles and dragons, like in the Elder Scrolls games. This has certainly worked out well, because every area I visited had me in awe. There’s a sense of majesty on such a grand scale, making me wish so badly to learn more about the land’s history and its people. Each kingdom is said to be so unique from the next that it really is a shame that we won’t get to visit them all, though we can always hope to see more in post-launch content.
When we finally make it back to the bastion, we come face-to-face with the winged beast again, which we’ve now learned is called a howler. Let’s face it, it’s a dragon. I had to use everything in my arsenal to take the beast down, more than once coming within a hair of defeat myself. This fight was more time consuming than it was hard. It really came down to knowing when to use certain attacks and other skills while also monitoring my own health.
The final area we venture to has launched us multiple chapters forward in the game. By this point, Jak’s strength has grown and we can see some of the changes that have been made from the various upgrades and skill unlocks. There’s not really much to dive into in this section as it was really a lot of what we’d already seen, just further advanced. What we do get a better look at is the traversal system, including the animate ability that helps Jak navigate obstacles such as wide ravines, as well as what puzzles may look like throughout the game. We also get to see a ‘hub’ where Jak can visit the forge for some upgrades and take a moment to just breathe between encounters.
There were two boss fights in this level, each presenting us with different challenges. The first we got to see was a fight with a Green Magnus. While there were plenty of lesser enemies to take care of as well, going up against the Green Magnus gives us a brief demonstration of how the different magic types are manifested in different enemies. A Green Magnus will fight differently than a Red Magnus and a Blue Magnus, so you have to adjust your strategy to what their specific strengths and weaknesses are. At the end, we get to see another magnificent boss fight after a brief reunion with Sandrakk.
We really are just scratching the surface here with what Immortals of Aveum has to offer. This preview was really a showcase for what Ascendant Studios has up their sleeves, and I am truly impressed with what they had to show us. The game is mostly linear from what I’ve experienced, kind of like the Star Wars: Jedi series of games. I personally appreciate this as I am easily distracted and get sidetracked a little too easily in big open-world games. You’ll still get to see a lot of the world, but mostly as you peer out into the distance to admire the scenery. I feel like I could ramble on and on about this game already, even given the short amount of time I had with it, but we’ll leave that for the full review as we get closer to launch.
Immortals of Aveum is out on July 20th on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam, the Epic Games Store, and the EA app.
Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.