Immortal Planet is the product of teedoubleuGAMES, and for the only title they have on Steam it’s a formidable first outing. I did a small Learning Curve series with this, and knew nothing of it going in. What I thought I was getting was something more like Asura, a hack and slash Rogue-like indie title. On the contrary, this game is slow and methodical, with very few random bits. Once this dawned on me, I was worried I might not be able to engage properly with the game, since I love Rogue-likes and my brain was wired for one at the time.
I quickly found myself invested in this isometric Souls-like game, and I discovered something that impressed both mechanically and visually.
Get your controller out for this one, folks. It says recommended – I would check that in as mandatory. Take a breath, ease up on the button mashing, and follow the Old Man in our look at Immortal Planet. Currently available on Steam for the very reasonable price of 14.99 USD.
In my The Surge review, I mentioned the game being a bit of a meat grinder. I am fairly sure that when I say that, it means the same as “Souls-like,” this being a reference to the juggernaut of frustration and friend to the off brand controller industry, the Dark Souls series. Anyone who knows me understands I’m a bit, shall we say, jumpy. And with heart disease on both sides of my family, you’d think I’d keep away from things like jump scare horror games or properties that would boil my blood.
Typically, I do.
But the last robot infested love letter to Dark Souls that I played (The Surge) I rather liked. So I redoubled my efforts and threw myself into Immortal Planet. My little Awakewalker was fitted with a shield-axe and set out. I’ll admit I was surprised to discover this was a fixed-camera isometric game. A good call in my opinion, since with no camera angles to fight with I was able to really focus on the meat of the game: The intense, ponderous combat.
My first few fights were not glorious. I only heeded the tutorials in the most marginal of ways, and found that half-arsed listening skills yielded half-arsed practical aptitude. (I think I hear the distant mocking voice of my 11th grade shop teacher.) But, unlike in some classroom environments, I adjusted and learned the proper ways to engage my enemies. The game description on its Steam page claims that careful timing is more important than reflexes, and this is very, very true. In my Learning Curve videos you can hear me time and time again telling myself to just “Stay Calm.” Rushing in, button mashing, and being less than one hundred percent focused were the most common cause of my sound trouncing and/or death.
There is no timer. There is no prize for finishing fast. Even though I wanted to see more of the game so I could write more about my experience, I realized that rushing was going to do Immortal Planet and my readers a disservice. So I exhaled and took my finger off the run button. I instantly noticed a difference in combat.
Running, as is common in video games, eats up your stamina. Unlike many other games, in my opinion, the stamina bar isn’t just a throw away nuisance. In Immortal Planet, the stamina bar is in many ways more important than armour, damage output, and hit points. Once I started boosting my stamina more I found the combats quicker, easier, and me often coming out unscathed. Now sure, part of this was just me learning the game, but there was no denying the fact the Stamina stat was important. I went from barely being able to kill one common alien goon, to taking on three at once. Mastering the art of slow, well-timed combat was both fun and rewarding.
Every death made me realize a flaw in my strategy or a strength my foes had that I needed to overcome. Again, I’d like to stress the rewarding nature of this game. When I was defeated I didn’t get upset or confused. I never earnestly cried out, “How do you even beat this?!” Even though I was fresh in to the game, had not looked up any tips or spoilers, I was able to even figure out what areas my character needed to improve.
One thing I desperately needed to improve on was my button mashing habits. This goes hand in hand with me trying to keep my cool. When faced with an enemy I have no strategy for, my first instinct is to spam as many attacks as possible. This is a poor idea in Immortal Planet. In addition to depleting your stamina bar and thus leaving you vulnerable to attacks, a good Awakewalker also learns when to strike, when to back off, when to block, and when to charge. But it isn’t just hitting with your primary attack.
As the game progresses you find items. In my game I wound up using the ceremonial pistol, the immortal blood, the ice shard spell, and the disintegration beam. I had many other tools under my belt, and I am sure there are more to come. But there is a secret punishment lurking here for button mashers… Items have uses. Uses are refreshed after you rest. But what needs to be noted here is if you try to use an item, and you have run out, your character hesitates – they suddenly bend down on a knee and seem to be shaking their first in to the air, as if to curse their misbegotten existence, but more likely cursing being controlled by a pleb such as me.
This hesitation can and will get you killed. Now, I’m not sure if it is the spectre of dyslexia hanging around or simply my newness to the game, but I kept mixing up buttons. So, if I wasn’t accidentally trying to shoot my pistol when I should have been healing, I was trying to heal myself and accidentally shooting my pistol. Wasting a valuable healing dose of Immortal Blood always stung, but could be over come. The problem would be if I had run out of one or the other, and then mistakenly tried to activate it. This mistake would lead to my Awakewalker hesitating, and normally being beaten badly or simply embracing the cool oblivion that is temporary robotic death.
One awkward thing about this game is the “Awakened” weapons. While I only played with my shield-axe, there is a mechanic for awakening the weapon. This turns it into a more powerful version. And the game was never really clear at what cost. Honestly, you just hold the assigned button, and boom – power weapon. It didn’t drain resources, I didn’t notice a decline in stamina or defensive capabilities, nor did I see anything that would indicate I shouldn’t just wander around with my weapon awakened all the time.
The only time my awakened weapon was an issue was when I would sometimes forget to activate it after respawning. The other is the irritating habit I had of accidentally unawakening the weapon, often right in the middle of combat. I’m unsure if it is because I was holding in the attack button for what ever reason, or if I had been alien-handled in such a way that my weapon depowered. Regardless, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening, and combat would suddenly go against me. That said, it only happened a few times.
In short? Pay attention to your resources, keep calm, don’t hesitate.
Levelling Up and Levelling Out
When you start you’ll be given some very basic starting gear options, but with time these options will expand. Our Awakewalker steps off a soon-to-be familiar cryopad. These pads are your central hubs. From here the entire level will start to expand, loop back, and connect. They are where you crawl desperately back to when you need to spend your precious experience. Here you rest, equip new gear, and level up.
Gear has a variety of types that are put into a few different categories. They essentially boil down to spells and sidearms. All the items that I encountered had charges. As mentioned, charges can be refreshed by resting at your cryopod, however there is a major downside to this: When you rest, all the enemies, minus boss battles, respawn. Most other effects that you have had on the game world remain. Did you active a terminal to move a platform? The terminal will remain active. Of course, after a few deaths, you should find the starting baddies in any area pretty simple. But that is a trap. While streaming this game I relaxed after a while, divided my attention, and was severely trounced for it. Remember, concentration is key.
This is all part of the loving grind of the game. Much like the non-isometric games that inspired it, there is a learning curve. You are given very basic instructions, which are built in to the levels themselves. You learn to embrace death as part of coming back stronger next time.
Levelling is simple but not simplistic. It’s done through increasing a variety of stats. Each time you buy a point to increase any stat, the cost increases. Every time you increase a stat, your level is considered one higher. Effectively, your level is a reflection of how many stat points you’ve increased over the course of the game. Things like stamina, health, your ability to use more powerful items or spells (and how efficiently you can use them) are all tied in to your characters stats. Each one has different and often over lapping effects. The wide variety allows you to customize your character to how you want to play. I was able to construct a tough, enduring brute, able to take hits and last long in a quick skirmish.
While you dance through this merry meat grinder, you’ll be treated to atmospheric levels with many points of interest to investigate, explore and exploit. While I risk sounding like a broken record when it comes to games like this, the tone, art style, and music were all loving crafted. You can see the developer took a great deal of pride in what they were making here. The music never overshadows or detracts, but is excellent company for those long walks back to the cryopad. The graphics are usually pretty clear, with only my own incompetence sending me hurtling to my death. This mysterious dystopia left me wanting to know what was behind the hulking frames of the various boss monsters.
I dreaded my first boss fight. As my Awakewalker crept the corridors of the starting temple, I was sure I was going to get fully trounced in a flurry of fire and steel. And sure enough, I was… Over and over again. But something was different here than when I tried my hand at Dark Souls and other, similar games. It’s my suspicion that the difference lies in the isometric style. I was able to see clearly what the enemy was doing, where I was stumbling, and more importantly how I could correct the error. Dying often to a boss is frustrating if you don’t feel you are learning. If you feel you are just banging your head on the wall and howling in to the dark, robot infested, night, you may just toss a controller and throw up your hands.
And maybe you like that. It’s cool. We’re all friends here. Different strokes for different folks. But this game is clearly a softer touch than controller busters. With Immortal Planet, being able to feel like I am getting better, and that if I just grind a little bit more, and get this stat up to this level, and mix up my approach just so, well, it’s a really good feeling. So yes, I would say that gamers like myself, you are going to find this a rewarding little slice of 15 dollar pie.
This game is a beard scratcher. On one hand it’s likely too easy for the hardcore Dark Souls fans. On the other it’s going to be challenging for players unfamiliar with the genre. I think both groups could find a decent purchase if they came in knowing what it was, for sure. But I also think there is a little-tapped market of people like myself, who really want to play Dark Souls style games, but don’t want to feel completely frustrated and confused. So, I think this is a solid game worth attention and time. Anyone out there who’s tried other Souls-like games, but found themselves being confounded by the levelling, the camera angles, or just didn’t feel like they were getting better – give Immortal Planet a try.
8/10 The tutorial could have used a bit more clarity and there were a few tiny issues with controls, but there is a fantastic world that is an isometric love-letter to a series that became a genre.
Review by Joshua Smith aka Old Man Mordaith
Edited by Jesse Roberts