Have you ever played a Dark Souls game, and thought “The only thing that would make make this game better is a load of big ass guns”? Well, have Toadman Interactive got a treat for you!
Immortal Unchained, is a third person hardcore action RPG, much like that other series of games. However, in a departure from the norm, the focus this time around is on gunplay, both for the protagonist and the enemies. With this twist on the accepted formula, is this a game that’s worth playing or is it another also ran? I locked, loaded and set off to find out.
The story is a big part of Immortal Unchained, coming from writers whose credits include both the Witcher and Battlefield 1, so the standard I was expecting was quite high. Fortunately I wasn’t disappointed.
You play the part of a living weapon, immortal as the title states, that has been locked up for millennia for fear of what you could do. However, a darkness is spreading throughout the heavens, and as such the dead have begun to rise and march, destroying the living. It appears that things have now got so bad that the fear of what will happen if the dead go unchecked has outweighed the fear of the Immortal’s destructive potential, and as such we are freed from our prison, with an instruction to meet our mysterious benefactor in the Great Hall. All that lies between here, where we awaken, and there are halls crawling with enemies. But we have no weapons. What could go wrong?
The character generation screen is among one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen in a game for a long time. In addition to a variety of classes to choose from, every facet of our physical appearance can be tweaked until you have a suitable Immortal to lay waste to the bad guys with. The classes that are available specify what weapons you will find in the tutorial, but you aren’t limited to only those weapons. The six available Disciplines, as they are called, range from Marksman, most comfortable at long range and picking targets off through precision blows, all the way through to Raiders, who prefer up close and personal combat with their Shotguns, dodging around enemies to bring them down swiftly. As in that other game, each Discipline changes the way the characters play, and also changes their base stats, so a Marksman has minimal armour and health, while a Raider has lots to get all up in the bad guys faces. Finding a character class to suit your playstyle is all part of the fun.
The first level plays out as a tutorial, introducing all the mechanics of the game. If you have ever played Dark Souls, you’ll be instantly at home here, with a lock on mechanic that isn’t too dim witted, a dodge button and the attacks linked to the right trigger and bumper. The left stick moves the player, while the right controls the camera, and all works fairly well. I say fairly well as the controls just aren’t as sharp as you’d hope, and so every combat encounter feels a bit like a roll of the dice as to whether you win or not. The lock on mechanic is somewhat strange too, as often it will lock onto an enemy 30 yards away, and ignore the melee type enemy who’s about to ruin your whole day. Having to cancel lock and try to reacquire it while under fire is never fun, but it is a reality in this game. It is possible to aim down the sights and fire at targets manually, but it just feels a bit imprecise. A head shot doesn’t register as a head shot, for instance, but luckily the weak spots on the enemies glow orange, so with judicious use of the dodge button to get behind them, firing into their weak spots will bring them down faster. And as the ammo you have is limited, faster kills are a good thing! There is always a melee weapon for use as backup, but as you can imagine running up on an enemy with a gun while armed with a pointed stick often doesn’t end well.
Other familiar parts of the Souls genre are all present and correct as well. Instead of bonfires there are shrines to interact with, where the character and the guns can be upgraded. The currency of the Immortal is Bits, and as the level of the character increases, it costs more Bits to get to the next level, much the same as the Souls in the Souls series. In another parallel, the Bits are lost when the character dies, and if you can make it back to where the you died, they can be reclaimed. Interacting with the shrines also resets all the enemies within the levels, so it is possible to set up a farming route, collect the Bits and then upgrade, reset the enemies and keep grinding away. This is actually a valid tactic to try and get your health and resilience up, as the enemies are absolutely unforgiving and will take you out in a heartbeat if you aren’t careful. It’s not uncommon to be killed by an enemy you’ve taken out without blinking if you mistime an attack, so exactly like in the Dark Souls games, you can never really relax.
Graphically and Immortal Unchained does a good job of portraying a ruined world on the edge of destruction, with a suitably post-apocalyptic look and feel. The levels are largely linear, with not much off piste exploring to do, but finding hidden corners can reward you with chests containing weapons or Bits. The sound effects are functional, with booming gunshots and growling monsters all present and correct. As a tool for telling the story, the look and feel of the world does a very good job.
All in all, Immortal Unchained is a worthy entry into the genre of hardcore action RPGs. The story is strong, the look of the world and the lore that is unlockable help to flesh the background narrative out, and the combat is decent. The introduction of guns, and the distinct feel of each different type, from a shotgun to a rocket launcher, helps to make it possible to find a loadout that fits your playstyle. It is however let down by a dim witted lock on system and the relative scarcity of ammo for the guns, meaning that quite often you’ll get so far into a level and be left with harsh language and a melee weapon left to battle the undead hordes.
With a bit more polish this could have been a great game; the components are all there, but it manages to just stumble over the last little hurdle.