by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Though Iíve been guilty of it from time to time, I hate focusing my reviews on a comparison to another game. In this case, though, not comparing Immortal Planet to the Dark Souls franchise is difficult when itís been done by the developers themselves. Iíve only played a moderate bit of the famed Souls games, but even to me the similarities in game design are, to say the least, striking. Just replace the medieval setting with a frozen cyberpunk one, trade in the story for an equally vague one, and swap out the moving camera for an isometric, cartoony look. Whether itís a love letter or shallow imitator is another question entirely.
For better or for worse, Immortal Planet doesnít waste any time cutting right to the chase. Eschewing any kind of introductory exposition (youíll get some more later, but not much), itís mere seconds from main menu to hacking away at your first baddie. The controls are incredibly simple. All youíll be able to do is a generic attack and block, a weapon transformation, a sprint, and a dash. As you play youíll also come across spells, weapons, and other items with limited uses that can help, but youíll never be expected to memorize attack combos or anything more complicated than a well-timed button press. The gameís skill requirement instead comes from positioning and managing stamina that depletes with every action other than a slow walk.
Health and Energy
The combat is slow. Despite being slow, though, the combat is not easy. In fact, the combat is incredibly, monitor-smashingly difficult, and because I didnít have a lack of fast-twitch muscles to blame I found myself getting even more frustrated. That doesnít mean that the system isnít good, though, even if it isnít always great. Something somewhat unique about the combat design is that the enemies use the same fighting system you do. They may have gone to the International School of Antagonists to learn how to telegraph attacks and stay oblivious to fights going on 20 feet away, but they too rely on managing their health and stamina bars to fight, and both are equally important to wear down. From the very beginning, enemies hit like freight trains, and trying to sit and trade blows just isnít going to get you very far. Not only will you need to take advantage of your attacks and items, but being able to bait your enemy into attacking or otherwise using stamina to wear them down is a must. Once an enemyís stamina is down you can dash into them for a stun, dash again to try and knock them off ledges, or just go on the offensive and put on as much damage as you can before they recover enough to get back into the fight. Of course all of these come with their own risks and rewards, but the system works.
My only complaint about the combat, and unfortunately itís a fairly significant one, is that I found it to get fairly dull fairly quickly. Even though there are three weapons to choose from at the beginning (and more you can find later), they donít really change combat in any fundamental way. Though there are different enemy types, the basic fundamentals of how to fight them never changes. Despite being able to dash, the 2D visuals with a stationary camera stop things from moving around too much. Iíll detract from my own argument a bit and admit that Iím not really sure what specifically Iíd do to make things better, but itís a problem when the challenge and intentional frustrations of combat stop seeming worth the trouble to go through. Boss battles, a historic strong-point of the Souls-like genre, should in theory, mix this up, but they ended up being some of my least favorite parts. While I did like their visual designs and animations (in fact, I liked the visual design of just about everything in Immortal Planet), theyíre just a slog to work through. They have a ton of health, and surviving some of their more elaborate attacks often times seemed more like luck of the draw than tactical positioning.
Everything is Average
Immortal Planet is fine in just about every sense of the word. It does most things decently well, but never does anything exceptionally. It has a few interesting ideas, but itís got enough drawbacks to even them out. I respect the ideas and what Iím sure were the goals of the project by a small development team, but itís only been a few hours since I stopped playing and Iím already over it. I donít regret my time with the game, but I donít feel the need to hop back in and donít really have any stand-out moments to look back on. The game may be called immortal, but the experience proves to be anything but.
Enemies fight like you do, cool visual style
Combat gets stale, nothing is particularly memorable