Immortal Planet is an action RPG game and the premise is fairly simple – You awake from cryosleep on a hellish ice planet, with no idea how or why you arrived there, and it’s up to you to find a way off whilst avoiding its many dangers. What you may not have realised is the developer, Monster Couch, have designed the game very much under the influence of Dark Souls.
That’s about as much setup as is required, as it’s then straight into the game itself. Just before you start you must choose a weapon and a relic to equip. There are three of each to choose from, and as you can imagine each bring their own benefits. You’ll be able to choose either the Swordspear, Assaultblade or Shieldaxe as your primary weapon. In terms of relic, your options are the Lightfoot, Ironspire and Bloodshot Eyes. After making this decision, you awake from your cryo chamber and are plunged straight into harm’s way.
In terms of getting around, you move freely with the left thumbstick however you can only face one of the four compass directions. You’ll automatically lock onto a nearby enemy and look in their direction, ready for combat. You can also hold A to run, and B to dash over small gaps. This makes moving around a little clunky, but also makes it more difficult to whizz past and avoid engaging enemies thus forcing you to take a considered and planned approach.
This brings us on to the combat in Immortal Planet which is designed to reward patience, from the very start right up to the multi-stage boss battles which are a real test of endurance. In terms of melee combat you can attack and block, with X and Y respectively. If you hold X and forward on the thumbstick, you can also perform a more powerful dash attack. Holding X by itself will charge or “awake” your weapon. Timing is key, as your opponent will do the same. You’ll need to ensure you are facing the right direction when battling an enemy, otherwise your blocks will be unsuccessful and you’ll be toast in no time.
You have two bars to guide you, a health bar (blue) and a stamina bar (orange). Again, your enemies will also display these, and once your stamina is depleted you will be unable to attack until it starts to refill. Of course, if your health bar is depleted it’s back to your cryo chamber. You’ll retain pickups but enemies will also respawn, so despite not having a limited number of lives to worry about there is a definite cost to dying, which will happen often.
Sometimes you’ll be able to knock an enemy off the edge of a platform, instantly killing them. However I found an easier way to defeat the nasties – it was to slash then retreat away, as opposed to blocking, as blocking also uses stamina and you’ll all too often get overwhelmed. Once the stamina refills, you get the chance to move in to finish them off.
Overall the combat is simple enough, but pretty unforgiving. You’ll need to explore for health pickups instead of trying to rush through areas, and even though the levels are pretty linear you won’t survive against your enemies for long if you try to power through quickly. This is mainly because after you engage an enemy the doors to exit the room will lock until you defeat it. Helpfully, every so often you’ll see a shaft of light rising from the ground which is a handy recover point that will fully replenish your health.
As you explore you’ll find useful items, such as stun orbs and ranged weapons, which will be assigned to your trigger and bumper buttons for use, and you can shuffle these around from your inventory. You’ll get a description or additional information pop up at the bottom of the screen to help you determine which does what. At any time, via the pause menu, you can view your inventory including your stats. You can also read the “compendium”, which is essentially an encyclopaedia of the game world. The obvious feature missing here that I would have liked to see is a map detailing the world as you discover it. Instead, you’ll have to rely on memory to ensure you’ve fully discovered your surroundings. Exploring can be deadly however, so you may just wish to stick to the task at hand.
You’ll earn experience points as you play, which you can use to level up back at your cryo pod. Here you can also change weapons as well as rest, which replenishes health and provides a checkpoint (of sorts). Progress will be saved but enemies will once again respawn, which may make you feel that you’ve made little to no progress at all as you’re forced to fight your way through your previously vanquished foes once again.
Immortal Planet is akin to a dungeon crawler in terms of its layout as you progress room by room. What is noticeable however is the load time between rooms; the screen will hold black for a few seconds. Although this is nothing major, it’s a shame the game needs to do this between every room, even if you are only in some for a maximum of minutes. It makes what isn’t particularly a fast moving game even slower in terms of pace.
Immortal Planet has a distinct hand-drawn style, not too dissimilar to flash browser games from over a decade ago. This is no bad thing: it is in fact quite stylish, complete with a suspended fixed camera. There is also no music for most parts of the game, instead just ambient background noise adding to the mystery and threat of where you find yourself. It’s a moody setting that is executed pretty effectively.
Let’s be clear, Immortal Planet is a difficult game and actively flaunts that fact. It requires the player to take their time, and make peace with the reality that they will die an awful lot. Having an endless amount of lives isn’t necessarily a benefit in this instance, as the gameplay can get pretty monotonous especially when all your previously vanquished enemies respawn. Progress is hard-earned, and even harder to hold on to.
Immortal Planet on Xbox One has style and decent gameplay to offer. However, it’s extremely difficult and requires patience to get the most from it, which can leave the player with an aftertaste of repetition and occasional frustration.