by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
Halloween in July
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it isn’t a great time to get a little spooky. While Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars isn’t releasing in full until the end of August, I was lucky enough to try out a preview build of this eerie 4x strategy game. A mish-mash of genres, the game looks like it’s shaping up to be one that strategy enthusiasts won’t want to miss.
The general set-up here, lore-wise, shouldn’t be anything particularly new or unusual for players that have consumed vampire media before. The dark and mysterious land of Nemire is divided into three regions, each under the control of a distinct and unique 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. More than is normally spilled in a Vampire kingdom, that is. While warring clans of vampires based on common folk tropes may not be anything particularly ground-breaking, familiarity doesn’t equal uninspired banality. The visual and aural design of the game oozes atmosphere, and the two clans I was able to play around with, the Dracul and Nosfernus, each have satisfyingly unique feels to their play.
Strictly focused on delivering a satisfying single-player experience, Immortal Realms will eventually have 12 campaign missions, four for each clan, spread over about 30 hours (in addition to skirmish and sandbox modes). During my time with a limited chunk of the game, my biggest take away was how well Palindrome Interactive has balanced 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.
In the campaign missions I was able to play, Dracul matriarch Cecilia starts off in an effort to find out why a group of usually subservient humans have 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. Battles between units, though, isn’t merely an instant exchange of predetermined 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.
The icing on the cake is that progress feels super satisfying, which happens through 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 kin, 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.
Simply put, I had a ton of fun trying out Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, and I’m optimistic that the full release is going to be something most players would do well to check out. While the depth is there for strategy veterans, everything flows smoothly enough that newcomers to the genre should be worried about the potential information overload that might be present in more complicated sprawling titles.