Immortal Unchained, the sci-fi ARPG that some people are dubbing “Dark Souls with Guns”, launched this past week. It’s the first title from Toadman Interactive, a small indie studio based in Sweden, and they’ve taken on the tough task of merging the Souls-Like formula with a third-person shooter. In this article we’ll take a look at Immortal Unchained, and fill you in on a game that may have gone overlooked, and one that any Dark Souls fan should consider checking out.
Immortal Unchained Review
Genre: Action RPG
Developed by: Toadman Interactive
Published by: Toadman Interactive
Release date: September 07, 2018
Platforms: PC (review platform), PS4, Xbox One
Price at time of review: $44.95 USD (Steam), $49.99 (PS4 and Xbox)
Immortal Unchained Features
- Build the ultimate armory, including over 100 guns & unique weapons.
- Customize your character and choose from 6 different Disciplines to start.
- Defeat the legions of the undead, freed from the Underworld, on your quest for the truth.
- The story of Immortal: Unchained is written by Toadman Interactive’s narrative team, including Anne Toole (The Witcher) and Adrian Vershinin (Killzone: Shadow Fall, Battlefield: 1).
Story and Setting
Immortal Unchained takes place in a fictional sci-fi universe in the aftermath of a great war. Peace has reigned for some time, but an evil is spreading through out the Cosmos and only you can stop it. A prisoner, locked away for eternity for crimes you cannot remember, you are freed in a last ditch effort to save the universe. The mythos of the game is loosely based on Nordic lore, and the Grand Hall will remind players much of the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil
Throughout the course of the game you will travel to different worlds, exploring the environments there, and facing the threats within. Though the game boasts less than a handful of worlds to visit, Toadman has done an excellent job of making them feel unique and different, and each world has a variety of locales contained within. Exploring these locations was perhaps the most satisfying experience of the entire game, as each is ripe with secrets, shortcuts and loot to be had for those with a sharp eye and attention to detail.
My biggest concern about the game in its earlier stages was the level design, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Toadman did a stand up job here, and the world is much much larger than I anticipated.
The Surge is really the only other game that comes to mind when I hear the terms “sci-fi” and “Souls” in the same sentence, and Immortal Unchained surpasses it in the environment and setting department. Although The Surge boasts much better graphics and polish, Immortal Unchained really nails the sci-fi feeling that many players were craving to see a “Souls” game in. Also because of the way the game is designed, there will be opportunities for DLC to incorporate other worlds as well, should Toadman decide to.
The gameplay of Immortal Unchained is quite difficult to sum up in its entirety, but suffice it to say that many of the mechanics are similar to Dark Souls. Obelisks operate much the way Bonfires do, acting as checkpoints to change gear, level up and upgrade equipment. They also (coincidentally) respawn enemies once used, and you can warp between them once you have progressed far enough into the game.
The currency of the game, “Bits“, act just like Souls. They are used to level up, upgrade weapons, and are dropped on the ground near where you die, and are lost if you do not retrieve them before dying again.
Players have a Stamina bar which is used to sprint, dodge and roll, as well as use a smaller assortment of Melee Weapons. In addition to Stamina, players also have an Energy bar which is used to make Power Attacks with the guns that you wield. These operate much like the Weapon Arts from Dark Souls 3, and vary from weapon to weapon, with certain weapons sharing the same Power Attacks. Only guns have Power Attacks though, and Melee Weapons all share the same 2-hit combo, which isn’t as smooth as I’d like and is a bit underwhelming.
The world design of the game reminds me a lot of Demon’s Souls, with the Grand Hall functioning as a hub to gather NPCs and port to new realms, much like the Nexus. Players are free to choose which realms they wish to visit and in what order, but you cannot progress past a certain point in each, without visiting others and defeating the Bosses in them. Because of this, players will return to locations they have visited in order to progress the game, and it’s actually fairly well done. Not only is it a great use of the space, but adds some complexity to the game, and really let’s the player explore in a way that feels free.
The Not Souls-Like
At its core, Immortal Unchained feels like a Souls game, but the gun-based combat makes it a bit different. Unlike Souls, in Immortal Unchained you have to reload and sometimes aim, which adds another layer of depth. Unfortunately, this layer doesn’t translate particularly well a good portion of the time, and is frankly sometimes frustrating. When you are forced to Dodge as you only means of defense, but your reload is interrupted by it, you must begin reloading again. What often occurs when surrounded by several enemies, is an awkward dance where you try to reload several times before successfully doing so, because of the frequency you must Dodge in order to survive. This tends to stagnate and slow down the otherwise usually fast and furious gameplay, however it doesn’t happen all the time, and players can actually decrease their reload time via Attributes.
Immortal Unchained features a wide variety of weapons that allow the player a great deal of choice when it comes to how they wish to face their enemies. Players can choose from Sniper Rifles, Shotguns, Submachine Guns, Pistols, Assault Rifles and more. There are 120 guns and 26 melee weapons in the game, which is impressive to say the least. Players will find they will need more than one playthrough in order to try them all out because of the Attribute requirements they possess, and limited Attribute Points to go around.
While guns are indeed different, they all share a Range that is more or less the same, which is unfortunate. This means Snipers don’t really feel like Snipers should because you can’t hit anything very far away with them. Assault Rifles miss many shots from what should be optimal range, making them really only useful at closer distances, which is typically where you’d use every other weapon anyway. This makes close range weapons much much better than long range ones, and is simply improper balancing. Luckily, this is something that can be fixed easily and I fully expect this to change in a future patch as the game is updated.
Boss fights are a staple of the game and there are many to face in Immortal Unchained. While most are interesting the first time or two you encounter them, you will find that they are recycled multiple times, which is a bit of a let down. In addition the strategy for just about every single Boss (and enemy), is just shoot them in the back for increased damage. And while this is certainly easier said than done in many cases, it gets repetitive and hinders much of the replay value the game would otherwise have. This is one of my biggest complaints about Immortal Unchained.
While most Bosses are interesting the first time or two you face them, you will find that they are recycled multiple times, which is a bit of a let down.
Immortal Unchained is an extremely difficult game, which I’m sure makes you wonder why this isn’t included in the Souls-Like section. It’s not listed there because of the way the game is difficult, which is manufactured. The game is not hard because each enemy is particularly hard to kill, but instead because the game throws at you a ridiculous amount of enemies that make some fights nearly impossible, and if not impossible then just frustrating. Later Boss fights become that one Boss you already fought, just with 15 adds tacked on top. It’s hard sure, but it’s not particularly fun, and you don’t feel that sense of satisfaction upon victory. This is my biggest complaint with the game and unfortunately it isn’t one that is likely to be fixed.
Audio and Visuals
I thoroughly enjoyed the art style of Immortal Unchained, and the guns, explosions, enemies, bosses, effects and world all looked really pretty good. The graphics are not particularly mind blowing, but Toadman did a fine job of making the game run smoothly and look nice at the same time. All in all, they are about what you’d expect from a smaller indie studio, and perhaps even a tad bit above that. I had my concerns about them in the early versions of the game, but they’ve clearly put in a lot of effort to improve them since them and I applaud them for that. However, animations left something to be desired, which I suspect is due to the smaller budget of the game.
On the audio front, the game features a solid musical score and sound effects that feel on point. You don’t really notice them, which is usually a telling sign that they aren’t doing something wrong. Sound is one of those things where the ear tends to pick up things which are out of place, and that never really happens in Immortal Unchained. In addition the voice acting is much better than Dark Souls or The Surge, so there’s that too.
Immortal Unchained suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It’s a mix of a third-person shooter and an ARPG but doesn’t do either of these things exceptionally well, and that’s not to say that it does them badly, it just doesn’t excel at them either. Having witnessed the many changes that game has gone through over the past year first hand, I’m only more and more convinced the devs themselves are not exactly sure what their finished product should look like. No one has attempted to make a Souls-Like shooter before now, and Immortal Unchained was not only a learning experience for Toadman, but also for the industry itself. While it’s easy to criticize the game, I admire Toadman’s ambition, and appreciate how much they’ve listened to player feedback about the game.
Immortal Unchained is a game that I really really want to tell people that they should play NOW, but unfortunately I cannot do that in good conscience. Immortal Unchained is a good game, and it’s definitely worth playing, but not for everyone at the price tag it’s currently listed. Charging 45$-50$ sets a certain expectation of quality, and while Toadman is certainly punching above their weight with this title, I don’t think it is quite in that range. To give you some perspective, at the time of this article, other RPGs currently in that price range on Steam include: Divinity Original Sin 2, The Witcher 3, Pillars of Eternity 2, and The Bard’s Tale IV.