I love strategy games but at present, I do not a PC so I have been lacking some good strategy action in my life since the days of Rome: Total War.
As an exclusive console gamer, for the time being, the mechanics of the strategy game do not always translate to the controller so it can be a real crapshoot. The DualShock 4 will never be as intuitive and smooth as a mouse and keyboard when it comes to the strategy genre, some developers don’t really know how to adapt to the changes and it becomes a real struggle.
Thankfully, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars did not suffer from this problem. While the tutorial mode was essential for getting used to the console-specific controls, they were not hard to work out. Not every element is covered in great depth with the tutorial but with just enough trial and error you work out what needs to be done. The actual control scheme is fairly straight forward for a console controller, with only a few buttons being in play, each covering a different function. It wisely avoids making you click on on-screen panels, as you would with a PC game, it just wants you to make the right button input. The square button covered a lot of ground by being the action button, the options available through that button would change depending on where you were stood in the map.
It is a very streamlined strategy game, there isn’t a lot of empire building, you get a map with existing structures and your job is to travel around and claim rival settlements, gather resources (blood), turn humans into more vampires, and destroy anyone who challenges you. This is not an in-depth management based strategy like Total War or Civilisation, and its simplicity is to its credit. This is a more action facing strategy, there isn’t a lot of room for politics and admin, the resource gathering exists to make you better at destroying your enemies. It’s not nearly as engrossing as the titans of the genre but it is incredibly fun to play.
The combat is turn-based with a limited number of units on screen, nothing too elaborate in design into offers a handful of strategic options, but enough to make things engaging.
The battlegrounds have a nice mix of biomes, which ensures the combat does not get aesthetically samey, even if every map is basically a big rectangle with different obstacles plotted around.
You take turns moving your units, two moves per unit, very standard stuff. What Immortal Realms adds is the use of card mechanics. You get a deck of enhancement cards that you can play while exploring the map or during combat, the cards add some interesting new dimensions to army building, resource management, and combat. But be careful because your opponent also has a deck of cards at their disposal.
The battles are relatively short but they break up the exploration and resource collection sections of the game nicely, without taking forever to complete. Nothing in this game is going to pull you into a black hole where you decide to do a few rounds of Civilisation and suddenly it’s 4am and you are still saying “just one more turn.” Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a much brisker experience, which is ideal for consoles.
Campaign mode covers multiple stories with different vampire clans in different regions. The stories are told through semi-animated still art and mini cut scenes done with in-game models, which evokes memories of early World of WarCraft. The stories are not too elaborate, with hardly any depth, but they more than justify the gameplay that follows.
Sandbox mode allows you to customise your game, choosing your clan, location, and win conditions, on top of adjusting AI ability to cater to your preferred tempo of play. This was my preferred mode as I could have a few rounds with some deeply stupid AI, just to feel like a badass, but I could also up the challenge to ridiculous degrees and see how long I last. The freedom of customisation appealed to me massively, getting to decide how I play the game rather than having goals forced on me.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars doesn’t come close to the likes of Total War but it definitely has a place as a solid entry point for console gamers who don’t get to experience many games in this genre.
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