This world is by no means an easy one. Death runs rampant, with their ever-growing armor almost exclusively against you. Every shot matters and every motion can be the difference between life and death. This is what it's like to play Immortal Unchained. Now only if I didn't hate it so much.
Immortal Unchained is a third person RPG in one of the most classic senses. Taking place in a sci-fi apocalypse, the player controls the chosen immortal, now unchained to overcome the challenges of the world they're presented with. The player travels throughout an open world, finding futuristic guns and melee weapons, upgrading their armor, and collecting a material called "bits" that can be used to level themselves up at the designated restoration spots known as Monoliths. The game in many ways draws upon Dark Souls and other FROM Software games, but we'll touch on that later.
The game leaves a first impression not entirely unlike those "take it easy" roller coasters at Six Flags: a couple of rises and falls. At first, you may be dazzled by the rather impressive graphics, but the smile will likely fade upon the first few enemies you face. Oh but wait! Now you have a gun, a fighting chance! Just don't get comfortable, because a new enemy will be right around the corner to remind you of how weak you truly are.
Despite the rough start, there's a fair deal of things that Immortal Unchained does rather well. This is most evident with the world the player is in, whether it's the way it looks, sounds, or the engine that supports it. These various aspects proved to be the driving force behind my enjoyment
As far as graphics go, You couldn't ask for better. Frankly, I've seen Triple-A titles that looked worse. The sharp, muted tones complement the cold, futuristic stylings the game strives for. Enemies look dangerous and weapons look potent. The various different zones each embrace new ideas and concepts, such as winter and jungles, that looks distinct from each other while still fitting in wonderfully with the game overall. Everything just fit.
The audio does equal justice throughout the game, as well. With minimal unnecessary noise, it's easy to identify what exactly you are hearing even in the heat of the moment. Growls and roars will alert me to oncoming threats, while the familiar clink of an explosive signal exactly what kind of power they're packing. All the while, the sound of gunfire and melee strikes remain viscerally satisfying. Few things feel as good as the killing blow of a club.
The world of Immortal Unchained does more than look and sound good, it's also rather well designed. With multiple pathways interconnecting in ways you wouldn't expect, you're given more than one way of trekking the dangerous land. cleverly place objects, such as green lights and standing switches, help draw the player's attention to where they could go next in a fluid and natural way. At the same time, with the changing geography of each new zone, the layout accommodates. The mountains felt tall, the lakes felt wide. The subtle art of level design is by no means lost in this game.
But what good is a world if you can't navigate it? Poor controls and unreliable inputs can be extremely jarring to a player's experience. Though fortunate for you, Immortal Unchained doesn't have this problem. When you run, you run. When you dodge, you dodge. Every action you make is responsive and accurate to your intentions. The game is considerate of regret as well. Time-consuming actions like reloading can be interrupted by other actions. If given the choice, I'd always prefer to be able to cancel an action to save myself over committing to it and dying.
The player has plenty available to them, control wise, as well. If you want to focus more on player placement, you can activate the lock on feature and focus on movement. But if you want to deal excellent damage, you can use precision aiming to attack their weak points. Options like these were vital in establishing a comfortable control scheme on both Mouse and Keyboard and with controllers.
But as good as the world is, it doesn't make up for all of the problems Immortal Unchained has. And boy, does it have some problems. The game is somehow unique and unoriginal at the same time, and their efforts to be different threw off a precarious balance that similar titles of the past made such an effort to maintain. With that card falling, so did most of the stack.
Immortal Unchained is unapologetically a Dark Souls game. The player resurrects at designated locations, where they can level up, fast travel, and manage gear (Monolith/bonfire), the player collects a currency by defeating enemies, but lose it all if they die (souls/bits) only to have to reclaim them at their place of death. You're even the sole character in a desolate world, chosen by a higher power to restore balance. The comparisons are glaringly obvious, and it felt diminishing to the otherwise unique environment.
But this game has one thing that Dark Souls doesn't have: guns. Much of the gameplay is centered around firing at, and being fired upon, enemies. On the surface, this sounds fine and fair. It's not. When you introduce quick, ranged combat, the way you approach and deal with enemies changes. In other games, ranged characters are slow to fire. This forces the player to strategically time when they want to retaliate. When the enemy can fire at you just as quickly as you can at them, it becomes a struggle to dispatch them without taking damage.
When it comes to one-on-one fights, this normally isn't a problem. But as soon as you throw in a second or third enemy, it becomes almost impossible to fight back without taking significant damage. With healing components being a precious commodity, this issue became frustrating far sooner than it should have, especially when you're on your fifth death from a boss and just want to deal with them without taking extra damage.
One of the ways they COULD have resolved this was to scale the damage output in a greater favor to the player. But that isn't the case. Depending on the area, even the most basic enemies could kill the player if they catch them in a bad spot. Now you'd usually argue that the player should then retreat and grind until they can level up a bit. That would make sense. Except that even the early levels require multiple thousands of bits to raise one level, while the "fairest" enemies yeild two-digit amounts of bits. To try and grind with what's available to you feels absolutely hopeless.
A Dark Souls game may not advertise itself as far, but a close analysis of the games would reveal that they're extremely fair to the player. Inversely, Immortal Unchained isn't fair, and you can feel it. This issue glares so brightly, that you almost don't notice how the various weapon categories are poorly balanced as well. I shouldn't be able to say "don't even bother with assault rifles, just go with shotguns" and it be sound advice.
Immortal Unchained is comparable to a decorative sword: great until you try it. It's a well-built game, but it still needs a lot of refinement in the way it plays before it'll be something worth recommendation. Fans of the genre will notice it's design flaws, while newcomers will grow frustrated at the off-balance. For these reasons, we rate the game as follows.
With a full price of $50, You're best waiting for it to be updated into something better, or wait until a sizable sale.
Immortal Unchained was developed by Toadman Interactive. It's available for $49.99 on Steam PC, Xbox One, and PS4. For more information, visit the Immortal Unchained website. A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.