Immortal: Unchained Preview

It made be facile to describe Toadman Interactive's upcoming action-RPG as "Dark Souls with guns," but clearly From Software's now-iconic franchise was an inspiration. Although set in a sci-fi universe, and visually nothing like the Souls series, Immortal: Unchained does integrate quite a number of mechanics familiar to Souls. But let's be fair. Miyazaki didn't invent health bars, kill-based currency to be spent on upgrades, stamina management or third-person action. Immortal: Unchained officially releases in early September, but several preview events have allowed players to get an extended peek into the game's world and play style. 

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Other than learning a few new key assignments and movement parameters, anyone conversant with action-RPGs should have little trouble picking up and playing Immortal: Unchained. The exception might be those players who favor melee combat, as the game is obviously tuned towards various short and long range rifles, pistols, shotguns and a whole bunch more fanciful, sci-fi weapons with with magic-like capabilities. At least in the preview stretch of the game, close-up combat was not well supported, either by available gear or simply satisfying mechanics. On the other hand, ranged weapons can target specific enemy body parts and there is an interesting built-in dance between accuracy, speed and power/stamina consumption.

Where Immortal: Unchained does earn its comparison to Dark Souls is the way the player character is summarily "unchained" and begins a path of killing everything in his or her path, with relatively little context or story. Like Souls, item descriptions and developer-placed signposts help the player understand the world and how to move through it, but from the start I noticed that -- although not bad -- movement felt less fluid and combat animations less expressive than some other, recent action-RPGs such as Nier: Automata. In general, the game seems inspired by Dark Souls level of difficulty and enemies require a similar, patient and thoughtful approach even though most of the encounters are at range.

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Developers promise that the player will fight across nine worlds, and hopefully there will be a little more variety in Immortal: Unchained's color palette, which tends to favorite desaturated greens, greys and blues. There was also a fair amount of visual repetition in the game's opening, interior level and both landscapes and enemy design became more varied and interesting as the game progressed.

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Last year, The Surge was released and covered a bit of the same, sci-fi Souls territory that Immortal: Unchained is about to claim, although the former title was much more melee-focused game. Immortal: Unchained is shaping up to be a product that action-RPG and Souls fans will want to check out, in particular if the full game includes a bit more story and character development and a wider visual range. The action is solid and the shooter focus is a refreshing contrast to the sword-and-board gameplay that is the common currency of the genre.