It’s a bit of a funny thing, comparing your game to Dark Souls. It’s something we’re hearing a lot more of these days, though typically it’s down to some overwhelming difficulty that frightens off gamers before they’ve even had a chance to play it. With Immortal Planet though it’s more of a direct comparison – it’s essentially an isometric, bite-size Dark Souls with its own little twists on the formula. Does it manage to re-create the experience perfectly? No, not really, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth taking a look at.
Immortal Planet’s similarities to the Dark Souls series open almost immediately, with the game throwing you into a desolate world with a fairly obscure introduction. Basically, you play the role of an Awakewalker who has to help fix the world from the icy state it finds itself in. That’s really wrapping it up in a nutshell, but it’s the kind of game where you learn more about the lore from interacting with as many characters as you can and finding it all out by yourself. It doesn’t really go into a whole lot of depth, but there’s some detail there if you’re willing to look for it.
The game allows you to create your own character, though you can only really customise two things: your choice of weapon and starting bonus item. Fortunately, as you progress through the game you can level up individual stats, giving you a fair degree of flexibility with what kind of character build you have. Levelling up is done at the Cryochambers (the equivalent of Dark Souls’ Bonfires) where you can spend your experience points. What happens to any experience points when you die, you ask? You lose them all, but you can recover them if you reach the point where you died on your next attempt, of course.
Interestingly though, recovering your experience points also recovers your health and stamina. This adds a welcome change to the formula; typically, if a boss had beat me I’d rush in to grab my precious experience points as soon as possible to alleviate the risk of losing them for good, but since it could heal me I’d now consider waiting until my health was a little lower in order to reap its recovery benefits. This added the risk of dying and losing them altogether, but getting that extra boost to your health often made the difference between defeating a boss or getting killed by them all over again. It adds a strategic change to the formula that shows that Immortal Planet has a few clever ideas of its own.
Understandably, the combat itself feels a lot more like it’s come straight out of Dark Souls, with the player able to string together combos and defensive manoeuvres providing they don’t empty their stamina bar. You’ve got standard and charged attacks that you can perform, as well as a dodge and a block that’ll get you out of harm’s way. If you’re going to survive you’ll need to balance out everything you do, with a good combination of both offensive and defensive actions performed to take on enemies – you don’t want to waste all of your stamina beating an enemy to a pulp, since you’ll need some to protect yourself when they’re on the counter-attack.
Again though, Immortal Planet shows that it has its own ideas thanks to the fact you can actually see the stamina bar of each enemy you face off against. It levels the playing field, with the player actually able to work out when an enemy is most vulnerable or when they’re able to unleash some brutal attacks of their own. An enemy with low stamina is also more vulnerable to a smash attack, with the player able to effectively ‘dodge’ into them to stun them – if you do the same again whilst they’re stunned you’ll hit them across the battlefield a bit, allowing you to knock them to their death in one of the endless pits if you’re accurate enough. On the flipside, if you try doing it to an enemy that has a lot of stamina you’ll become stunned yourself, leaving yourself open to a barrage of enemy attacks. It’s risk and reward, though the fact you can see each enemy’s stamina bar often works it in your favour.
There’s quite a decent variety of enemies on offer, with each environment you work across having a handful of unique foes. Admittedly, outside of their physical design they often felt a little familiar from a gameplay perspective, but they all looked great at least. It was nice to come up against more sci-fi themed foes, with Immortal Planet offering a different vibe to the gothic fantasy nature of the Dark Souls series.
Whilst combat is enjoyable enough, the AI could be a little dumb at times. It felt too easy to exploit enemies, especially in one on one situations. They’d often leave themselves vulnerable when trying to send an attack your way, with them seemingly fixated on one direction and not always adjusting when the player moves. It made a lot of confrontations easy to overcome, especially against enemies with a limited range of moves.
Bosses were great though and added something a little different to the game’s combat, forcing you to think a bit more and actually take your time. Each boss’ attack pattern would change up as you progressed through the battle, whilst their considerable health bars could make for some lengthy showdowns. The only real disappointing thing about them was their appearance, with each one simply looking like a slightly bigger enemy. Dark Souls often sent giant beasts after you, so it was a little underwhelming that their presence often felt so small in Immortal Planet.
Whilst Dark Souls prided itself on its stunning locales, exotic locations, and the beautiful vistas that surround you, Immortal Planet instead offers isometric environments that are a little less detailed. Yes, they are nice enough, but there’s nothing about them that really stands out, with them typically made up of a series of pathways with little detail surrounding them. They lack that overwhelming allure that brought the world of Dark Souls to life, with everything feeling a little bit samey regardless of where you are – at least it never looks bad though.
That doesn’t mean that the level design itself doesn’t feature the same hallmarks of the Dark Souls series though, with plenty of shortcuts to unlock as you make your way through them. Whilst not necessarily huge labyrinths, some levels were quite lengthy with the shortcuts feeling like a necessity when trying to make your way through them after dying time and time again.
Unfortunately though, the shortcuts weren’t always that convenient – especially when facing off against the game’s bosses. Dark Souls always got it right by making it easy enough to follow a quick shortcut back to any bosses that might’ve beaten you with very little in the form of hindrances on the way. Immortal Planet on the other hand often had plenty of enemies along the path, with no real way of avoiding them. Not that it’d matter if you could – you can’t progress to the next room in an area until you’ve cleared out all enemies that are aware of your presence. The process of beating the tricky bosses in a game like this is often one made up of trial and error, with the player slowly getting better and better after every attempt they make. The fact that Immortal Planet often makes it a difficult chore to get back to them to try again ended up feeling frustrating, with the game making it difficult to learn the boss’ moveset and any tricks to overcome them.
It won’t take you to long to complete Immortal Planet with the game easily cleared in around six hours, though there’s a New Game Plus mode on offer for those who want to go through it again. It’s actually pretty tough, with some harsh difficulty spikes present for those who’ve completed the game once – I’ve had a crack at it and I’ve barely managed to make any progress so far. However, it’s the only way to get the ‘true ending’, so it’ll be worth taking a look at if you want to get more from the game. Let’s just say the nasty difficulty might keep you playing for quite some time…
I’ve made quite a few comparisons between Dark Souls and Immortal Planet in this review, and to be honest it’s been a little unfair – after all, Immortal Planet is a much smaller game by an even smaller team. It’s more of a bite-size edition of the game that manages to capture the feel of the Dark Souls series, but not the essence. That being said, fans of FROM Software’s much loved series will certainly have fun Immortal Planet. It’s far from perfect, but its satisfying combat mechanics and introduction of its own ideas certainly help it offer a thoroughly enjoyable take on Dark Souls’ tough as nails formula.
Release Date: 27/07/2017