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Review: Immortal: Unchained Goes Big But Still Ends Up Going Home

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

Immortal: Unchained is an action role-playing game developed and published by Toadman Interactive. Set in the far future on an alien world, you play as a warrior who has been imprisoned for an unknown amount of time, but is now being released from your prison in order to combat an even greater threat. Taking lots of cues from the Dark Souls series in regards to combat, Immortal: Unchained hopes to change up the formula with an extra emphasis on firearms. I think guns up the coolness factor in games and movies–when you add them to something, that thing also becomes cool, if not cooler. Car with guns on it? Cool. Sword that is ALSO a gun? Really cool. Giant robots with guns? You’ve just gone and broken the coolness scale. However, sometimes it’s important to ask “Should we add guns to this?” instead of “Could we add guns to this?” That’s where Immortal: Unchained comes in.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

While Immortal: Unchained takes lots of cues from the Souls-like genre (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, etc.) it limits melee action, and instead focuses on gunplay. This still means high difficulty, and high risk/reward. Death causes you to drop any experience where you died, and all enemies you have defeated will have returned. Using a checkpoint to save your progress respawns enemies, and checkpoints are the only place that you can use your experience to upgrade your character or weapons. Levels are accessed through a central hub, similar to Demons Souls. Stamina management is also a big part of these games, as blocking, dodging, and attacking all use up stamina, leaving you defenseless. A Dark Souls like game with an emphasis on gunplay over melee combat sounds cool in theory, however, the way that it is implemented is less than optimal.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

When starting off in Immortal: Unchained you have the choice between several different disciplines, Immortal’s name for classes. Some excel at close-quarters combat, some long range, some are better with explosives and dealing with large groups of enemies, while others are better for dealing with single targets. This gives a good amount of variety, and allows you to choose a class that fits your playstyle. All the classes also have a different look, which can be further cosmetically altered with different hairstyles, skin colors, and facial attachments. No matter the class, I really like the aesthetic of the player character, which almost has a cyberpunk feel to it. Different classes, of course, start with different numbers of skill points spread between different attributes. Attributes determine your character’s abilities, with many affecting different parts of your character at the same time. For instance, the Strength attribute determines the damage scaling of melee weapons, but is also a requirement for heavy weapons. Similarly, Finesse affects reload speeds, but certain weapons also require you to have a high enough Finesse level to equip them, etc.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

Where Immortal: Unchained falters is in its gunplay, and how it handles free-aiming and lock-on. At least for me, the biggest part of a good shooter (whether first or third-person) is that the guns feel satisfying to shoot, and that skill plays a large part in the aiming of your weapon. While many games employ some form of auto-aim, most of the aiming is on you. However, Immortal: Unchained uses a Dark Souls 3 style hard lock-on mechanic that instantly locks you on to the enemy that you are looking at. While this works for the Dark Souls series, in Immortal: Unchained it takes any feeling of accomplishment out of shooting. This lock-on is also incredibly finicky, with problems popping up when you’re attempting to fight multiple enemies at close range, as it becomes incredibly hard to choose which enemy to target. With classes built around getting in close to enemies using sub machine guns and shotguns, this sometimes isn’t a choice. There is an option to turn off automatic lock-on, allowing free aim, however this is even worse than the lock-on. It’s incredibly hard to control, due to the aim acceleration being too sensitive, so that making even the smallest movement sent my reticle across the screen.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

What makes the aiming problem even more damning is the inclusion of a limb targeting system, similar to the one used in The Surge, another Dark Souls like game. In Immortal: Unchained you can target limbs in order to cripple your enemy, or go for devastating headshots. However, where The Surge allows you to lock onto specific enemy limbs, the targeting system in Immortal: Unchained only allows you to lock onto enemies’ torsos. This means that in order to target limbs, you have to switch to the teeth-grindingly bad free-aim. This also means that headshots, a mainstay of shooters, aren’t worth the effort. The only time I ever got a headshot was when I was literally stuffing the barrel of my gun into an enemy’s mouth, and at that point you’re probably better off using the melee instead.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

Probably my biggest problem with the gunplay is the laughably short range that weapons have. When I say range, I don’t mean that they do too little damage at long range, but that after 40 feet or so your bullets disappear into an invisible void and cease to do any damage. If your reticle doesn’t turn red when it goes over an enemy, it means your bullets aren’t going to reach them. These weapons have such limited range that enemies are actually able to attack you before you can hit them. I’m assuming the only possible explanation for the horribly short gun range was to the prevent players from easily killing enemies from range without the enemies being able to fight back. This makes getting to enemies extremely difficult sometimes, as enemies can be on long narrow walkways, which not only make it hard to close the distance but also make it nearly impossible to dodge. Guns in games usually promise long-range death, but in Immortal: Unchained, it’s mostly just frustration.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

Despite their frustrating aspects, I did find some fun using Immortal: Unchained‘s large assortment of weapons. There are lots of guns to chose from, with your character being limited to carrying two at the start of the game, and gradually gaining the ability to hold four. Weapons range from assault rifles to sniper rifles, and shotguns to grenade launchers–with all weapons possessing a power attack that utilizes energy, a bar which can be found between your health and stamina. These power attacks vary between weapon types, and even vary between weapons of the same type. Power attacks include under barrel grenade launchers, acid clouds, armor-piercing bullets, or being able to unload the weapon’s entire magazine with a single trigger pull. Some weapons definitely have better power attacks that others, though. At close range, weapons are satisfying to use–especially grenade launchers, as not only do they have a large area of effect, but they also knock small enemies onto their backs, allowing you to sprint in and spray them down with automatic fire. There are also an assortment of melee weapons, like cleavers, sabers, hammers, and axes, with each class starting with its own type of melee weapon. Unfortunately, unless you’re playing a class that specializes in close combat, the only time you’ll probably ever use these is if you need to finish off a weakened enemy, or if you’re completely out of ammo, and that point you’re probably better off just running away.

The melee combat in Immortal: Unchained is basic, to say the least. You are limited to a three hit combo, and unless you’re playing a character that has a lot of points in Strength (which increases melee damage) and has a lot of stamina, as melee attacks use up a TON of stamina, it’s really not worth using, as your attacks do pretty negligible damage compared to your ranged weaponry. Even enemy’s that should be optimal to use melee weapons against, i.e. enemy’s with sniper rifles, will deal far more damage to you as you run towards them than is worth taking to save a few bullets. Interestingly, melee weapons can actually make use of the limb destruction system, as your attacks go side to side, and will usually hit the enemy’s arms, destroying them and making them a much easier target.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

The boss fights in Immortal: Unchained are where the gameplay shines. Boss fights are set in arenas that are just large enough to allow you to dodge to your heart’s content, while also always putting your weapons in range of the boss. Boss designs aren’t game-changing, but they look damn cool. The other reason I enjoy the boss fights is that the weak point on most of them is their back, meaning you don’t have to mess around with trying to aim at their head, and all you have to do is dodge around and shoot them in the back in order to do critical damage.

Screenshot: Immortal: Unchained

The environments in Immortal: Unchained are another high point, as levels differ significantly between each other, and levels will change drastically as you get farther into them. The best example of this is Veridan, which starts off in a lush jungle, open to the sun (or a sun, I guess) but then takes you into to a series of swampy caves. This adds a lot of variety, and keeps you from getting bored from the same old grey, dreary environments.

Immortal: Unchained is a game full of good concepts that just aren’t utilized effectively. Janky weapon controls, incredibly short weapon range, and painfully bad lock-on lead to a experience that just isn’t satisfying. There is a good game in here, and I honestly loved the boss fights–ducking and dodging while unloading into massive armored behemoths was very enjoyable. With some changes to weapons and how the lock-on works, this could be a really good game, but as it stands, Immortal: Unchained falls flat.

Immortal: Unchained is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.

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