Ever since Dark Souls took the world by storm, other developers have been trying to capture the same magic. There have been mixed results including successes like The Surge and Nioh and mediocre titles like Lords of the Fallen.
Immortal Unchained is another in a long-line of Souls-like titles with one major difference. Immortal Unchained largely does away with melee combat and instead focuses on gunplay and firearms.
I was sceptical about how guns could possibly work within the Souls formula, but developer Toadman Interactive seems to have found a way to make it work.
Immortal Unchained Preview
Thinking about shooting in video games, the majority of it is fast-paced and twitchy. When I imagined shooting in Immortal Unchained this is what I saw.
Thankfully, the gunplay in Immortal Unchained couldn’t be more removed from what you’re used to. Weapons fire slowly, deliberately and in short bursts. The projectiles carry heft and when they smack into your enemies there’s a sickening thud from the damage.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”Weapons fire slowly, deliberately and in short bursts” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
Oddly enough, firing weapons in Immortal Unchained feels more like melee combat. To kill enemies and stay alive, you’re going to need to stay on the move, dodge roll and strategically reload and heal.
Toadman has cleverly slowed every element of the combat down to ensure players are caught in a tense back and forth. One moment you’ll be on the attack, going in gung-ho and the next you’ll be beating a hasty retreat.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”Reloading is easily one of the most strategic elements of combat” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
Reloading is easily one of the most strategic elements of combat and Immortal Unchained overall.
It takes a significant amount of time. At first, I despised how long it took, blaming reloading for many avoidable deaths. Once I started to get the hang of the flow of battle, I was much more confident in reloading at the right moment.
A New Way to Fight
While playing the alpha build of Immortal Unchained I gradually collected a range of different primary and secondary weapons. They fall into the standard categories of video game guns; pistols, shotguns, machine guns and sniper rifles.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”Toadman has cleverly slowed every element of the combat down” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
Each weapon has its own stats and secondary fire function. These include freezing mist, grenade launchers and burst fire. There are likely to be plenty more secondary fire options in the completed title, but for now, those available gave a decent indication of what to expect.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”Melee weapons are really more of a last resort” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
There are melee weapons in the game, but these are really more of a last resort. Swinging a melee weapon drains a significant portion of your stamina bar and leave you open to counter-attack.
I found that the most effective way to make use of my full arsenal was to combine both shooting and melee. Enemies have both a health and stamina gauge. Doing damage makes both deplete and once the stamina gauge is empty they’re staggered and vulnerable.
Shoot, Dodge, Heal
Because shooting requires precision, when you’re close enough to an enemy you’ll automatically lock-on. Whilst locked-on you can move the right-stick to aim at different body parts. Shooting at an enemies legs will drain their stamina more quickly while shooting at their weapon can cause them to drop it.
Equipping weapons requires you to have a high enough level in one or two stats and to improve your stats you’ll need to level up at the Obelisks located in-game.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”Equipping weapons requires you to have a high enough level” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
Like with Souls games, as you defeat enemies you’ll collect ‘Bits’ which you can spend to upgrade your stats and your weapons.
Should you die before you have a chance to spend your Bits, you’ll have one chance to collect them before they disappear forever. And just like in Souls games, every time you visit an Obelisk the world and enemies reset.
A Good Base for the Future
It’s still early days for Immortal Unchained, but so far the level and enemy designs are a bit bland. The intricate backtracking and gradual opening up of new paths seem to be missing from Immortal.
The content in the alpha isn’t finalised so the levels and enemies might very well change. The alpha levels were only a small section of Immortal Unchained and so extra levels, paths and shortcuts will probably make their way into the finished game.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”Immortal Unchained could very well be the surprise hit of the year” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””][/perfectpullquote]
So too will the extra polish and quality that’ll be needed. It’s not that Immortal Unchained looks ugly or plays badly right now, it’s simply obvious that it’s a long way from being finished. And that’s ok.
The taste of it I got from the alpha was enough to dispel my concerns about the combat and make me excited to see just how far Toadman Interactive can take the idea of a Souls-like shooter.
If the alpha is any indication of what to expect, Immortal Unchained could very well be the surprise hit of the year.
The Immortal Unchained alpa was played on PC using a digital code provided to PowerUp! by the publisher.