Immortal: Unchained is a game that on paper looks to be Dark Souls with guns. There’s a set of background lore, level design with dead bodies strewn about the place to imply history, a stamina bar, a souls style levelling system and the ability to pick up lost loot by returning to the spot you died in. Now, all of these things on paper sound a lot like other games. Nioh and The Surge are two other titles that attempted to take their slice of the Dark Souls pie, but whilst relying heavily on the SoulsBorne formula, they both brought unique and interesting themes and ideas to the table. Whilst this review isn’t about The Surge, Nioh or even Dark Souls, I find myself compelled to reference them as Immortal Unchained feels heavily derivative of those titles and not in a good way.
With the necessary comparisons out of the way, Immortal Unchained does attempt to set itself apart from similar titles through the use of gunplay and a sharper focus on ranged combat. In concept, this is something unique, something that sets it apart from the rest. It does raise the questions: How would a game manage to capture the tight and up against the wall feeling that other games do so well, but from afar? Would it be good? How would it change things? The answer to all three, unfortunately, seems to be “not very good”.
Immortal Unchained attempts to insinuate difficulty by making the enemies you come across feel like complete bullet sponges. This appears to be done in an attempt to make it feel like enemies are tougher than what they actually are. Adding further fuel to the fire, the wonky camera controls and lack of options for adjustment end up making the real fight between the player and their aiming sensitivity. Melee weapons are also introduced very early on, but feel extremely limited. This is due to the fact that they only seem to present a single attack option, which in my experience did very little damage to enemies and actually put me in harm’s way more often than not.
Of course, you do have the option of levelling up your character and focusing on damage scaling, meaning you could make a melee build, but you’ll soon notice that enemies too, have firearms. Making the whole idea of a melee based character seem somewhat redundant.
In terms of design, I do appreciate the attempts at creating a deep and intriguing lore. The entire opening level felt like the aftermath of a big incident, something that the zombie-like enemies and dead bodies saw around the place helped to reinforce. The sci-fi fantasy aesthetic was also very interesting to me, but the level design betrays this interest by presenting a bland, dim and grey palette with very generic looking architecture and set pieces. On the topic of Level Design, I spent a good 20 minutes of my first hour simply wandering about in circles, trying to find out how to activate a light bridge. I ended up feeling very frustrated when I found the switch to be a completely unsuspecting tile on a nearby wall that had little to no indication of any significance, blending in completely with the rest of the level.
Not helping things, the tutorial is delivered through floor tiles that the player must activate by walking over. This is a popular method within the genre too, Bloodborne did something similar. However, here they’re easily missable due to blending in with the environment and being somewhat buggy when it comes to activating them. I managed to miss a couple in the first area, and ended up discovering most of my abilities by sheer accident.
Rather fittingly, I’d say that is where Immortal Unchained falls short. The whole game, whilst a faithful attempt at trying to capture the best of Dark Souls and bringing the new idea of gunplay to the table, sadly fails to do either very well. This all culminates in a game that failed to draw me in, failed to inspire enthusiasm within me and ultimately failed to keep me entertained past the first stage. The unfortunate reality is that this is a good idea, held back by a bevvy of issues that range from technical hiccups all the way down to simply flawed design choices.
I do appreciate the ideas brought to the table in Immortal Unchained and hope the game is updated to make it a tighter experience in the future, perhaps then it’ll at least provide a slightly better experience than it does now.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*