Souls-like might be my least favorite descriptor of the last few years. For some reason, everything about it feels like a lazy attempt to draw people in and make them excited about a game bordering on unfairness in terms of either difficulty, layout or just plain “you gonna die.” Part of my exasperation is that, due to the amorphous way it’s used, I feel like a vast majority of games on the NES could have been described as “souls-like” had there been a precedent back in the 80s and 90s. In any case, it’s a red flag that games throw up when the creators slap the label on them, and the game then needs to work exceptionally hard to curry my favor back in the positive realm. Thankfully, teedoubleuGAMES did just that when they put the challenge up with their action RPG, Immortal Planet, and I can say, truthfully, that it is a challenging and enjoyable game that’s riiiight on the cusp of being a fool.
Atmospherically, Immortal Planet starts off EXACTLY how I want a game to begin. There were zero load panels for the developer or the publisher, I just saw the title of the game and we dived in after I confirmed who I was selecting. You don’t so much start the game, as you get dropped into the world after quickly choosing if you want to be faster, stronger, or more agile, and then off we go with just a hair more of an explanation. Later on, both through game lore and some deep digging on the game’s website, we find out that this is a planet where the Immortals sleep beneath, and deathless guards patrol, forever, on the frozen surface. You play a character known as an Awakewalker, a chosen entity who has been sprung from cryogenic sleep with no sense of direction, no memories and no immediate future other than “escape.” Your life is far from forfeit, though, as a side effect of this accursed planet is that you will live, die, and live again without any loss of sense or ability. You are equally as immortal as those who stand watch, and, for better or for worse, death is not your escape.
Immortal Planet is a top down action RPG with a slightly isometric feel, through there is nothing isometric about the combat. As you move forward, you quickly realize there is severe punishment awaiting you around each corner, and the enemies, though initially slow and sluggish (maybe due to the cold?) warm up to you a lot sooner than you’d like. Depending on the starting character you chose, you need to figure out the combat style that works best for you, be it careful and defensive, utterly brutal and forward, or if you must strike a balance in order to get the most out of your run. There’s a bit of mix and matching here that you need to sort of feel out to pick the better version, but I don’t recommend going with the shield weapon for your first go through. It’s very cool and can be incredibly strong, but it took a while for me to figure it out and I didn’t really care for the constant swap between offense and defense. Still, once you get moving, you’re off to the races, so I hope you choose something you enjoy, because that’s what you’re doing until this run eventually ends, and you’re in for quite an investment and a ride with Immortal Planet.
Combat, which is all that matters in this game, is pretty damn tight, though it can and will change as you level up and evolve. The base five stats that your character has affects them differently as you are able to find the cryochambers and dump your EXP into them. Strength will obviously up your attack power, but also has a pretty generous bump to your HP, whereas Endurance will favor your stamina more (allowing for more running and longer hit combos), so every point invested is a careful one. Stamina, the catchall bar, means that you need to balance your normal ground running (which is crucial since your character moves crazy slow otherwise), dashing to clear gaps and stun enemies, and, again, hit combos, because you need to get that damage in. However, just mashing the button and going to town on baddies can end badly in your favor: once your combo is done and your stamina is used up, you’re too tired to dash away or make a successful block, so mincemeat could be the new color of your future. As a result, you, early on, begin to learn the dance of Immortal Planet. Don’t pull your punches, but know when you can safely land the extra blow with time to spare, or if you dare risk two hits and pray that the enemy falls, because, otherwise, you will.
Though I’m normally a big proponent of playing in handheld mode, Immortal Planet is one of those games that just works better when docked and up on the big screen. For one, it felt like certain moments of lag occurred far less often when docked, which is quite important when you are literally surrounded by murderers. Additionally, the elongated real estate means better views of the world around you, and, due to the nature of the atmosphere, the smaller space doesn’t really telegraph well. That is to say, a lot of Immortal Planet is a combination of shadows and very industrial designs, from the Cellar to the Prison to the frozen outer layer, so it can be easy to overlook some great details on the smaller screen. Also, in my opinion, it’s super easy to end up getting the bad ending of the game without realizing there’s a possibility for another ending if you’ve got a smaller screen, because, hey, that looks like the end, let’s take it. It’s more than doable in handheld, but everything felt and looked sharper and better once I was docked.
You’ve really got to consider if you enjoy the concept of a souls-like game before you dive into Immortal Planet, because that’s the grand appeal of what you’re going to find. The bosses, no joke, are hard each and every time, and that’s even before you get to the unlockable Nightmare Mode. They have a ton of HP, different and frantic attack patterns, and punish you terribly if you decide not to invest in enough stamina. The dance is so important here because it can be the difference between getting out the other side or undocking your Switch and hurling it across the room. Your ranged attacks are usually quite limited, set up in an itemized and brief fashion, so hand-to-hand combat and careful choreography is the only way to get anywhere in the game. If you get a hang of the patterns, brilliant, you can survive. Also, be sure to take a second run once you’ve gotten even the bad ending: restarting with better weapon and artifact selection, plus a stronger knowledge of the best pathways to create in order to maximize efficiency.
Immortal Planet swings for the fences in terms of difficulty and presentation, and I think this is a solid home run for people looking to challenge themselves and be immersed in a dark, somewhat confusing lore surrounding a dead future society. The story of the Archivists, the Psykers, the icequakes and everything else is strangely compelling, if fragmented, and I love trying to decipher everything while also keeping my head on my shoulders. If there was a little more variety in the standard enemy types, I think this would be even better, but, as it stands, Immortal Planet stands very proudly as a memorable and exhilarating time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Immortal Planet Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
When death is just a frozen memory, your greatest challenge comes from keeping your fingers loose and your blood pressure down in this crazy difficult RPG.