Immortal Unchained takes the Soul-like genre and attempts to make it it’s own with a focus on automatic weapons instead of the usual hand to hand combat we’ve grown used to seeing in the genre. While it is absolutely something Soul-like fans have been wanting to see, Immortal Unchained stumbles in its execution. What we get instead is an action RPG that struggles to find it’s identity among the ever-growing roster of Souls-like games.
To be fair Immortal Unchained is not a bad game. For Toadman Interactive’s first outing, what they have been able to accomplish is nothing short of impressive. With the genre constantly gaining more and more fans, being able to make a Souls-like of your own and have it stand out amongst the crowd is quite the feat. For the most part, Immortal Unchained delivers a fun experience, full of tough bosses and ruthless enemies, all packaged in a beautiful Sci-Fi world that can breathe on its own while proudly wearing its inspiration on its sleeve. Where it comes up short is in some of the gameplay mechanics that are essential in making a Souls-like game feel challenging but rewarding.
The world of Immortal Unchained is one plagued by war and suffering. The beings of this world have been able to find peace, but there is a darkness growing that looks to snuff out everything in its path. This is where you come in. You have been imprisoned and forgotten about for crimes you can’t remember. Your freedom comes only as a hail mary play to save the universe from this encroaching threat. The Sci-Fi lore behind all of this is vaguely based on Norse mythology, with the central hub feeling reminiscent of the tree of life, Yggdrasil. It falls on you to travel across the galaxy, visiting distant worlds and dealing with the threats that lie below the surface.
This was one of the most enjoyable aspects of Immortal Unchained. While there aren’t a ton of worlds to explore, the ones Toadman have created offered a completely unique experience, with each planet feeling totally different from the last. On top of this, each world has a plethora of locations to explore, secrets to uncover, and shortcuts to unlock. This is one of the better Souls-like elements they implemented. The world building is great. Everything folds in on itself much like any From Software game tends to do. On top of that, these are some of the coolest, fleshed out Sci-Fi environments I’ve explored, and I constantly found myself stumbling off the beaten path just to see what was around the corner. While the Surge is certainly the only other “Sci-Fi Soulslike”, personally, it feels like Toadman did a much better job delivering a truly Sci-Fi atmosphere.
Obelisks are Immortal Unchained’s bonfire and they allow players to upgrade their characters and weapons. Resting at one of these giant structures also resets the world around you and respawns enemies. The gameplay here is where things tend to get a little murky. Finding a sweet blend between 3rd person shooters and the combat we’ve grown accustomed to in an ARPG is obviously a difficult thing to nail down. It’s here that Immortal Unchained starts to encounter a bit of an identity issue. During your time with the game, you’ll discover over a hundred different guns as well as dozens of melee weapons. The thing is, you could, in theory, make a strictly hand to hand based character. The only issue is that because this game focuses on gunplay, the melee attack is a basic one-two combo and that is it. It feels intentional that they would restrict melee combat in this way, but they should have made those weapons feel less powerful then. When each unique weapon has the same exact attack, it takes away from what makes an axe different from a knife.
Just like in any other Souls game you have a stamina bar that is used for most physical movements. Sprinting, dodging, etc. all rely on this bar, so that shouldn’t be anything new. Another bar you need to manage is the energy bar, which fans of the genre will most likely compare to the magic bar from Dark Souls 3. Like weapon arts in DS3, the energy bar here lets players unleash powerful attacks with their automatic weapons. While they mostly vary depending on the weapon, I did find that some weapons had the same power attack. These attacks are also limited to the automatic weapons, so don’t expect to be pulling off any crazy stunts with your dual blades or hammer.
Players will use the game’s central hub to teleport to the other planets. Much like Dark Souls or Demon Souls, players can visit these locations in any order they like, however, some areas will be inaccessible unless certain bosses are defeated. This was a great way to encourage me to explore my surroundings. It made retreading places I had been before feel meaningful and the concept never overstayed it’s welcome. It gives you a sense of freedom that rewards player exploration and adds a level of complexity to traversal.
While Immortal Unchained will certainly be referred to as “Dark Souls with Guns”, it’s the gunplay that tends to feel a bit too clunky. Since the primary weapons in this game are guns, aiming and reloading are two additional things you must manage while fighting enemies.
This wouldn’t be a huge issue if it wasn’t for some areas throwing too many enemies at you at once. There were times I was berated with enemies and forced to constantly move or dodge out of the way, which meant having to try and reload again because dodging canceled out that animation. On top of that, choosing a Sniper Rifle over a pistol, for example, didn’t offer any real benefit because all of the weapons tend to have the same distance their bullets reach. This leaves all of the weapons feeling more similar than unique. If I can’t rely on a Sniper Rifle to take out an enemy farther away, I don’t really have any real reason to use it then. It’s the same when using a Shotgun. Yeah, it’s cool that I can kill an enemy much farther away, but that doesn’t make it feel like a shotgun then. At the same time, assault rifles are way too inaccurate unless the enemy is right up close to you, which makes them practically useless since any other weapon is good at close range as well. These are primarily balancing issues that I’m sure will receive a patch down the road, but it’s just a shame that all of the weapons don’t really offer any benefit to using one over another.
While Immortal Unchained is absolutely a challenging game, the difficulty primarily stems from the onslaught of enemies you’ll face. Any game is difficult when you are fighting so many enemies that you can’t even move to avoid an attack. Another missed opportunity is the fact that most, if not every, boss and enemy can be killed in the same way. You dodge around to their back and shoot the glowing section to deal massive damage. At first, the bosses are exciting, but after taking down a few of them things begin to feel redundant. The same is present in the boss fights as well. Additional enemies swarm you at times and make the fight difficult because of the numbers you’re facing, not because any one enemy or boss is primarily difficult to manage. Recycled boss mechanics add to this redundancy as well. While the bosses might look different, having to reuse strategies from previous bosses to beat later ones makes things feel more familiar and takes away from the risk and stress of the unknown. Adding enemies into a boss with similar mechanics isn’t giving us a unique boss fight, it just makes things frustrating.
Immortal Unchained stumbles to find it’s niche within the Souls-like genre. It ends up being a template of do’s and don’ts for other studios looking to make a gun-based souls-like of their own, more than it makes a statement about being a “Dark Souls with guns” game. There are some strong elements that absolutely make this game a joy to play, but the redundancy of fighting enemies and bosses the same way significantly impacts the replay-ability of the game itself. While an impressive weapons library encourages multiple play throughs, the repetitive nature of battles makes it hard to want to roll another character. At the very least, Immortal Unchained deserves at least one play through. The world and story Toadman Interactive has crafted is one that should be experienced by any Souls-like fan.