Truth time. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about this one. I put together a preview piece back in February 2020, when the world was a very different place. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you why that is. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars had already been delayed until Spring 2020, however like so many games this year it ended up being pushed back further still.
Anyhow, the finished release is finally here and after going hands on with the game preview version, all in all I was pretty impressed. Despite some rough edges there was a strategy game sure to please fans of the genre, and maybe even win over a few newcomers.
Unfortunately, even now, the in-game cutscenes still look jagged, and jarr along instead of smoothly scrolling. The loading screens are still abundant and aren’t the quickest obstacles to clear either, complete with a slight lag before the game will accept your button press to continue. Also, when characters strike up a dialogue on the world map, it sometimes fades out before they are finished talking or skips ahead completely. It’s minor stuff, but lacks a finishing polish you would expect of a full price release.
Yes, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is priced at £44.99+. That pesky plus means there are in-game purchases available too. Well, as it stands currently it’s “purchase”, as there is only one available which is “Fangs & Bones”. This essentially unlocks two new lords, which are essentially commanding officers. More about those shortly.
Anyways, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a strategy game that plays out across two fronts. There are twelve missions to play through, four of each forming a different campaign. Each of the three campaigns sees you playing as a different lord (see?), those being Dracul, Nosfernus and Moroia.
Each mission sees you roaming a variety of different landscapes to achieve your goals, this ranges from sparring with enemy factions, to capturing land and buildings to grow your empire. However, you’ll run into all sorts of enemies on your travels, and this is where the game moves from step-by-step world map exploration, to full-on turn based action. Handily, you can choose to “auto resolve” any looming battle, i.e. skip it, or play it out yourself. You may perform better playing it through, but you’ll have to decide if it’s a risk worth taking.
When roaming the world, your army or armies have a certain amount of actions they can carry out before your turn is over. This ranges from simply moving to and from each segment of the map, to growing your army and even feasting on poor innocent townsfolk. Nasty. That’s right, as you might expect the currency in Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is blood. This means you’ll need to harvest blood not only to maintain your armies, but to also recruit more soldiers, upgrade buildings and play your deck of cards.
The cards add an extra layer of strategy to the action, and rather pleasingly don’t cost you an action to use. They pretty much offer every buff imaginable, as well as awarding all sorts of bonuses. Your lord will also have their own unique deck of cards to draw upon when you enter a battle situation, and here they can prove absolutely crucial.
As I mentioned earlier, before too long you’ll run into an enemy faction eager for a scrap. This is when you enter the battle scenario. Before you begin, you’ll have a limited space in which to choose where to deploy your troops. Then, the turn based battle begins. As with any good strategy game, each unit has advantages and disadvantages to consider, with reams of stats you can view at any time. There are also environmental boosts to be had if you place your units on the correct squares in the battle area. These battles are common, and you’ll be glad of the option to “auto-resolve” them as playing several in a row can feel like a bit of a grind. That’s not to say they aren’t fun, because the gameplay is pretty deep; easy to pick up but hard to master.
Victory carries with it certain rewards. Not only will you be able to upgrade your battle cards, but most crucially you’ll earn XP. You can also earn more XP by claiming segments of land as you explore, and when you level up you will earn legacy points to spend. These are spent via a skill tree mechanic and offer various benefits such as increasing blood income, or unlocking elite units. You’ll need to tailor your choices to the battle strategy you have adopted.
Unfortunately, the HUD is pretty clunky to navigate and really takes some getting used to. There’s a lot going on, and checking something as simple as how much mana your lord has left after a battle can be fiddly, to say the least. In fairness, this is always a challenge for a console version of a strategy game, and no doubt it all works better on the PC. Still, stick at it and you’ll find your way around.
As strategy games go, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is absolutely a slow burner. The pace is purposely slowed by the actions and blood points mechanics, and after certain battles it will take you a while to build back up to an army which has a chance of surviving their next encounter. The missions are fairly linear, so because of your limited actions it often seems pointless upgrading a building as it will take so long to get back to it, do what you need to do, and then progress. You’ll only upgrade that specific building too, not all of its type which can be a little frustrating. The best way to get around this is to split your armies up to cover more ground, but this is only possible when you have enough resources to do so.
Despite all the rough edges, control niggles and pace, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is actually a lot of fun to play. What sounds like a meagre offering at first (twelve missions) soon reveals itself as a meaty campaign with each having the potential to take hours to complete. There’s enough depth here with the battle, exploration and card game elements combined to make it work. I found it quite easy to lose two to three hours to a single mission, being totally absorbed in a world that is authentic and well realised.
It’s not just the campaign on offer in Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, however. The Sandbox mode allows you to set-up your own campaign and choose the conditions. This ranges from clan selection to the location and victory parameters. It’s a handy space to hone your strategy skills for the main campaign, or if you fancy blazing your own path.
Skirmish is for when you just want to jump straight into the combat phase, rather than conquering a whole map. You can choose each army’s setup and stats then head right into battle. Sadly both these modes are also single player only, there’s no multiplayer on offer here.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars and I’ve seriously considered scoring it higher, but being objective it still has some relatively minor issues that are holding it back. However, it’s a legitimate strategy game in its own right, refreshingly set apart from the medieval or futuristic battlefield, that just about justifies the hefty price tag. It’s accessible, but the gameplay also has real depth which slowly reveals itself as you play.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars on Xbox One is perfect for the strategy nuts out there, and may just win over a few others too. It still needs a bit of patching up in places, but underneath it all there’s an enjoyable experience on offer that provides longevity thanks to its well constructed gameplay.