Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars Review

Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a strategy game set in the 15th century in a reality where humanity is subservient to vampire overlords. Those who “donate” their blood are allowed to live peacefully, while those who don’t are never heard from again—or at least that’s what the load screen tips keep telling me. These aren’t your cold, sparkly vampires from the Twilight series, but the bloodthirsty undead who “turn” the general population to fill out their ranks and bleed villages dry as they see fit.
Speaking of bleeding villages dry: that’s an actual thing you can do in game. It’s not nearly as graphic as it sounds which I think, at the risk of sounding like a sociopath, would be pretty cool—but rather one of several tasks you’ll be doing regularly to maintain your ranks. The currency used to fuel your vampiric crusade is blood, which is used to recruit new units, play cards, and pay for equipment for your lords. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is set on a map, where movement from tile to tile costs action points or AP. You move your team as a whole, rather than as individual units, just like in a real time strategy game. I mean, you could move every single unit individually, but their combat abilities would be vastly hindered. Tiles have structures on them, whether that means dark forests, spooky caves, or human cities and villages ready for the bloodletting, and each has its own use. Terrain, for example, can be utilized as a source of feral allied units upon using a recruitment card. Inhabited structures can be used to recruit more vampires, but are also places to heal your units and feed. Towns have a population that is dropped to zero if you decide to do the latter, making it difficult to maintain upkeep of your armies. Other important structures include Keeps, which are the base of operations for your lord and his or her armies, the Blacksmith where you can purchase equipment, the Library where you can purchase additional cards, and a Wishing Stone where you can apply a random buff to your units—for a cost. You can claim these structures and more for the cost of one action point, so long as the unclaimed territory is adjacent to territory that’s already under your control.
Now what’s this lord business I keep going on about? A vampire lord is your premier unit that leads your army, can claim territory, and is more powerful than your typical grunt. They are capable of leveling up and learning skills, and provides your coven with an overarching play style depending on what legacy you unlock. Legacy trees grant you overarching bonuses to your vampire clan and its head and you gain a point to add to a branch each time you level up. Naturally, a unit this special needs to be safeguarded in battle, otherwise the battle will come to an abrupt end. Conversely, if you strike the killing blow on the other army’s leader, battle goes on as usual. This was inane and unfair, considering the odds are often stacked in the enemy’s favour; why is my army bound to different rules than the AI’s army? After a loss, you can respawn your Lord, sans his army which is just as good as getting a game over because chances are you don’t have the resources to start all over again. You’re also unable to recruit units the way you learned in the tutorial  in the initial acts for some godawful reason. As such, Immortal Realms is poorly balanced and will pose a struggle for players who are just trying to learn the game.

While your regular units don’t gain experience, every combat encounter you manage to win adds a veterancy notch to their belts, making them hardier and more difficult to kill. During combat in Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, you have direct control of your units. Before you deploy your team, you’re given a glimpse of how battle will go for you. Chances are, if the other team has greater power to they’ll wipe the floor with you and vice versa. You can auto-resolve combat if the outcome projection is at least “very likely.” Then, you are allowed to position your offensive line—a literal line of two rows of tiles. Also on the battlefield are Monuments, which cast an aura you can stand in in order to glean their benefits. These do things like recover your health, bulk up your attack, and allow you to teleport to some far off point on the map.
Lords on either side have aspiration bonuses, achieved by doing a specific task. The most common is dealing with damage. The enemy often has the aspiration opposite yours (in our previous example, that would mean receiving damage), which means they’ll gain bonuses as you do. Much like in the Pokemon games where the enemy teams are inexplicably better equipped/cooler than yours, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars tends to hold you at a disadvantage during the campaign. Your units have a single skill at their disposal, which means the majority of the battle will take place via basic attacks. Your lord has a selection of five Spells that can be used at the cost of Mana, which does not generate over time unless you learn a Legacy that allows you to or you have a buff in place. In order to win most fights against higher level enemies (your bosses and whatnot) I found myself dedicating huge amounts of time to shoring up my numbers so that when the enemy inevitably killed off my cannon fodder units, my lord could sweep in and strike the killing blow. It’s not until later levels that you’re able to summon higher tier units that can hold their own, so it becomes a tug-o-war of sacrificing and recruiting.
Do you like bottlenecks? I’m not talking about the dolphins, I’m referring to the noun meaning “a narrow section of road or a junction that impedes traffic flow” wherein traffic is your units and the narrow section is created by the fact that for some arbitrary reason, units can’t move past each other. This is a huge turn off for me in turn-based strategy games on a grid as it inflates the number of turns you have to take rerouting your forces and inconveniences attack plans. Everything can be stopped by one poorly placed unit. To compound that issue, there’s no undo function. This drives me insane. I’m human and therefore flawed and sometimes I don’t know what the hell I’m doing while other times I miss-click. Whatever the case may be, having each decision be unchangeable—in a game where one bad decision can screw everything else up for you—is unnecessary and tested the limits of my patience. Another thing that tested my patience was the limited voice lines every unit proudly declared at the beginning of their turn. Seriously? WE SERVE DRACUL and FOR THE DRACUL became tiresome in the first battle of Act I.

After you win an altercation, you’ll gain experience for your lord and also a new card to add to your hand. Sometimes, you’re also awarded equipment which is also in card form and can be played on your lord to equip him. There’s a limited pool of equipment available, and it falls into one of four categories: helmet, armour, weapon, and ring. You can have one of each equipped, with the exception of the ring, which you can have two of, and new equipment destroys the old equipment. Included in party management is those pesky Legacies I mentioned earlier, which are perks like additional HP and, later, an additional tier of units. Your lord’s Spells can also be upgraded, but they can be improved upon only once. Upgrades were underwhelmed in terms of variety, though their effects were worthwhile.

The campaign is split into three clans— Dracul, Nosfernus, and Moroia—and no matter how the sexily posed, clearly undead lady lounging in a throne on the Moroia tab piques your curiosity, you have to play through the preceding campaign before unlocking the next. Even if they have nothing to do with one another. While I’m not a fan of this style (suppose I just really want to play the lady vampire’s campaign and don’t give a hoot about the others?), there’s no point in complaining about it. Each campaign is broken into four acts, over the course of which you’ll experience the stories of a different vampiric head honcho. It’ll take you anywhere from an hour to three (and that’s pushing it) to finish an act, for a total of around 30 hours of the campaign once you factor in load screens and cutscenes… Assuming you can make it past the grueling first campaign. I’m all for a challenge, but seeing being pushed down while still learning the ropes and kicked while I’m down isn’t my idea of a good time. Those load screens I mentioned are a persistent issue, by the way, particularly at an act’s conclusion, where they can drag on for a good 30 seconds or so. There’s also a load screen every time you enter combat and every time you leave it, bogging down the whole process. Every act has its own mission rules and is divided into a series of evolving win conditions you must complete to progress the story. These rules include things like changing the way recruitment has to be carried out and limiting your lord’s maximum level and are generally there to make things more inconvenient for you, the player.

In a skirmish, you can select which of the three clans you play as and which of the three clans you play against. I also assumed incorrectly from the name that this would be an online component, so don’t feel too badly. Your lord remains the same as the one you saw in the campaign, depending on which clan you choose, but you can change their background which affects their passive abilities and how they grow. You can select what equipment each lord wears from the meager in-game offerings, and decide the map on which you’d like your battle to take place. You can also set the level of both lords, meaning you can be at the advantage for once. Then, your two Lords duke it out vampire-a-vampire. And that’s it. These are very, very short when compared to the tediously long battles of the campaign and felt pointless. What am I doing here, proving which Lord is better? The only female character, duh. Afterward, you’re dumped back into the skirmish main menu in the off chance you want to try again with different lords.

In sandbox, you choose one of our three clans, one of our four maps, and one of three win conditions. There’s a handful of options to fine-tune your battle, like AI handicap and how much blood and experience you gain, and then you dive into much of the same. This would have been Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars’s saving grace as far as replayability, had the offerings not been so sparse. There’s really not much more to say about it; it’s just like the campaign only slightly different in that some aspects are customizable and there’s no story holding everything together.

I know I mentioned it before briefly, but the graphics are, for lack of a better term, muddy on the battlefield. You can’t even zoom in close enough to make out the blurry number over top your units, which is supposed to denote their combat strength. Fortunately, the AI is clear and easy to read, but seeing the two side by side only makes it more obvious that Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is no graphical champion. The three available terrains–a normal area and then an icy one and one that looks like it’s covered in miasma–are neat to look at, at least for the first couple of hours, but those, too, are lacking in diversity.

The bones of a good game are here, but Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars’s delivery fails to add the all-important meaty bits that keep the player engaged. The gameplay is lacking in some aspects and additional game modes do little to add a breath of fresh air to the staleness, as they should. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience recommend Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars out the gate, at full price. Maybe after the quality of life improvements and some free DLC that diversifies the current offerings or at a steep discount—and only if you’ve already beat the absolute hell out of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and are jonesing for your next strategic fix.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars Review
  • Gameplay - 5/10
    5/10
  • Graphics - 4/10
    4/10
  • Sound - 5/10
    5/10
  • Replay Value - 6/10
    6/10
0/10
User Review
0/10 (0 votes)
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Comments Rating 0/10 (0 reviews)
Overall
5/10

Pros

• Challenging, tactical combat
• Thematically strong
• Card-based skill system can change the tides of war if utilized properly.

Cons

• Voice acting phoned in, and reused ad nauseam during combat
• Graphically fuzzy on Nintendo Switch
• Different game modes don’t offer much variety
• Frequent, sometimes lengthy load screens.
• Character portraits difficult to distinguish on the fly, slowing down the process of selecting the right unit. Easy to lose place of units on the battlefield.