STAFF REVIEW of Immortal: Unchained (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Immortal: Unchained Box art Darks Souls, and games like it, have a huge following. I’m not great at these types of games, as the ‘tough as nails’ genre isn’t really for me, but I have forced myself to sit through the Souls games to try and become better and see what all the fuss is about. While I’ve yet to finish one to completion, the genre intrigues me, as the hardcore RPG will punish you harshly for your mistakes, but once you learn how to overcome those obstacles, you become much more proficient and start to enjoy it more.

Dark Souls, clearly the inspiration behind Toadman Interactive’s newest entry, Immortal: Unchained, is the leader and king of the genre, but Immortal is attempting to usurp the throne with some drastic, and questionable, changes to the proven formula. While yes, Immortal: Unchained is Dark Souls-like and is just as hardcore, it’s extremely challenging for different reasons.

The question is that if Immortal: Unchained has emulated what Souls does so well, but changes it up enough to be unique in its own right. Well, it certainly changes up the formula in a drastic way, as it’s primarily ranged base weaponry instead of melee, but it doesn’t seem to ‘click’ as well with some of its other design choices. At first I thought I was falling into the typical “git gud” trap where I simply wasn’t learning from my mistakes, but after my time with Immortal, I’m convinced “It’s not me, it’s you”.

You are labeled an ultimate weapon who’s been imprisoned for a millennia but is unleashed to stop a catastrophic event that’s about to unfold. Not only is the world in danger, but all of the universe, and it’s only you that is able to prevent that from happening. That would be the extremely scaled down synopsis of the main plot, but there is a lot more lore thrust at you that makes the overall narrative quite convoluted and confusing at times. A lot of information is thrown at you at once during cutscenes, and if you’re not paying attention, much of the intricacies will fly over your head, leaving you confused.

As you begin your journey, you’ll need to create your character, choosing their looks and then which class you want to play as. Classes range from Tracker, Vandal, Raider, Wanderer, Marksman and Mercenary, each with their own specific strengths and play styles. More or less, your class will determine what weapons you ‘should’ be using, as they will be more proficient with them, though you’re able to completely customize your stats as you level up, allowing you to utilize other weapons with their specific requirements.

If you want to use shotguns for example, you’ll probably want to pick the class that is more geared towards that play style, as Immortal tends to give you more loot items early on that are suited for your specific class. By the time you make it to the first boss fight, you’re going to know quite quickly if that class is suited for you or not. I had to reach the first boss three times before settling on a class that was more suited to how I wanted to play. As you gain levels, you’ll also earn the ability to equip aspects. Each class has one they begin with (most do anyways) and then you’ll be able to select more at specific levels, such as a weapon damage increase and other passive bonuses of your choosing. You can use these to enhance your playstyle or help a struggling aspect, it’s up to you.

To say that Dark Souls was an inspiration for Immortal: Unchained would be an understatement. Sure it changes things up with being primarily ranged weapon based with guns, but you’ve got your typical stamina bar for running and dodging, health syringes are your Estus Flasks and instead of Bonfires you have Obelisks. While I don’t knock them for essentially copying the same formula, the changes they did make are quite questionable once you start to getting a few hours into it.

Killing enemies and opening chests will earn you scrap (currency). This is the currency you’ll use to upgrade your character and weapons. Prepare to hoard it though, as each time you do so, the successive level up will cost slightly more and more each time. Being able to upgrade your weapons is a great feature, though it’s hard to do so with the requirements needed for each tier, so prepare for a grind. It wouldn’t be a hardcore experience without many cheap deaths. Just like Souls, when you die you’re going to leave all your gathered scrap on your corpse. Should you go back and retrieve it, great, but if you die again, it’s lost forever.

This is where obelisks come into play, as they are used as your save points, how to change your loadouts, refill your ammo and upgrade your character. Yes, when you run out of ammo, you’ll need to use an obelisk, which in turn resets all of the enemies, meaning you’ll need to use ammo again to defeat them. See where this design starts to falter? The same goes for wanting to change weapons. If you just picked up a sweet new gun or want to upgrade one you’re using, you’ll need to visit an obelisk, which aren’t generally placed conveniently along the path you need to go, and spent your scrap to upgrade skills and weapons. Same goes for leveling up, as you’ll need to use these points, respawning all the enemies, causing a lot of unneeded backtracking and killing.

This is where the main change to ranged combat comes into play. Yes you have a melee weapon, but it’s generally only used as a last resort when you run out of ammo and can’t find an obelisk to refill. This ranged based combat forces you to play Immortal drastically different from others in the genre. You can either manually aim at enemies, targeting head or limbs, or use the lock on for easier aiming. The problem is there’s pros and cons to both.

You see, sure using lock on is great and easy when it decides to lock onto the guy you actually want to fire at, but you’re unable to freely aim at head and limbs this way. Sometimes you’ll want to free fire, as shooting an arm can make the enemy drop their weapon, or blowing their leg off will stagger them for a short period. While that’s great and promotes strategic gunfire, your ammo is so limited that I chose to mostly use the lock on to avoid missing any shots so that I didn’t have to backtrack to an obelisk to refill my ammo. It doesn’t help that the manual aiming simply doesn’t feel right, as I wasted a lot of shots trying to aim properly, and reloading takes forever at the default rate before upgrades.

With combat being ranged based, you’d think that you’d be given some sort of shield or defensive mechanics to counter enemies’ attacks. Nope. You’re simply given a dodge that uses your stamina. When you’re being surrounded and have to avoid incoming fire from enemies, it can be chaotic at best to figure out where and when to dodge, especially since there’s no hit markers of which side you’re being shot from.

And don’t get me started on some of the enemies. I know games like this are supposed to be difficult, and in the beginning it’s manageable, but later on you start to face off against grunts that will rush at you and explode, and worse, teleporting enemies. These bastards break your lock on and can warp in nearly any direction and distance, so when you’re fighting multiples, along with other types of enemies, prepare for some great frustration. Sure, enemies have weak glowing spots on their backs that can use massive damage, but good luck actually getting behind them when being flanked from all sides from teleporting enemies.

What I did enjoy were the numerous boss fights. Sure, they utilized basic attack patterns with obvious tells for the most part, but their challenge level was just about spot on for the most part, that is until you get to the ones that spawn more enemies and other crazy attacks. Prepare to die on these fights though, as one wrong move and you’ll earn a cheap death. The first boss, for example, has a tell when he’s about to rush directly at you, prompting you to dodge out of the way. Fail to do so and you’ll be knocked down and stunned for a moment, where he’ll most likely follow-up with a ground pound, killing you in the process. Expect many cheap moves like this and simply try and circle around to their backs and shoot the weak spots.

Dark Souls was so popular, not simply because of its daunting challenge and difficulty, but its balanced and fair gameplay once you learned from your mistakes. That doesn’t really exist here as prominently with the major change to ranged combat. Sure it has the difficulty, but it’s lacking the soul and fun for the most part. This immortal should have stayed chained.

Overall: 4.5 / 10
Gameplay: 3.7 / 10
Visuals: 5.5 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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