Immortal Planet is an isometric weird-science-fiction entry in the “Souls-like” action-RPG sub-genre.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG
Release Date: 28 Jul, 2017
Immortal Planet is a new isometric action RPG from indie developers, teedoubleuGAMES.
In Immortal Planet you take the role of the last immortal to wake from your timeless slumber. Before you, the other immortals have woken and become degraded somehow, fulfilling their roles in a corrupted manner. You must venture through the strange, platform-like levels that make up the world in order to discover what has happened.
When you wake you have no memory of your past. As you encounter other immortals — all of them hostile — you begin to piece together the planet’s history and the role that each of the immortals plays in it. As you do so, you become more powerful and able to overcome the mindless automata that the immortals around you have become.
Immortal Planet’s graphics have clean lines and a sort-of dark cartoonish feel to them. Textures and colours are mostly very simple and plain, but the overall effect is quite striking at times. The game is played from a fixed isometric view and though you can move freely about in any direction, characters only face in one the four basic directions.
Animations look reasonably fluid, though restricted to the four facings, and are mostly very slow. Weapon effects, dust from footfalls, and various other little touches bring a bit more life to the otherwise fairly sterile environment.
Levels are sparsely decorated, but interesting, with individual areas mostly made up of a small number of interconnected rooms and having certain themes to them. After you’ve seen each area a handful of times, though, they start to seem a bit bland and repetitive. After you’ve seen some areas 20 or more times, you might be wishing for a bit more variation.
Graphics options are limited to vsync and full-screen / windowed mode selection. I haven’t experienced any graphical slowdown, but the game does play very slowly regardless.
Music is excellent. The title theme reminds me of Excalibur, with a low, rumbling bass and powerful, orchestral melody. In-game music is sparse and quiet — like the levels themselves — and elicits a feeling of loneliness and dilapidation, which matches the setting to a tee. Boss battle music is louder and more frantic, again suiting the action very well.
Sound effects fulfil their role respectably. Sword swipes, blocks, and various other effects are well normalised and appropriate, and footsteps are nice and quiet, but loud enough to be heard. Some sort of reaction from the various immortals, including the player character, when they’re getting hacked to pieces would have been a nice addition.
There are no voices.
While Immortal Planet’s story sounds grand, the basic gameplay has been seen before in other “souls-like” games. To mix it up a bit, Immortal Planet does it all from an isometric action RPG perspective, which is reasonably well done, and adds some frustrating platforming elements, which are definitely not. Like the original Dark Souls PC release, keyboard controls are pretty terrible, too, but the developers admit this at the beginning: “this game should be played with a controller.” Listen to them!
The game begins with you choosing a weapon and a relic, from a choice of three each. These are quite different and each has a different play style to gain the most benefit from it, but beyond these selections, there is no character customisation at all.
You then spawn into a starting area that’s relatively easy and provides you with a basic movement and action tutorial through in-game signs that pop up. It’s quite well done and gives you just enough information to get started. The controls are basic: one button each for attack, block, dash/dodge, and interact, and four buttons for your inventory items. You can hold the attack button to ‘awaken’ your weapon, but other than some rather abstract in-game text in the inventory and compendium (available from the start button menu), the game effects of this are unexplained.
Each enemy you encounter will attack you when they see you, with various patterns available to them. Combat is all about learning the patterns and responding with your own patterns. See that guy? Swing three times, then dodge backwards, move out of the way of his ranged attack, walk around his grenade, then swing three times, dodge backwards, … . If you don’t know the patterns, you’ll get hit. Get hit enough and you die, respawning back at your cryopod. Bosses only differ in that they have four health levels, with each level increasing the available patterns. They also do a lot of damage and take a lot to kill.
When you defeat an enemy you gain experiences, which you can spend to level up your five basic attributes: Strength, Agility, Endurance, Willpower, and Intelligence. These affect secondary attributes such as health, number of uses of items, and damage. Each time you level up an attribute, the cost for your next level up increases, reducing the effectiveness of grinding the same enemies. If you die while in possession of experiences, they will be dropped. If you manage to return to your place of death before dying again you can collect these experiences in full, as well as heal yourself. Whenever you return to your cryopod you are also fully healed, but all of the level’s enemies respawn. This does not reset switches or other level state.
After some time you’ll find a sort of shop where you can spend experiences on other items, too, and you’ll occasionally pick up some different items and abilities. But this is not a loot-based game, so don’t expect rogue-like loot drops. The game is rather small in size, with its longevity produced through repetition, grinding out enemies and areas until you’re powerful enough to proceed.
There are a few niggling issues, but overall the game is quite stable. So far I’ve seen some rather glaring grammatical errors, though most of the text is surprisingly good, and I found that F12 doesn’t work for taking in-game screenshots using Steam. The only definite bug I’ve encountered so far is related to achievements, which seem to only drop some of the time; you should expect to have to play through multiple times to unlock them all.
More important are some questionable design decisions. Instant death from dodging off a ledge is a big one, which makes combat in tight spaces very frustrating, and the platforming elements downright annoying. The combat is very heavily stamina based, but enemies don’t seem to suffer quite the same effects as you do. The difficulty curve is quite strange, too: more like a seismograph readout than a curve.
Pros and Cons
+ Interesting setting
+ Eerie music
+ Steam Achievements
– Instant death makes platforming elements not fun
– No character customisation
– Limited character progression
– Combat gets boring quickly
– Relatively short: longevity through repetition
– Achievements don’t always drop when they should
Immortal Planet is an interesting game. It has a very similar gameplay style to Dark Souls, with obvious graphical differences, but where the former gave the feeling that it was a large, open world available for grinding in order to improve your character, Immortal Planet’s relatively small size and small-room layout makes the grinding feel more … grindy.
If you’re a fan of the genre then you should get a good few hours’ enjoyment out of Immortal Planet, but I can’t help wishing there was more to it.