by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
IMMORTAL REALMS: VAMPIRE WARS
Our drive home from Gamescom invariably involves us discussing our personal ‘game of the show’. This year I was torn between several good games, but eventually landed on Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars. Not for being the most polished, not for being the most innovative, but for taking the best aspects of some of my favourite games and draping them with a warm, dark, visual aesthetic that just oozes personality.
The primary donor game for Immortal Realms’ inspiration is without any doubt Age of Wonders. While you could mistake the campaign map for a mix of Total War and Age of Wonders, combat is decidedly taken from the latter. Yet where the later Age of Wonders have scaled combat maps and units up to make them feel grand, Immortal Realms keeps them focused and almost intimate. Even the map tiles are back to being square, which is such a rarity these that they almost feel new again.
Immortal Realms’ vampire theme seemed a little restrictive at first — aesthetically speaking — but turned out to yield very diverse factions and units. You’ll lead one of three vampire races; The feudal Dracul, the plague-loving Nosfernu, or the noble magicians of Moroia. All of these factions are brought to life (such as it is, them being vampires and all) by a deep backstory, a copious amount of in-game cutscenes and capable voice acting.
Our demonstration revolved around the Dracul, who live in symbiosis with humans who get protection in return for a steady supply of blood. That such a relationship can be a bit strained was made clear when our hero, Cecilia, was called to squash a human rebellion on the fringes of the empire. With three action points to spend each turn, you’ll have to decide whether to move, fight, recruit armies or perform other special actions. Which actions are available depends on the province you are in — one province may have a human settlement ready to donate blood, another may feature a wolves den to recruit units from. Quickly coming back to that blood supply — blood is the primary resource in the game — whether you are building or recruiting, everything requires blood. And each of the factions deals with blood differently — while the Dracul get theirs largely ‘for free’, they do need to pay upkeep in blood too. The Nosfernu on the other hand, have zero upkeep, but no steady income either.
Units are made unique through the use of ‘keywords’ such as Range (shoot farther), Flanking (do more damage when flanking a unit) and Sundering (passively do additional damage to enemy armor). Another way to spice up gameplay is through spell cards. Each hero has a specific set of cards that stays with him or her for the duration of the game, but additional cards can be found and won throughout your conquests. Both keywords and cards come in ‘general use’ and faction specific flavours.
Immortal Realms: Vampire wars feels like a welcome return to a style of strategy gaming that we’ve not seen for a while, but that should never have disappeared. It’s bringing some modern elements into the mix, making it more accessible, and I think it will appeal to both core and beginner strategy gamers alike. But however much excited I am to return to this type of game, I am pumped about the game’s presentation. The dark theme, the rich storyline and the intimate-feeling combat maps really struck a chord with me. I can’t wait to take up the vampire banner when it releases this fall.