STAFF REVIEW of Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars Box art Back in February I got to get my hands on with an early version of Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars in Game Preview and came away intrigued, as it blended card based gameplay with an almost board game-like overworld and turn based strategic combat. I was curious to see what coming back to its world would be like and what changes and improvements have been made since I last played months ago. Set in a world where a vampiric war is breaking out, you’ll spend the bulk of your time with its lengthy campaign but also have options for Sandbox and Skirmish modes as well if you’re looking for a bit more once the narrative is complete.

For a game with “Vampire Wars” in its title, it lives up to its name. Three vampiric bloodlines are at war with one another, with regular mortals caught in the crossfire. The clans of Dracul, Moria and Nosfernus are all vying for power in their own way. The Dracul rule over its land with humans in a unique way, that at long as the humans allow them to be feasted upon when needed, then there will be a ‘peace’ of sorts with lovers Vlad and Cecilia protecting them from outsiders. The Moroia is led by Elizabeth and lays in the outskirts in solitude, with a focus on magic. Lastly, the Nosfernus don’t follow as many rules, feasting whenever they please, waiting for an opportunity to take control of the land of the living.

Each clan has its own leader, playstyle and mechanics. The campaign is split into a dozen intricately crafted missions that took much longer than I was expecting, as each mission can sometimes take well over an hour or two if you take your time and fight each battle manually. While a dozen missions might not sound like much, it’ll last you longer than you expect. Throughout the campaign you’ll see different perspectives and get a glimpse of their motivation and agendas.

Gameplay is essentially broken into two different halves and styles. First is the overview map, titled Kingdom Mode, which plays much like a top-down view of a board game. Here you’ll control your units and leader within a set amount of moves and actions per turn. You can choose to move further into the map to uncover more of the fog, or utilize actions on special panels like villages and such where you can feast, draw new cards, upgrade buildings, recruit troops and more.

There is also a deck building element you need to be mindful about as well, that if used properly, can completely change the outcome of your mission. Some cards will heal your armies, recruit units, give buffs and more. To use your cards though, each has a set amount of blood that’s needed to play per card, so the better and more powerful the card, the more blood it will take to use. To get blood you’ll need to be in control of certain land and villages, as you’ll need to feast on its population to gain blood, sacrificing population for the points. There’s a lot of strategy in knowing what cards to play and when, but more importantly, when to utilize your blood and sacrifice when needed.

As you venture across the overview map you’ll eventually run into enemies, usually blocking the single space needed to progress further, and so comes the other main half of the gameplay, the battles. Played upon a grid based map, you’ll fight against your enemies, be it humans, beasts or other vampires in a turn based strategy. While minor battles will give you the option to auto complete if you don’t want to sit through it, based on your army’s strength versus theirs, the main and story battles need to be manually controlled. There are a handful of different unit types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but there are also objects like trees and buildings on the grid based map too, so you need to be mindful of not blocking your own units’ access to move or others. Battles will take a lot of trial and error to get some decent strategies, but once you start to figure out the best ways to play each, it becomes much more rewarding.

Each unit is meant to be played in a specific way, like archers raining down arrows from afar, and they all have their own abilities as well that can be utilized. Just like on the overview map, you have a card deck for battles as well. These cards again can change the outcome quite dramatically if played properly, allowing you to buff your troops, place shields, heal, deal extra damage and many more. While much of the combat is melee based, there seems to not be many restrictions with line of sight for your ranged units, something that changed many outcomes in my favor once I learned how to block the enemy with my healthier tanks or Lord. You’re going to lose a lot of battles early on until you start to get a hang of some successful strategies, but once you turn that corner and can plan accordingly, it again becomes much more rewarding.

For those wanting a completely custom challenge, Sandbox mode allows you to tweak basically every setting you could think of, even the win objective. Maybe you want to try a two versus one match for more challenge? Go ahead. Skirmish Mode on the other hand allows for one versus one where you pick the clans, their levels, equipment, armies, items, map and more. This mode is where I got to test out all of the clans and their abilities before progressing that far into the campaign. While these are great ideas, there’s absolutely no online multiplayer, so the longevity simply isn’t there.

One of my biggest complaints from the earlier version I played was how overwhelming it can feel in the early stages. Yes there’s a tutorial, but it really only teaches you the basics and the controls, not so much about all of the cards, best times to use them and strategies. Many lost matches with trial and error is how you’re going to learn best, and honestly, jumping back in after not playing a few months was quite difficult, and I had to relearn how to play. This isn’t to say that the controls were ‘bad’, but it’s also not the most intuitive either. Also, my other main complaint was the small font size, as reading the text on the cards can sometimes be difficult, even on my 65” TV.

On and Xbox Series X the load times were incredibly fast, though likely from the hardware and SSD itself more than anything else. Visually, nothing is going to impress you. The models are quite dated, jagged and the voice acting is notably terrible at times.

I really enjoyed the tonality and setting, but it’s hard to justify the asking price of $47.99 CAD for a single player only affair, though a decent sale at half price would be more in line with a solid recommendation. Somehow the different gameplay elements do blend together well, making for a very strategic experience, though it will take a lot of trial and error to fully understand it. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars may not be the most robust strategy game out there, but has a unique setting with an interesting narrative if you’re starved for a new strategy game.

**Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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