By Jaime Skelton (MissyS), Editor in Chief
At Gamescom, developer Toadman Interactive and publisher Sold Out announced Immortal: Unchained, a blend of hardcore RPG and third person shooter in a sci-fi setting. We met with Toadman at PAX to get an early look at this exciting new game with a demo of the alpha build.
The titular character of Immortal: Unchained is described as a “human weapon,” once held prisoner for their past deeds. The end of the world is nigh, however, and so the warden decides to unleash him as a final weapon against the apocalypse. With the warden’s guidance, the unchained Immortal must go out and become the hero the world needs.
The game takes a third-person approach and features both melee and ranged combat, though it seems likely melee is a last resort. Combat is more tactical than it is “spray and pray,” and has a slight Dark Souls vibe. As they played through the stage, they demonstrated how essential it was to use cover, how positioning played a key role in defeating some enemies, and how aiming for specific body parts on enemies could make an impact. There was also a lot of death – even on an average difficulty with decent gear, the character could usually only take two or three hits.
There are many weapons to be discovered in Immortal: Unchained, and while I can’t disclose how many, it’s more than a handful. There is a wide variety of weapons, and each can be customized to suit the player’s needs or style. While weapons are not equal, the power difference between them is never extreme, which should mean that players can keep using their favorite weapons longer.
I also discovered that weapon drops (which are scattered in chests throughout the world) are all static, not random. We discussed this point at length. The developer explained that because of the difficult nature of the game, they want the player experience to be equal (between different players) and reliable (for multiple playthroughs). Not only could random drops make wildly different experiences for different players, they could also harm the strategies or progression of a single player trying to get through the game.
While I didn’t have a hand on the controls myself, I was able to confirm that Immortal: Unchained will feature both mouse and keyboard and controller options, with free flexibility to use either or both at any moment. The game also features an optional ‘lock target’ feature for those who prefer it. However, rather than neutering the shooting experience, the lock target mechanic allows players to choose where they would like to aim on the enemy’s body. This should mean that the game is enjoyable whether you prefer to free aim, or prefer lock-target aiming.
Enemy health is displayed over their heads with a simple two bar UI. The first bar is the obvious health bar. The second bar, however, is a “stagger” meter. When depleted, enemies will briefly be staggered or otherwise at a disadvantage for a short amount of time. Some weapons deal more ‘stagger’ damage, such as melee weapons which can knock down enemies. While it can be ignored, it seems like it is a crucial mechanic to pay attention to when planning your fights.
Ammo is also important in Immortal: Unchained, given it is primarily a shooter. Rather than static drops, ammo is found from enemies. The idea is to make sure that players have a way to always progress, so long as they are engaging. That is to say, ammo should be plentiful if you fight your way through stages, but rushing through or avoiding enemies may leave you short on bullets.
Another key game feature is the Obelisk. The Obelisk serves both as a save point and a hub for customization – think a bit like a camp in more traditional RPGs. Here players can equip and improve weapons, and level up and boost their stats through resources found. However, visiting an Obelisk resets all enemies in the nearby area – which means you can’t cheese progression by constantly running back to the save point.
While I’m told the game obviously takes inspiration from the Souls games, the inspiration goes further back to Legend of Zelda and Metroid, where difficulty was high, exploration was rewarded, and satisfaction came from mastering the game over time. This “old school” design philosophy shows in Immortal: Unchained, which aims to be difficult not just for the sake of difficulty. I had the chance to watch one boss fight, which strongly reminded me of Metroidvania type bosses that may be difficult, but have clear telegraphs that you can master with experience.
Immortal: Unchained is scheduled for the first half of 2018 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.