The dead are rising and have begun a rampage across the known universe. The Powers that Be awaken you, one of the living weapons that have slept for millennia, in order to purge this new nemesis. Immortal: Unchained pushes the player into a hardcore RPG universe full of magazine-fed weapons and ancient battle axes, but doesn’t quite hit the target with its rough edges and choppy AI.
Upon launching the title, you are greeted with a character customization screen that allows you to create a “living weapon” to fit your exact play style. You can choose between numerous classes and multiple cosmetic options to make them your own. While the customization is far from in-depth, it does present enough options to feel diverse and to inspire some pride in the end result. This is a pretty big positive for the small studio Toadman Interactive. Sadly, there isn’t much else that really captivated me within Immortal: Unchained.
The storytelling and artistic “cut-scenes” are interesting and beautiful, and the opening sequence is fairly compelling. The title introduces you as the chain-bound hero inside a prison-like tomb, with the narrator sharing the struggles that ensued while you slept. The narrator paints a tale of how lethal and incredible you and your kind must have been. All of the cutscenes are done in a beautiful painted style, showcasing the world before and during this “evil” that is sweeping the worlds. With an incredible attention to detail, all of it looks hand done.
STILL CHAINED? (THE GAMEPLAY.)
Unfortunately, the gameplay is lacking. The bulk of the combat is dodge-or-die and pattern recognition. Each enemy has a handful of basic engagement tactics, and it won’t take you long to figure out how each is beaten. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the negative here stems from the fact that the enemy AI is plagued with poor path-finding and will sometimes just get themselves stuck on a box or in the corner of a room. To make matters worse, the intro to boss fights leaves a lot to be desired. Carving through the initial levels, you will come across two bosses. Each one is easily beaten: wait for it to immobilize itself (by charging into a wall or using a stationary weapon) and shoot it in the back.
RISING TO A FALSE CHALLENGE.
I loved reading that Immortal: Unchained is unforgiving. That motivates me to take on the challenge! The unfortunate truth is that this title cripples you. The challenge is false; it’s “artificially difficult,” meaning that the game is only difficult because ammo is sparse and the enemies you face are quite bullet-spongy. In titles of the same genre, like Dark Souls or The Witcher 3, the basic mobs are usually there to push you in the right direction, or to take your attention away from the impending doom that the boss fight will bring. In this title, each enemy seems to only be there to rob you of your ammunition or slivers of health. To make things even more “challenging,” you cannot reload or use health syringes while sprinting or rolling. Your stamina is extremely limited, your carrying capacity for ammunition is low, and melee is — more often than not — a gamble of “who has lower health at first swing.”
Every enemy hits like a freight train. Even the basic melee enemies will carve a third of your health away. And you may as well be firing water balloons out of your rifle until you can level up your damage scaling at the first couple obelisks (save points). While we’re on the topic of obelisks, let's talk about the leveling system. Each enemy you fell will yield “bits.” Bits are the in-game currency that you spend to level up different skills and even utilize (around the mid-game) to fast travel. You take bits to obelisks and exchange them for more health, damage, stamina, etc. If this sounds familiar, then you must be a veteran of the hardcore RPG genre. While I like the idea that it's not really an XP system, these obelisks can be in some seriously wacky places, and the title forces you to fight through mobs to reach them.
MAPS AND MOTIVATION.
The map design left a sour taste in my mouth. Most of the time, you will be crossing narrow passages, like bridges, or marauding down hallways. Given that the main strategy is dodging, this is an interesting take. The motivation for me to keep playing came from the fact that players can continue to level up and give their warrior better skills to deal with the enemies. This is all fine and dandy, up until the realization that every time players can carry more ammo, there are bigger enemies to soak up magazine after magazine. You level up melee damage scaling only to face enemies who can one-punch you back into eternal slumber. You will also have to tread back and forth between what would be the “frontline” and the nearest obelisk, but all defeated enemies in any room respawn the moment you leave the immediate area. I just can’t find joy in the pacing of Immortal: Unchained. It feels like the idea was to make the player learn by dying, but it would have probably been a bit more approachable if there was a focus on combat fluidity.
The Verdict: Average
Overall, I was disappointed by Immortal: Unchained. While veterans of the genre might find it to be an interesting take, I cannot endorse the current asking price for such a shallow experience. The art style, voice acting, graphics, storytelling, and even the character design are absolutely amazing, but the rest of the game, especially the gameplay, feels rushed. Hopefully, we see some patches that can help pull the title out of its current, murky state.