The upcoming AAA "Magic Shooter" from EA and Ascendant Studios brings a new fantasy world to life.
Revealed at The Game Awards 2022, Immortals of Aveum is an action-RPG first-person shooter from new developer Ascendant Studios, founded by former creatives who worked on Dead Space series, Telltale's The Walking Dead, and the Call of Duty franchise. As the next game in the EA Originals label, which has increased its scope in recent years with Wild Hearts, the upcoming first-person "magic shooter" aims to hit the same highs as other spectacle shooters while also rethinking first-person combat.
Ahead of its upcoming July 20 launch, we got a chance to see a deep dive into Immortals of Aveum, with game director and Ascendant Studios CEO Bret Robbins detailing his insights on making the game. Moving away from modern and historical warfare, the upcoming "magic shooter" embraces the high-fantasy and over-the-top spectacle of magical combat. While it has roots connected to established shooters like Call of Duty, it's worlds apart and seeks to counter with a new take on first-person combat.
A Magical First-Person Shooter
First-person shooters are a well-established genre that tend to focus on a particular strand of games with soldiers or stylized characters who wield various firearms. This was an inviting concept to continue with, but according to CEO Bret Robbins, a different idea came to fruition, which served as the basis for Ascendant's debut game.
"I was reviewing some work during early production, which was a typical Call of Duty level. There was a big battle scene happening, lots of gunfire, a helicopter flying overhead, RPG shells blowing up around, typical chaos out of a Call of Duty level; but then I stopped, and then I thought, 'What if that helicopter was a dragon, and instead of an RPG shell what if those were fireballs cast from a battle mage, and what if I was a battle mage that used awesome magic weapons or spells,'" said CEO Bret Robbins about the initial idea of the game.
"I just remember stopping and thinking 'where is that game?' And, fast forward a bit, I said, "I want to make that game." The image of that game stayed with me, and then it would become Immortals of Aveum."
In Immortals of Aveum, players take on the role of a young battle mage named Jak in a fantasy world consumed by war. As a battle mage who can cast three unique types of magic simultaneously, he'll be able to power up different abilities and attain artifacts to take out foes and complete missions across a story-driven campaign.
The narrative does feel a bit standard fare, but what is compelling about Immortals' approach is that it puts you squarely in the shoes of an all-powerful war magician who can scorch enemies or push foes back a distance, and even yank them toward them with a magical whip. It treats its spellcasting as both ranged combat and in-your-face action, which was very intriguing.
Embracing the Magic
According to Robbins, the developers want players to feel like "a gunslinger" – but for magic. We saw an extended look at a mid-game chapter, which showcased several combat, traversal, and exploration mechanics.
What I found most interesting was not just that it embraced the fantasy of being a powerful magic dealer, but it also interpreted that within a setting that normally doesn't get the spectacle, cinematic campaign treatment.
During the presentation, Robbins explained that while Call of Duty remained a core influence on the game, Immortals' approach was more about embracing its setting and making players feel like powerful wizards.
"My time on Call of Duty was instrumental in how I wanted the combat to feel, and I brought a lot of that into here with Immortals," he said. "The challenge was that we don't have traditional guns; we have magic and spells. We spent a lot of time making that feel really good, visceral, and impactful – and not at all strange in what a shooter fan might expect."
"The great advantage that we had with this game is that we are a magic game, and we can do anything we want. We could create all sorts of spells and attacks that create such a canvas for us. We're not Harry Potter; we're a battle mage, which allowed us to make the player feel powerful."
Seeing the game in action, it feels like a world apart from Call of Duty or Doom and more like a mix of Forspoken's style with the pace and flow of other more off-the-wall first-person combat games like Shadow Warrior or Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath. The combat encounters blend a fast-paced traversal system with some intricate spellcasting that easily lets the hero switch between magical combos. It's an FPS that uses an arsenal of spells to zip and weave across the battlezone and light up enemies with ease, and it was impressive to see the game in action.
The EA Originals brand has held some of the industry's most surprising hits, and Immortals of Aveum looks as though it's hitting for a more AAA, spectacle experience that the core publisher is known for. It'll be interesting to see how detailed and fast and furious its combat can get in the full release.