Immortals of Aveum Interview – World Building, Not Being a Fantasy Call of Duty Game

Immortals of Aveum Interview

Just a few days ago, EA finally lifted the lid on Ascendant Studios’ upcoming first-person magic-based action game “Immortals of Aveum.” Not only did we get a new trailer featuring gameplay, but we also got a ton of new info straight from the studio as well.

MP1st was invited to a closed media briefing for the game where games media were given the chance to ask questions to Ascendant Studios. Answering for the dev team are game director Brett Robbins, Julia Lichtblau (Associate Art Director), Dave Bogan (Senior Art Director), and Kevin Boyle (Executive Producer).

In the interview, Ascendant explains Immortal of Aveum’s insipiration, how the game takes around 25 hours to complete, and more! While Robbins used to work on Call of Duty, the studio also explains how it’s not just Call of Duty but with a fantasy setting too.

Note that the question and answer shown below is from a group session interview.

Q: With this battlemage type of gameplay, did you use some learnings taken from previous similar titles and or did that lead to some unique features that sets this game apart from those?

Bret Robbins: That’s a great question. So, you know, definitely my time on Call of Duty was instrumental in  how I wanted the combat to feel on that franchise. We’d focus a lot on making sure that the combat was fluid and fast and really smooth, running at a high frame rate, super important for that experience.

I think I brought a lot of that to what we’re doing here. The challenge, of course, is that we don’t have traditional guns. We have magic and spells, and we spent a lot of time making that feel really visceral, impactful, and not feel soft or, or feel strange to what a shooter fan might expect.

I think the great advantage we had was that we are a magic game. You can do anything you want. You can create all sorts of cool abilities and spells. You have a very large canvas to play on.So large in fact that we had to put our own rules around magic and around what we can do.

And we had to make some decisions early on about what the nature of magic was going to be. We’re not Harry Potter, we’re something else where a battle age. So I wanted to keep things very visceral and, and exciting and make sure that the player felt really powerful.

Q: Are there any plans for multiplayer or cooperative play?

Bret Robbins: We have spent some time thinking about that for sure. We may have spent some time working on that as well, but we’re not ready to really talk about anything like that. We’re focused fully on the single player story and the experience right now.

Q Since you’re not using actual guns in the game, were there any traditional FPS mechanics (reloading, cover system, etc) that you enjoyed breaking or reworking with the magic system?

Bret Robbins: We made a lot of decisions around magic and how we wanted it to feel different than traditional guns.

For one thing, I didn’t wanna make a traditional cover shooter. I didn’t think the fantasy that I was trying to create involved you, hiding behind a bush and firing your wand over it. I wanted instead the player to feel like a gun slinger, someone who could walk into an area and be a badass basically.

One of the early mechanics we developed was the shield. You bring your own cover with you. You’re able to create your shield, you can fire through it, it has a cost of movement. You move a little slower and it’s got a certain amount of health. It’ll shatter after a while.

That was a very interesting mechanic to bring and to move away from the traditional kind of cover shooters that I had worked on before. There’s a lot of decisions like that throughout where we’re trying to walk that line between being both familiar to shooter players, but also bringing something new and interesting to the table.

The fact that we’re magic, opens up those possibilities, quite a bit.

Q: Do the tattoos play any role or significance in the character’s powers and abilities? Or are they simply cosmetics?

Dave Bogan: That’s a great question, one I wasn’t expecting. I would say that the tattoos are not directly attached to gameplay at all or your abilities per se, but everything in the art has a reason and a purpose. And I would say that the tattoos help build out our lore and our storytelling for the characters.

Without giving away spoilers or anything like that. They directly tie into the storytelling, the origins of the characters, their place and the story and their status in the world. They have significance, but are not directly attached to gameplay.

Immortals of Aveum Gameplay

Q: Who is the composer for the game?

Bret Robbins: We had a few different composers working on the game. We had Tom Hawk and Jamie K were two of the primary ones. And  our Audio Director Aubrey Hodges also did a lot of work on music. It’s all original music,

Q: How would you describe the aesthetic of the world, its architecture and the magic visuals, how do you want players to feel when they see these landmarks and fight in these environments?

Julia Lichtblau: We really want to tell a story of this brand new universe and when a player steps into our game, they feel grounded. They do see some things that they recognize.

A lot of the plant life is just reminiscent of Earth. But then we throw in a lot of unique architecture, some of which is these big, solid stone military walls. But then you’re also seeing vestiges of older civilizations that suggest that this world has been around through many cataclysms and many ever.

And there’s just a lot more to uncover about it, and you get to see all these different civilizations and start to kind of unlock those mysteries as you move through our game.

Dave Bogan:  Right from the beginning, when I first started and even interviewed with Brett, He had a pretty solid vision for what he wanted to do and when I first started out, top of mind was always to stay away from typical tropes in fantasy and just to start from a fresh palette to always try to reach out for the unexpected, for the audience and the player.

That was top of mind. And throughout that we landed in this great place where we have a unique world that’s not Earth. It’s a different planet called Aveum and it’s a great mixture, between old world styled fantasy kind of binded with a lot of simplified sci-fi shaped language that’s kind of inspiring a lot of our not just architecture, but vehicles or even even the weaponry in the game.

So it’s kind of this nice, kind of unique look.

Q: From what I’ve seen in gameplay, there are a lot of attacks using the four elements (elements), but are there any special magic spells that curse the opponent, or control light or darkness, time or space?

Bret Robbins: There are a lot of interesting abilities there actually is a spell that controls time.

I would say overall about the spell system and the magic system. I wanted everything  to create synergy between all the different powers. We are kind of loosely referred to it as a comboing system, but really what it means is, I want to use the right spell at the right time and combine it with other spells.

And I don’t mean like I’m creating a recipe or anything. It’s more like if I have an enemy that’s far away, I want to use my lash to bring them in closely so I can hit ’em at close range and do more damage to ’em. I use a different spell to create a sort of gravitational vortex that pulls a lot of enemies in so I can hit them with an aoe.

There’s a lot of different abilities and ideas, mixed up in the combat system and beyond that, the three colors, red, green, and blue, each having a certain personality to them. Significance, the ability to be more effective against certain types of enemies. Certain enemies being vulnerable to a certain magic type, for example.

All of this is part of our goal of creating a very deep system. The controls and the spells will feel somewhat familiar to people when they first start the game and start playing it. And then the depth starts to reveal itself. As you keep playing, there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot of ways to, to master the game which I’m really excited about.

Q: How does this game go beyond that initial idea of Call of Duty but with magic?

Bret Robbins: I started with a loose idea around a magic shooter and of course I was working on Call of Duty and, some thoughts sort of along those lines very quickly, the game evolved into something pretty different. We are not, you know, fantasy Call of Duty. We are our own game.

We have a lot of world exploration, a lot of puzzles, puzzle mechanics, a lot of additional content. It’s a huge game.If you’re just trying to play it straight through, it’s well over 20, 25 hours. And if you want to really explore and do a lot, it gets quite a bit longer than that.

The idea of of making a magic shooter, that was the initial vision and inspiration. And then as I brought on more people, as we really started to develop the ideas and develop what the game would be, things evolved and changed, always for the better.

Where we are now, I feel like we’re going to deliver on something pretty unique.

Kevin Boyle: Beyond the mechanics of the game, from a narrative perspective, this is a story you could not tell with a contemporary backdrop. The world building, the conflict evolves over the course of the game. It is very specific to Aveum and kind of the nature of the conflict in this world.

That’s one of the huge points of appeal for me.

Q: Will there be a photomode inc at all? the enviro and characters look stunning?

Bret Robbins:  We’re not revealing our full feature set yet at this time. There will be a lot of cool features.

Q: Will it require to be always online, despite being single player and will it have in-game monetization?

Bret Robbins:  None of the above.You’re not required to be online to play. It is single player and there is no in-game monetization.

Q: Are you able to change between types of magic and abilities the same way you would choose guns and grenades? Or are the powers locked in for the red/blue/green abilities?

Bret Robbins: You actually have quite a bit of variety within the red, green, and blue spells. What you saw in the video was the sigils that you focus your magical power through.

They actually come in a few different varieties. So even though you’re using a blue sigil that has a very distinct type of attack, you can find different sigils that will alter that attack and make it behave quite a bit differently. For example, in Blue Magic, there’s the javelin sigil.

And the javelin sigil allows you to actually power up a big shot that does a lot more damage, but is a slower rate of fire. In a way, we have different guns throughout the sigil types, but because it’s magic, we can do quite a bit more than you could with standard modern guns.

Within the sigils there’s variety. And a big part of the game is the gear system, the talent system, the fact that you’re able to really customize your play style. If you want to play a faster character that’s gonna do a lot of close range damage. You want to rush enemies or you want to bring them in with your lash.

You can build a character through your talents and your gear that really, emphasized that and, and increase your power in those areas. Or if you find a spell you really like, you can double down on that. Find gear and talents that make that even more. There’s a lot of variety.

There’s a lot of reasons to experiment with different builds. Ultimately there’ll be a lot of reasons to replay the game and, and try different tactics.

Q: When you first created the world of Aveum, what was your main inspiration?

Julia Lichtblau: A big inspiration for just the natural world like I said before, we really wanted to sort of ground this world a bit and make the player feel like this is an earth-like space. Obviously we had the opportunities to do a lot of exploration with magic and magical types of foliage that we saw in some of the environments featured before, but there are still a lot of very natural, realistic plants that you might see in your backyard. And we’re here in beautiful, Northern California.

As I was doing some research for basic plant life and flowers just to sort of fill out our pastures, I discovered that there’s quite a few endangered species just in our own local area. That sort of got me on a quest to represent a lot of endangered species in North America. Most of the trees and the bushes and anything that’s not very magic related, actually is a real endangered species of a plant.

That was just a really interesting way of incorporating this environmental environmentalism and exposing players to these very sort of underrepresented species that are quite beautiful and unique in their own way, just as all of the magical plant life that we’ve created is unique as well.

Dave Bogan: Thematically that works with our world and our setting. The overuse of magic in the world and the ripple effect it has on everyone’s lives. That’s kind of a direct parallel to our current world in our state. Beyond the environments, on biomes and things like that.

When I first started, Brett not only showed me a 60 page design document, but he kind of barraged me with, a lot of conceptual visuals that he’s drawn to. Pairing that with my own kind of inspiration. You know, growing up watching all kinds of cartoons and comics and, and movies.

This project has been just a godsend in terms of being able to inject all this visual inspiration from my childhood. The old grander cartoon or the silences from Battle Star Galactica or growing up playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s all kind of like merging and creating this unique kind of binding, visual binding sense of all my childhood inspirations.

So it’s been really, really amazing.

Q: If you could pick only one aspect of the game that the team is particularly proud of and that you think makes the game unique and special and everyone should try out, what would it be?

Kevin Boyle: I’d start with something that I touched on a bit before that doesn’t necessarily come across with all the flash of the preview trailer type stuff, and that is kind of the development of these characters and the relationships and your investment.

As a player in this story, the mechanics I think feel great and are hitting the nail on the head in a lot of ways, but it’s the context for the use of those mechanics that I find particularly interesting. What you’re trying to do as Jack, the crisis of this place and the conflict you’ve been caught up in.

So, for me that’s a combination of amazing writing and just incredible cast. And really well executed character models and animation and cinematics and audio that all comes together to effectively tell a story that I still enjoy as someone who’s really deep in it on a daily basis.

So I’m really looking forward to players getting a chance to take that in.

Julia Lichtblau:  I was just going to touch on that, we have such an amazing cast of characters that being able to go around and speak to all of the NPCs and the extra characters around, they’re all just fully fleshed out with their own unique backstory, their own sort of dialogue, how they teach, they talk, their history, where they come from.

You can engage  in just really fun, witty back and forth banter with a whole host of characters that I still enjoy going and finding different people in different areas of the game and just hearing where they came from. And it’s just very, Very exciting and very fun, and enjoyable.

Bret Robbins: I think for myself, I’m hoping people really enjoy the world building,and to me that’s kind of a combination of all of the above. We spent a lot of time and effort to make sure the world felt consistent, both in terms of the combat,the storytelling, and marrying those things together.

I spent a lot of my career working on single player campaigns and trying to walk that line of really merging game design with narrative in fluid and interesting ways, and we had the opportunity to create a whole new world and a whole new cast of characters and a new story and a new combat system and everything was new.

And so trying to keep that all as a consistent world that makes sense, that feels lived in, that feels both believable but also fantastical. Those are really our goals and I feel like we did a really good job of that. I think we have something that feels like a very new place and a new experience.

The story, the combat, the enemies, the puzzles, the exploration, all of that sort of wraps together into world building. And I hope people really, I feel like people will really enjoy our world.

Dave Bogan: From my perspective, I think it’s obvious. I’m super proud of the art that we’ve been able to generate.

Everything from the VFX to the environments, to the animation and the characters models.Everything’s really, really quite pleasing, from my perspective. I would want to double down on the heart of the product and the writing in the world building. It’s just really strong.

There’s a lot of games where you kind of like the cinematics start to play and you just gotta roll your eyes and tune out because it’s not well written or the voice acting isn’t quite hitting it. We’ve just been super fortunate and on top of that, being able to be uninhibited creatively.

For all the people that made this possible, like Brett and Brian and even EA, we’ve been able to do what we’re really kind of yearning for, in a story in a world, without any limitations really. As well, working in Unreal for the first time, it’s just been, it’s been bonkers in terms of visuals we’ve been able to create.

The whole recipe of all that is,  and throw in the passion of the people that work here, it’s been amazing. I Love it.

Immortals of Aveum will be released this July 20, 2023 on the PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. 

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago


Top Games and Upcoming Releases