Immortal Planet – Hands On With a True Soulslike

Last month we gave a rundown on upcoming Dungeon Soulslike Immortal Planet, from teedoubleuGAMES. With plenty of features that should appeal to the Dark Souls starved gamer, Immortal Planet hit the FextraLife Top 5 RPGs for July, 2017. Recently, we had the opportunity to play through the game’s beta ourselves, ahead of its July 31st release.

Immortal Planet Hands On

Story and Setting

Immortal Planet takes place on a cold and icy planet inhabited by…Immortals. Get it?  Immortal Planet!  We learn that Immortals (such as yourself) need their sleep or they tend to get cranky.  This is seen right away as the other Immortals usually greet you with violence.  The protagonist has lost all memory and seeks to do…stuff.  As you proceed, there are early hints that there is more to the Immortal Slumber Parties than they are telling, and it might be in your best interest to find out what.

Immortal Planet Soulslike

Immortal Planet is another entry into the top-down isometric action RPG genre (that’s a mouthful) that benefits by unshackling the need to stress out your machine’s resources. This allows the developers to focus on polishing mechanics, creating their own style and more. With that said, Immortal Planet is unlikely to “wow” anyone with setting or appearance. A first glance suggests you’re looking at a less colorful version of Transistor.  Both have a heavy emphasis on electronic and industrial themes, though teedoubleuGAMES seems to have read my Soulslike “How To” with a fair share of gray bricks. Characters are also a bit rudimentary on the surface. However, none of this is what I’d call a negative.  Similarities in aesthetics aren’t a big deal and comparing this to Transistor is hardly an insult. Ultimately, this is a game that I firmly believe will be judged on gameplay rather than looks.

Gameplay

If you think the term “Soulslike” is overused…you’re right. It is. Too bad for you then, because this is one of the clearest Soulslikes I’ve seen. Souls fans will have zero difficulty identifying common elements. Character creation has the player selecting a starting weapon which feels similar to starting class. There’s a starting gift to choose which allows for perks like stamina or health regen. Each gift’s perk ties to a particular combat mechanic (parrying or dodging at the right time for example). The game’s initial stage serves as a story embedded tutorial, different only from the rest of the game in that it contains messages such as “This button does ___” or “try this technique.”

Immortal Planet Soulslike

Furthermore, Immortal Planet takes elements from all the Soulsborne games and attempts to harmonize them. The main weapon provides the melee component, including blocking. Parrying, quick steps and spacing are critical elements for melee combat. Players can mix and match up to four “extras” to use.  In addition, the player is quickly given access to a firearm, a lightning spell and blood vials in autoinjectors that are identical to Bloodborne. These are all assignable to the “extras” slots.

To support this variety, players level up and select stats to enhance their favorite style of play. Leveling and item replenishment (bullets, blood vials) occurs when the player rests in cryo chambers. If this sounds just like a bonfire experience to you, that’s because it is.

Moreover, while Immortal Planet mixes and matches many features from the Soulsborne titles, it doesn’t stray too far from the formula (not counting aesthetics). But the Souls series didn’t invent these mechanics, only refined or reintroduced them, and familiarity does not always breed contempt.

Immortal Planet Soulslike

Pacing and Patience

The hallmark of the top down action game has generally focused on speed (i.e. the elf in Gauntlet while jacked up on speed potions).  When you slow these games down, they often come with a strategy element that is, or is close to, turn based. Immortal Planet slows you way down without becoming anything resembling turn based, and this is where the title starts to shine.

Immortal Planet Soulslike

The first thing I noticed was the slow movement speed. The term “plodding” isn’t far off. Sprinting takes the speed up a notch, but at first you might wish there were speed potions. This is reinforced with slower combat pacing than I’ve come to expect with this style of game. Furthermore, enemies have a variety of tactics that they telegraph. Learning enemies and their patterns is crucial to survival as you often need to choose actions much like an intricate match of rock/paper/scissors. Stamina governs almost every action, and the first lesson you’ll learn is that button mashing will fail. I tried it for the hell of it and the very first enemy almost killed me.

I found myself playing far closer to a Souls game than I anticipated: creeping forward to draw out enemies one at a time, learning which attacks I can backpedal from to not waste stamina, and more. Not once was I flying around the screen.

Overall

In conclusion, Souls games have crept into the mainstream and, for now at least, seem to be a major influence on developers. This has led to a plethora of games that are mechanically close enough to call “Soulslike.” Immortal Planet stands out as a game that does far more than share some mechanics. At it’s core, it’s very much “Isometric Souls” and goes far in capturing the elusive feeling of gameplay that is the Souls signature of adrenaline laced strategy without being built on speed. After all, speed kills.


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