EA Original AAA title Immortals of Aveum will be released on July 20th after a four-year development cycle. During a live stream preview, we were able to interview the lead developers from Ascendant Studios, including company CEO and game director Bret Robbins, and ask them a little about what players can expect from Immortals of Aveum: their new single-player magic shooter.
The four leads present at the preview were CEO and director Bret Robbins, Executive Producer Kevin Boyle, Senior Art Director Dave Bogan, and Associate Art Director Julia Lichtblau. After giving us a demo of the title we sat down for a short Q&A interview about Immortals of Aveum and its influences.
Bret Robbins has a long legacy in the gaming industry. He started at Eidos developing Gex and would work his way up to being the Creative Director of Dead Space and several Call of Duty titles at Sledgehammer Games. He says that he initially came up with the idea while working on Call of Duty, to imagine what the wartorn FPS would like to look like in a fantasy setting.
“You know, instead of a helicopter, what if that was a dragon, and instead of RPG shells hitting a wall, what if those were fireballs cast from a battle mage? What if I was a battle mage and instead of using an assault rifle, I was using some sort of awesome magic weapon or spell? As I where stopping and thinking, Man where’s that game, I wanna play that game, and then, fast forward a bit and I said, “I wanna make that game”.
After setting up Ascendant Studios, he brought together a team of talents that have worked on some of the best games in the industry. Dave, Kyle, and Julia all previously worked at Telltale Games on narrative-driven adventure games like Minecraft Story Mode, Tales From The Borderlands, and The Walking Dead.
Needless to say, they know a thing or two about games with unique settings and interesting stories, which are important parts of the narrative-driven Immortals of Aveum. For this interview, they told more about the creation of Immortals of Aveum and what players can expect from its unique magic-oriented shooter gameplay.
A Magic-Based FPS
Just looking at Immortals of Aveum, you can definitely see the influence from games like Call of Duty so to start the interview, we asked Bret if he implemented anything he learned from those previous Call of Duty titles into the game and if there were any unique features that set the game apart from those. Bret affirmed that his time on Call of Duty was “instrumental” in developing how he wished the combat to feel.
“On that franchise, we’d focus a lot on making sure the combat was fluid and fast, running at a high frame rate was super important for that experience. So I think I brought that to what we’re doing here. The challenge, of course, is that now we don’t have traditional guns, we have magic and spells”.
He said the team spent a lot of time making the game feel impactful and natural in the hands of a shooter fan but also took advantage of the possibilities brought about by the magic system.
“I think a great advantage we had is that we are a magic game and we can do anything we want. You can create all sorts of cool abilities or spells. You have a very large canvas to play on. So large in fact that we had to put our very own rules around magic and around what we can do. We had to make some important decisions early on about what the nature of magic was going to be. We’re not Harry Potter, we something else, we’re a Battle Mage so we wanted to keep things very visceral and very exciting. Make sure the player felt very powerful”.
Developing the magic system
Since Immortals of Aveum doesn’t use actual guns, we asked if there were any traditional FPS mechanics like reloading or a cover system that the team enjoyed breaking or reworking in the magic system. I mean, if you’re going to use magic, why not go all out? Bret first answered by firmly stating that the game is not a cover shooter. Instead, he envisioned the player taking the role of a magic “gunslinger”.
“I didn’t think the fantasy I was trying to create involved you hiding behind a bush and firing your wand. I wanted instead for the player to feel like a gunslinger, someone who could walk into an area and be a badass basically”.
He goes on to talk about the shield in the game, noting that “You bring your own cover with you”. The player can fire through the shield allowing for extra defense but at the cost of lesser mobility and the fact that the shield will shatter if it takes enough damage.
“That was a very interesting mechanic to move away from the traditional cover shooters that I’d worked on before. And there were a lot of decisions like that throughout where we’re trying to walk that line between being both familiar to shooter players and also bringing something new and interesting to the table and the fact that we’re using magic opens up those possibilities quite a bit”.
You can see what he means in the gameplay. From what I’ve seen, Immortals has more in common with titles like the recent Doom games. A frantic run-and-gun shooter where you make decisions on the fly.
More Than Just Fantasy Call of Duty
We heard a lot about how Immortals of Aveum differs from more traditional shooters but when asked how the game went beyond the initial idea of “Call of Duty With Magic”, Bret made it very clear in the interview: “We are not fantasy Call of Duty, we are out own game”.
“We have a lot of world exploration, a lot of puzzle mechanics, and a lot of additional content. It’s a huge game. If you’re just trying to play it straight through it’s about 20-25 hours and if you really want to explore and do a lot it can be quite a bit longer than that”.
“The idea of making a magic shooter was the initial vision and inspiration but as I brought on more people as we really started to develop ideas and develop what the game would be, things evolved and changed always for the better. Where we are now, I think we are going to deliver something pretty unique”.
Executive Producer Kevin Boyle further added that from a narrative perspective, this is not a story that could be told against a contemporary backdrop.
“The world-building, the way the conflict evolves over the course of the game, is very specific to Aveum. That’s a major part of the appeal to me”.
Exploring The World of Aveum
They went on to speak more about the world of Aveum itself. We asked the devs how they would describe the world and architecture of this new world and how they wanted to feel when they explored these environments. Associate Art Director Julia Lichtblau said it was important for the game to feel somewhat recognizable but with a lot to uncover.
“We really wanted to tell a story of this brand new universe. When a player steps into our game, we want them to feel grounded, and see some things that they recognize. For example, plant life is reminiscent of Earth but then we throw in some unique architecture, and big solid military walls but then you also see vestiges of older civilizations that suggest that this world has been around through many cataclysms and Ever-Wars. There’s just a lot more to uncover about it and you get to see all these different civilizations and start to unlock those mysteries as you move through the game”.
Senior Art Director Dave Bogan, further said that they wanted the game to feel fresh and not be too reliant on typical fantasy cliches.
“Right from when I started and even when I first interviewed with Bret, he had a pretty solid vision for what he wanted to do. Top of our minds was always to stay away from typical tropes in fantasy and just start from a fresh palette, to always try to reach out for the unexpected from the player and the audience. From there we landed in this unique world that’s not Earth, it’s a different planet called Aveum. It’s a great mixture of old-world style fantasy mixed with a lot of sci-fi-shaped languages that inspire a lot of our architecture, vehicles, and even the weaponry in the game”.
Inspiration For the Game’s World
When further asked what the inspiration for the game’s setting and design was. Julia and Dave gave us some interesting answers. Julia started by revealing that much of the flora in the game was based on real-world endangered plants found in their local Northern Carolina.
“So a big inspiration for the natural world was to really ground the world and make the player feel like this was an Earth-like space. From there we obviously had the opportunity to experiment with magic and magical types of foliage but there are still many types of natural, realistic plants that you might see in your backyard. I found out there are actually quite a few endangered species just here in the local area. So that got me on a quest to represent a lot of enraged species in North America so most of the trees and the bushes and everything that’s not magic related actually is a real enraged species of plant”.
Dave also said that Bret has brought many concept designs to the table and that he combined them with cartoons and comics from his childhood when coming up with Aveum.
“Beyond the environments, when I first started Bret not only showed me a 60-page design document but he barraged me with a lot of conceptual visuals that he was drawn to. I paired them with my own inspiration from growing up watching all kinds of cartoons and comics. This project has been a godsend in terms of injecting all those visual inspirations like the old Grendizer cartoon or Battlestar Galactica or playing D&D. It’s all merging and creating this unique binding sense of ideas. It’s amazing”.
The Three Types of Magic
There are three primary types of magic in Immortals of Aveum: red, blue, and green. We go over what each one does in our preview but Bret also took the time to explain how each can be altered and upgraded through the use of sigils and other items.
“There’s actually quite a bit of variety in the red, blue, and green spells. What you saw was the sigils that you focus your magical power through, they come in a few varieties. So even though you’re using a blue sigil that was a very distinct type of attack, you find different sigils that will alter that attack and they will behave very differently”.
“For example, in blue magic, there’s the javelin sigil. This allows you to power up a big shot that does a lot of damage but has a slower rate of fire. So in a way, we have different “guns” throughout the sigil types but because it’s magic you can do quite a bit more than with standard guns”.
He adds that a big part of the game is also the gear and talent systems. Using the game’s skill tree you can gain new “talents” that allow you to customize your play style.
“You can play a faster character that can do a lot of close-range damage. You want to rush enemies and bring them in with your lash, and you can do that with your talents and your gear. If you find a spell that you like, you can find gear and talent that makes it even more powerful. There’s a lot of variety, and a lot of reason to experiment with different builds. Ultimately, I think there’ll be a lot of reasons to replay the game and try different tactics”.
Multiplayer and Monetization
Immortals of Aveum is being advertised as a single-player, story-driven magic based first-person shooter. Even so, it was asked if the team had any plans to add multiplayer and monetization to the game. For monetization, the answer was a clear “no”. They also clarified that players will not be required to be always online in order to play.
As for multiplayer, Bret said they “may have spent some time working on it as well” but ultimately “we’re not ready to talk about anything like that right now. We’re fully focused on the single-player experience right now”.
Immortals of Aveum
We ended the Immortals of Aveum interview by asking the devs if there was anything in particular that they were most proud of with the game. The general consensus from the leads was that they were really excited to see how players explore the detailed world and characters.
“Your investment as a player in this story we’re telling,” says Kevin. “The mechanics feel great but it’s the context in which you use those mechanics that I find particularly interesting. What you’re trying to do as Jak, the crisis of this place, and the conflict you’ve caught up in. For me, it’s a combination of amazing writing, incredible casting, and really well-executed animation, and all that comes together as something as an effective story that I still enjoy as someone who’s really deep in it on a daily basis. I really look forward to players being able to take that in”.
It’s great to see the developers see so passionate about the project, especially one that feels so unique from other FPS games currently being released. We thank the team at EA and Ascended Studios for inviting us to this preview and interview and wish them the best of luck as Immortals of Aveum soon reaches its launch date of July 20th.
Immortals of Aveum will be launched for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Check out our Preview Article for more information on the title’s story, characters, and magic-based combat.