Visually, Immortals of Aveum is one of the most impressive first-person shooters I’ve seen. Flinging spells with the frenetic intensity of firing a gun is a fun idea, and developer Ascendant Studios has captured it in a brightly colored fantasy world with clear military action game inspirations. The game sees you play as Jak, a battlemage with the rare ability to use all three forms of magic, who is fighting in a war for control of his planet. There are some potentially interesting narrative twists hiding in the magical FPS’ story, like environmentalism-inspired creature design and set dressing, but the big draw is the fast-paced shooting. Ahead of the game’s release, I spoke with Ascendent Studios founder and Immortals of Aveum game director Bret Robbins to talk about how the initial pitch of the game came together and what it takes to make a good magic-based action game.

“I had been working on Call of Duty before I started [at Ascendant Studios] where, obviously, you get very dialed into what makes a great shooter and how it should play and how it should feel, how the control should feel,” Robbins said. “When we started prototyping with Immortals, we did a lot of experimentation very early and we failed fast at a lot of different things. And everyone’s familiar with what an assault rifle feels like, what a shotgun feels like. We had to create our own language and our own rules around how magic was going to feel and how it was going to play. And I think early on, especially early in development during our prototyping, we went down pretty complicated and bizarre roads and came up with a lot of weird shit and we were like, ‘All right, not sure this is working so well.'”

With ideas not panning out, the team decided to reset. Instead of initially prioritizing the fantasy side of the world, the game needed to be a great shooter first and foremost. “About a year in, I just said, ‘You know what? We need to make a shooter first. We need to make it feel great and then we’re going to do all the cool weird stuff we want to do and layer it on top of that,'” Robbins said. “And we spent about six months as a team just really focusing on that. It ended up being this really great combat prototype and that really became the foundation for the game would be. And once we had that, we were like, ‘This is the magic shooter. This feels great. This is magic. It’s not guns, it’s cool, it’s fast, you feel powerful.’ The whole thing was always about being a battlemage, living that fantasy of being this awesome battlemage. And we nailed it with that prototype and then layered the game on top of that.”

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