Immortal: Unchained Preview
Immortal: Unchained’s story has a hell of an elevator pitch – you exist in a place called the Nine Worlds, where the sun is dying, the dead have started to rise, and no one knows exactly why. You play as some dude who has been locked away in an eternal prison, and who has finally been set free to venture out into the Nine Worlds and hopefully stop this rising threat. So far, this is all we know about the player-character’s backstory. What we did to be locked up isn’t explained yet, and I like that mystery about it; is this a punishment for something horrific we did, or are we just a weapon kept on a leash and used only when things get a bit iffy? The alpha begins to unravel a few story threads about the world, which itself is full of other unanswered questions that add to the mystery. Why are all the undead decked head-to-toe in sci-fi armor, why is the sun dying, and why are these Nine Worlds falling into decay?
Something that immediately grabbed my attention with Immortal: Unchained, and something that gives me faith, was that Anne Toole is listed as one of the game’s writers. She was a writer for The Witcher series, one of my favorites, and so gave me some high hopes for the story, which seems very interesting to me so far.The alpha gives us access to Arden, one of the Nine Worlds, and one thing I noticed right off the bat was how pretty they managed to make this morbid world look. The landscape for Arden is composed of crumbled ruins, flooded courtyards, and the occasional snow-peaked mountain, but there’s a lot of neon in there to contrast all the bleakness. Even the enemies have bright neon colors jutting out of their skin, which is much more interesting than boring, reanimated corpses. As I mentioned, the undead all seem to be wearing armor that, thankfully, has bright lights to highlight where their weak spots are. These weak spots look like life support systems, and further added to the mystery of what’s going on.
I’m imagining there are going to be a lot of comments comparing Immortal: Unchained with Dark Souls, which is almost a rite of passage for games nowadays, and though it isn’t hard to see where some of the similarities pop in, it isn’t enough to be called ‘Like Dark Souls but X’.Not that I’d ever do that anyway. It’s a lazy way to describe a game, and writing is the only productive thing I do with my life, so I’ll be damned if I half-ass this as well. Sure, there are obelisks you rest at to level up/upgrade/spawn at when you die, enemies grant you some ethereal currency when you kill them, and they also all respawn when you die or rest. But, in my opinion, it’s the combat that always defined Dark Souls for me; the maneuverability, the visceral attacks, and the fluid dodging all come together to make something memorable.
With that in mind, Immortal: Unchained’s combat had some neat ideas to keep it interesting, and it does a good job at creating some fun, satisfying combat, but it’s lacking in the visceral, memorable parts right now. The fighting in Immortal: Unchained revolves around the hundreds of different guns to toy about with, each one favoring a different playstyle. Submachine guns are your fast, and dexterous builds, and your assault rifles are for your hard-hitting but relatively slow characters.Two of the ideas Toadman added to shake things up was the staggering mechanic, and the ability to lock onto an enemy’s individual limbs. It allows you to take it a step above just locking on and pulling the trigger. You could just dodge this guy’s attacks and slowly whittle him down, or you could kneecap him and hit his weak spot, or disarm him completely. It gave me that strategic aspect I was looking for.
“…I found myself wanting to go back and play through it again just to experiment with different guns“
There’s also a load of different melee weapons as well, but they don’t seem to be viable for a melee-only builds, even after I spec’d into them. They mainly allow you to stagger enemies more easily, punishing the ones that get close to you. This fluid animation of switching from shooting, to melee, and then back to shooting is sweet as heck, and was very satisfying to stagger someone with my hammer and then pop their head like a melon with my gun. However, the actual swinging of my hammer felt very dissatisfying. I’m not expecting the enemy’s limbs to tear off when my character attacks them, but my dude has arms the size of small children, and when he hits something it feels like it goes straight through them. Immortal: Unchained offers up smaller groups of enemies to fight at a time, instead of just throwing large numbers at you. Smaller numbers allow you to get more tactical, but I was interested to see how Immortal: Unchained would deal with giving you a gun. Being able to consistently shoot from across the room takes the challenge away from the fights, right?
Well, Toadman’s solution to this was to equip the enemies with guns, so you can’t just pepper them with bullets as they shuffle towards you. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean combat is just ducking behind cover and shooting when the enemy reloads. Bullets have a travel time, which means you can get a bit closer and dodge them as they’re flying towards you, weaving between the bullets like a mini bullet-hell and caving their face in with a hammer. Even the bigger lads that come equipped with giant lances manage to close the distance between us to keep me on my toes and dodging when I could. Nothing got samey or boring about the combat, even after dying for the umpteenth time and having to re-clear an area to get to a boss. Speaking of bosses, the ones that appear in the alpha aren’t all too hard, considering how much of a pain in the ass the mobs up to it were being. Attacks were telegraphed and slow, and they were pretty simple to wrap your head around after the first try. They gave the impression of the kind of bosses that become normal enemies as you progress, but we’ll have to see how that unfolds as the game develops.
The more I played Immortal: Unchained the more my opinion of it changed. The combat was lackluster at times, but it still grew on me, and I found myself wanting to go back and play through it again just to experiment with different guns. I soaked up any kind of lore I could get my hands on and explored as much of Arden as I could. However, for an alpha version of a game, it’s not as rough as I had expected. It’s a promising title that I’ll be keeping a keen eye on.
We’ll be giving away some keys to Immortal: Unchained’s alpha over on our Twitter! Keep an eye out to win yourself a prize!
**PC code provided by the publisher**