A Game Befitting October
The leaves are changing color and the temperature’s dropping every day. Cornfields flow in golden waves and just about everything can be found in pumpkin spice. As I sit here in my jeans and sweatshirt, there’s no doubt about it - fall is here. Along with the bonfires and warted gourds comes the spookiest of holidays, Halloween, and Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is the perfect 4x strategy game for those that can’t get enough of our favorite blood-sucking ghouls.
If you’re someone into vampires, the general set-up here, lore-wise, shouldn’t be anything particularly new or unusual. The game takes place in the dark, dangerous land of Nemire, divided into three regions, each under the control of a vampire clan. Warmont sees villages of humans living out an uneasy truce with the monarchical and bloodthirsty Dracul; the eastern plains of Mourterra crawl with the ancient Nosfernus, and the frozen north of Esain is home to the darkly magical Moroia. If the game’s title hasn’t given it away already, all is not well in the land of Nemire and blood is about to be spilled. While warring clans of familiarly-themed vampires may not be anything overly ground-breaking, there’s a charm here in familiarity and slight campness.
Deep, but Not Overwhelming
Strictly focused on delivering a satisfying single-player experience, Immortal Realms is split between three campaigns of four missions each - one campaign for each of the vampire clans. Throughout these campaign missions, as well as the sandbox and skirmish modes, Palindrome Interactive has done a great job balancing the huge number of things this game brings to the table. Not content with simply delivering a pleasant empire management strategy game, Immortal Realms is also equal parts card game and turn-based squad skirmisher.
As the campaign starts, Dracul's matriarch Cecilia starts off in an effort to find out why a group of usually subservient humans has decided to torch a vampire village. In this larger, overhead “Kingdom Mode,” players are charged with moving different armies, recruiting new soldiers, monitoring resources (blood), and taking advantage of abilities and bonuses from buildings and other landmarks. It walks the line nicely between too much and too little, with plenty of strategic options but not so many menus and resources that it feels like you’re playing a data spreadsheet instead of a game. It’s certainly not got the complexity that genre veterans may be used to, but, personally, that isn’t a terrible thing. While there’s certainly a place and a market for uber-deep management-oriented strategy games, many, like myself, are certain to appreciate an experience like this that’s easy to jump into somewhat casually.
When it comes to combat, it isn't just an instant exchange of fixed damage. Instead, when armies clash, the game zooms into combat mode, a grid-based skirmish scenario in which individual units and squads fight to the death. I didn’t expect combat to be something so different yet fleshed out, and this shift adds a ton to the game. Before combat, the supposed odds of each side winning is displayed, and it’s incredibly satisfying to win when the game didn’t think you should. Of course, for those looking to speed things up or for cases in which the outcome is overwhelmingly one-sided, Immortal Realms does allow the option to simulate any given clash as well. And you’ll be smart to take advantage of this feature. While the combat is indeed fun, it can drag a bit as a mission or sandbox game progress, and being a bit picky about which conflicts to auto-resolve and which to hand-control does wonders for the game’s flow.
The icing on the cake is that progress feels super satisfying, which happens via a few different systems. First, the cards. While both Kingdom and Combat modes work on a basic level, similarly to how they would in other genre titles, both are spiced up by the inclusion of cards that grant specific boosts and abilities. In combat mode, cards might allow extra movements, summons, or resource collection. In combat, cards give your leader and some specific troops powers necessary to turn the tides of battle. Managing which cards to keep when given the option and when to use them is a critical component of victory. As armies and leaders level up, more cards become available and the ones already in possession can be upgraded in various ways. Here, players are given creative control to tweak their characters to best fit their preferred play style. With multiple card upgrade options given, in addition to choosing which cards to upgrade in the first place, leaders can be taken down very distinct paths that are quite fun to play around with. Furthermore, as years progress and XP is gained, legacy points allow for game-wide boosts such as improving certain buildings, units, or other elements of performance, and “plans” let you selectively choose a year-long trajectory that often provides both boons and banes. It’s a fun system that delivers frequent, tangible progress, and the cards’ mechanics and animated illustrations do a great job making each clan feel and play differently.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a fun, atmospheric strategy game with enough depth and originality to satisfy most. While the lack of multiplayer options may turn some off, there’s enough content and enough replayability here to make the game well worth the purchase price.
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Interesting dual-perspective play, card mechanics are a welcome addition to traditional strategy elements, visuals and gameplay elements add nice flavor to each of the vampire clans.
No multiplayer options, combat can become repetitive if not simulated as appropriate.