Immortal Planet PC Review
Before anything we have to touch on the whole ‘is Dark Souls a genre’ thing, which Immortal Planet very clearly aimed to be. Personally, I have no problem with it when used correctly and not just to describe something as difficult (like Crash Bandicoot…). In fact, I believe it’s an easy way to get a lot of ideas across quickly and concisely. Much like when we say ‘Action RPG’ we usually mean that you battle enemies outside of turn-based combat and can increase your stats when you level up – it’s mostly a way to describe mechanics, not theme (unlike the genre ‘horror’, for example, which does imply theme). I’m pretty sure this is why a lot of people reject the term ‘Dark Souls-esque’ or the likes – because the Souls games do adhere to their own unique gameplay elements but they are also incredibly thematic in their world building, lore, and enemies. It simply doesn’t do them justice to strip that away. So, what does Immortal Planet take from the ‘Souls’ genre? Well, it’s incredibly easy to die from the slightest mistake and you lose all of your energy/souls/blood or whatever is used to improve your character when you die, but can retrieve them by returning to the place of your demise.
Honestly, I don’t think that’s enough to make the cut, as the world is also incredibly linear and mostly bland. Whilst there are some characters lying about that leak a bit of the lore, they are very few and far between. What we get from the enemies is much the same, as the player is stuck fighting the same brands of them for hours at a time. All I could piece together was, in short, you wake up not really knowing what going on and must fight your way through the hordes of what seem like corrupted defenders, in an attempt to learn what you can and hopefully, eventually, escape. Throughout there are powerful guardian bosses, assumingly put there as trials to test whomever dare challenge the icy planet in search for hidden power or treasure. It’s actually quite an interesting tale but it feels underdeveloped, or maybe it’s just not shown off enough to the player just how deep it really is.
Combat is the obvious focal point of the game as you make your way through the funneled levels. There’s a basic and a charged attack, as well as a ‘dash’, that is actually more of a shoulder barge that I’ll come back to. Besides those main essentials there are also 4 slots for secondary equipment, ranging from spells that deal damage or freeze enemies to health packs and stamina boosts. These are unlocked through discovering chests and changing loadouts at the ‘campfire’. Strangely, even the primary weapon is changeable but you’re forced to pick it at the beginning of a new game and you’re pretty much stuck with it after, making it a blind guess. The same goes for a special bonus you get to select. I chose one that allowed me to recover health by attacking right after I had taken damage. Without trying them all out or playing the game beforehand it was impossible to know what would be useful and I would have loved to change it out after, as I always felt after taking damage I needed to retreat because a follow up hit would be fatal.
Still, the secondary equipment come in a decent variety and are quite fun to play around with. It’s the basic core-combat that I didn’t find as compelling. There’s the obvious necessity to learn each enemy’s movements, which usually consist of three or so movements/attacks and are either fairly easily figured out or are incredibly annoying and deal constant area damage, making them basically impossible to fight without sustaining at least some damage. Even that’s fine really – there are just some enemies that are worth using the aforementioned secondary items on. The real problem is just how long and tedious most battles can be. It’s all about dashing around their attacks, poking with a quick strike or two, and then retreating. If you try even once to get an extra hit in to speed up the fight you will be punished harshly. This is the ‘patience and focus’ style combat Immortal Planet is going for. Sadly, though, due to being put up against the same enemies for lengthy periods, the ‘Souls’ style death and retracing one’s steps, and generally dealing little damage makes fighting them not a test of patience but eventually quite boring. It’s a thin, thin line.
At first every enemy is unique and interesting, but once they’ve been figured out and the player is forced to fight and fight and fight them, over and over, it gets repetitive. That repetition fails to capture interest, which inevitably invites errors and that only means traipsing back through the same rooms again. That’s when you start to notice the annoying niggles, like the dash and the health pickups (that can randomly spawn arguably the hardest enemy in the area for seemingly no reason but to ruin a good run). The dash is not a regular several frames of invincibility move-out-of-the-way dash. Like I mentioned before, it’s more of a shoulder barge that is all about the use of stamina. Of course, attacking and barging uses up the rechargeable stamina meter but if you try to dash through an enemy, which is often the case due to the usually narrow walkways (that you can dash off of the edge of and insta-die), there’s a clash mechanic. If the enemy has low stamina they’ll be stunned and open to attack – a great tactic. However, if they aren’t low then you’ll be out cold for a few seconds instead, which basically means ‘YOU DIED’.
It just feels so unnecessary and obnoxious to, in my opinion, ruin a mechanic that has been used time and time again in combat-based games as a test of skill and timing, as well as a nice way to reset the battle from a distance. WIthout that ability, it’s very easy to get backed into a corner, which is not fun. Unfortunately there was just nothing that kept me wanting to play. I mean, the bosses were interesting but just getting to them was a chore and at one point even those are even rehashed. The artwork was nice but once again there are huge sections that all look the same and the music, too, was just there. Immortal Planet is by no means a bad game but it’s certainly not for me. It just seemed to get in the way of itself a lot – holding itself back via some particularly odd design decisions, possibly made in an attempt to emulate that ‘Soulsian’ gameplay but without enough of a core to back it up.