There are a few ways a developer can approach turned-based combat; whether it is the Knights of the Old Republic approach, combining a real-time hybrid with 3D-based combat, or the Final Fantasy system where you are locked into combat and each side takes turns pummeling each other until one side falls over. Those are the right ways to deal with a turn-based RPG, and Immortal Empire largely approaches the turn-based approach correctly; unfortunately, it is marred by somewhat sluggish movement and boring art as well as a myriad of other issues. While the game has some nice concepts and is tactical at its core, Immortal Empire comes off as somewhat shallow and lacking any sort of direction in terms of what it was trying to be or be defined as; was it trying to be a tactical RPG? A social game? A Facebook game? These are the questions you’re left with after venturing through this RPG.
Starting with the character creator, you are given a decent and interesting amount of characters to pick from. Whether it’s a paladin that utilizes holy spells to heal or a giant Treant that smashes through enemies with brute force, there is no shortage of different immortals with various combat proficiencies to choose from. The game lets you to control five immortals at a time, allowing you to mix and match each team, gear up your individual characters, and try different spells to find that ‘sweet spot’ of synergy. The in-game store also comes with a variety of ways to switch out your character, buy new immortal slots, or completely re-specialize your characters; you can even wipe your entire roster and pick a fresh group from the list of immortals.
As you enter the game, you are given your first taste of dialog in the form of a 1980s RPG dialog box with a character in the center, repeating a short lip sync animation much like the old point-and-click RPGs of yesteryear. As far as engaging dialog goes, Immortal Empire is completely standard; nothing about the text stands out, and it sometimes feels like one character is reading you a grocery list of tasks before you embark. Unfortunately, it is very hard to follow the story at the beginning because the in-game cinematic uses an infuriating, borderless green font over a green background, depending on what level you’re on, so even if the dialog was engaging and well-written, it’s nearly impossible to follow simply on the merit of being difficult to read.
In order to navigate to the first level, you are taken to a map screen that lists all available levels and challenges as well as a list of public rooms that are available for co-op and PvP game play. Starting with the basic movements, the general idea of the tactical gameplay of Immortal Empire is that each character is given a set amount of action points that can be spent on movement, attacks, spells, or items. As you progress through the levels, you start noticing flaws in the combat, the biggest of which is that, regardless of whether the characters are in combat, the game still utilizes action points, meaning each Immortal can only move a certain distance before the turn ends, resulting in an enraging ‘leap frog’ movement throughout the level. This problem is exacerbated with the more characters or computer followers you have, essentially making the combat more and more cumbersome the farther you progress.
The art work is decent, in a 1980s, Command and Conquer sort of way, which is to say not very impressive in the 21st century. Regardless, there are some good animations and interesting designs, but overall, the artistic direction is minimalist at best and cheap at worst. You will be spending too much time in familiar looking levels with repeated textures and level designs, the same trees, the same grass, and the same water until you progress to the next chapter and get a look at a different environment that will soon become repetitive and dull.
Immortal Empire also offers a social aspect in the form of co-op and PvP gameplay. On the map screen, you can select lobbies and games that other players have made public, giving you a chance to play along with friends or strangers in a Diablo-esque multiplayer system where you can drop in and help each other progress through the game.
Like any RPG, combat is deeply entrenched in character development and itemization, which is where Immortal Empire’s biggest flaw lays: the cash shop. Coincidentally, this is one of the many reasons this title feels like it belongs on Facebook rather than its own website, because at least if it was a Facebook game, you would have the convenience of not having to create a separate account across multiple websites. Like a Facebook game, you can use real money to purchase in-game items. The cash shop in Immortal Empire allows the purchase of ‘radiance’, one of the in-game currencies. With radiance, you can purchase weapons, armor, or even more characters; but this cash shop is not cheap. Additional characters alone are worth $5 in radiance, +10 to hit points is also $5, +30 to all stats is over $25, which brings up the biggest concern for the multiplayer of this title. Immortal Empire is absolutely pay-to-win; the cash shop literally sells power in the form of permanent stat improvements. Even though radiance can be earned in-game at no expense, the fact of the matter is that anyone with enough money to burn is going to be better, and considering there is a PvP aspect after level 20, this should raise huge concerns for the overall balance of the game.
To summarize, Immortal Empire feels like a Facebook game, it doesn’t merit its own launcher and website, and the fact that it has the audacity to charge exorbitant amounts for stat boosts alone should raise a red flag. It seems that this pricing scheme highlights where the developer’s priorities lay. The combat is average, and the fact that characters can’t die and are instead sent to the beginning of the level makes this game unnecessarily easy as well. The art work is boring and the cash shop feels like a low blow and truly defines the difference between Free-to-Play and “Free”-to-Play, an issue that has permeated the gaming industry and MMORPG genre for the past few years.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of Immortal Empire developed by Tactic Studios
- Interesting Features Like Co-op
- Tactile Combat
- Feels Like a Facebook Game
- Pay to Win Cash Shop