Immortals of Aveum is a sophisticated and spellbinding FPS that's more than "Call of Duty with magic"

Immortals of Aveum
(Image credit: EA)

In the four hours I spent playing Immortals of Aveum at EA's San Francisco headquarters, never once did I think, this feels like Call of Duty with magic. That's not to say the description doesn't work as an elevator pitch, the debut title from Ascendant Studio is a single-player first-person shooter with spells after all, it's just that it sells it terribly short. 

There are parts of Immortals of Aveum that remind me of classic Halo, like its dramatic set pieces, sundry assortment of combat options, and linear level design. Its epic fantasy boss fights and "hub and spoke" exploration invoke God of War, while the relatable characters and quip-laden dialogue bring to mind Forspoken's Frey and Cuff – only slightly better-written, thank the heavens. The player character's color-coded spells take me back to battling Yokai in Ghostwire: Tokyo, though it's worth noting that Immortals started development years before Tango Gameworks' supernatural action game launched.

And, finally, yes, the precision-based 'gunplay' can feel a lot like Call of Duty but with elemental powers instead of bullets. But what continues to impress me as I recall my hands-on time with Immortals of Aveum is how it manages to blend so many influences and gameplay elements into a cohesive whole, and one that has the potential to exceed the sum of its parts.

Works like magic

Immortals of Aveum

(Image credit: EA)

To be clear, Ascendant Studio seems to have no qualms with comparisons to Call of Duty, as well as Lord of the Rings (which inspired some of the art design), and the plethora of other franchises you'll find traces of in Immortals of Aveum.

"I think in general the concept of Call of Duty with magic hasn't been done before," associate art director Julia Lichblau tells us. "I think [1995 fantasy FPS] Hexen is the last real game that's even kind of close to this. So it has honestly been hard to narrow Immortals of Aveum down to one concise word to describe what our game is, because it is pulling from all of these different things that we all as gamers love."

"That sounds like a really fun game that I want to play," Lichtblau adds. "And that's what hooked me five years ago when [creative director] Bret Robbins was giving me the pitch. Because I saw that it had those elements but it was going to grow so much beyond it."

With so much going on, it's natural a worry that Immortals of Aveum has scope to feel overly busy or disjointed, but I found it surprisingly seamless and focused. I suspect this can be attributed to the fact there's a single gameplay component that takes center stage and makes everything else feel supplementary.

Though it prominently draws from a few different genres, Immortals of Aveum is undoubtedly a shooter first, and the main reason it's now firmly on my radar for new games of 2023 is that it gets the pew-pewing of it all very, very right. I suspect that's in no small part because Bret Robbins having helmed three Call of Duty titles at Sledgehammer Games (2011's Modern Warfare 3, 2014's Advanced Warfare, and 2017's WW2). Even so, with a simple but effective magic system driving the gameplay, it's true that it manages to feel fresh despite bringing little new to the table mechanically.

There are three literal colors in your spellcaster: red, green, and blue, and the interplay between their distinct functions and the enemy variety makes battles consistently involved and strategic. For example, the green variety's rapid-fire homing attacks are ideal for crowd control, while the snipers that fire arrows at you from the tops of buildings are best dealt with using the long-range blue sigil. Alternatively, I relied heavily on the red ability's short-range shotgun-like powers in boss fights, which included a teleporting battlemage and a dragon-like creature that spewed flames at me from every direction.

Unlike Call of Duty, very little of Immortals of Aveum's gameplay involves finding cover during battles. More similar to arena shooters like Doom and Wolfenstein, you're encouraged to run-and-gun your way through levels and deal with several foes at a time head-on, jumping between vantage points, deflecting attacks with your depletable energy shield, and using your lasso-like ability to pull in far-away enemies for the finishing blow. 

There's little threat in one, two, or even three baddies at once, but it's easy to become overwhelmed by big hordes. In those instances, I found Heavy Spells, one of which sends out a wide-range explosion of spikes, particularly useful in giving myself some breathing room. I also played around with chaining together attacks and parrying blows from enemies, but I didn't have enough time to really master those mechanics.

Immortals of Aveum also just feels good to play from a tactile perspective, at least with an Xbox controller. There's a satisfying weight and perceived recoil when you use heavy blasts, a soft but tangible bump with long-range shots, and a powerful rumble accompanies rapid-firing attacks.

What year is it?

Immortals of Aveum

(Image credit: Ascendant Studios)

"With so much going on, it's natural a worry that Immortals of Aveum has scope to feel overly busy or disjointed, but I found it surprisingly seamless and focused."

If I have one significant gripe about my brief experience with Immortals of Aveum – aside from the handful times it crashed during my playthrough – it's that it all feels stubbornly 'video-gamey' in a way that might irk some folks and scratch that throwback itch for others. 

One big example of this is tied to the game's story, which is about some catastrophic 'Everwar' between two warring countries. You're the scrappy, sharp-tongued new recruit that needs to learn how to use magic because you weren't born with it – and you know, not at all because it serves as a useful narrative for the tutorial. As part of an elite order of mages tasked with saving the world, you... well, you've probably heard this before. After spending a few hours as Jak, I'm invested enough to see his journey through – and who knows, it might even surprise me – but what I've seen so far is boilerplate fantasy RPG.

I didn't feel like the gameplay I experienced broke a lot of new ground either, but again, that could change as the skill tree opens up and levels become more complex later on in the game. The shooting feels superb, but none of the abilities are new to anyone with even casual FPS experience. Likewise, in my gameplay preview, the puzzles largely consisted of finding and blasting colored crystals using magic of the same color, and occasionally manipulating the environment using your Lash ability to traverse landscapes. 

All that said, some of these antiquities only serve to bolster Immortals of Aveum's charm as a single-player game seemingly from a bygone era. As of now there are no confirmed plans for multiplayer, nor any DLC or roadmap for future content. I know Ascendant Studios has hinted at expanding the universe of Immortals of Aveum in the future, but whether that takes the form of expansions or a whole new game, our introduction to this new IP feels refreshingly old school, especially coming from Anthem makers EA.

I have a lot more to see before I can make a final verdict on Immortals of Aveum, but the small sample EA let us play is promising. The story and characters haven't wowed me quite yet and there weren't any real 'holy shit' moments gameplay-wise, but what I was doing 90% of the time – shooting stuff – was endlessly captivating. And speaking of the combat, I've hardly scratched the surface of the 25 spells and 80 talents available in the full game, so I'm particularly excited to see how those expand and evolve on the excellent foundation that's already there.

Immortals of Aveum launches on July 20 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.