Who Wants To War Forever?
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is set in an alternate universe 15th century where vampires do not hide in the shadows, but instead rule over much of the world as overlords. The player takes on the role of one of these undead rulers, managing the recruitment and movement of their armies through an overworld interface similar to the Total War games with turn-based combat and hero development system similar to the Heroes of Might and Magic series.
The combat takes place on a grid, and each map offers a good variety of strategic options to use against your opponent. Melee units can attack units adjacent to them and are also allowed a reduced strength retaliatory strike when attacked themselves. Units also take substantially more damage when flanked by adversaries to their side, and even more when completely surrounded. This is why good use of the terrain can be so important, as you can lure your foes into a position where they are flanked before obliterating them.
Likewise, having a good unit composition is very important. I would sometimes get into combat with human armies very heavy on cavalry or infantry who would be superior to my forces on paper. However, by only engaging in melee at bottlenecks in the terrain, like a narrow corridor in a city street or a passage between two trees in a forest, I was able to avoid being flanked. This also meant the majority of my opponent’s melee-focused army was just uselessly skipping turns as they were unable to engage while my archers pelted them with fire. The AI is far from stupid though, and there were more than a few occasions when I found myself totally outmaneuvered by a cunning foe who would use my army’s weaknesses against me.
There are even more tactical options available in combats as standing next to magical wells of power can give crucial bonuses to units, such as giving them the ability to teleport, which can be very handy to re-materialize swordsmen next to enemy archers and give them a jolly good pummeling.
Abilities also behoove the player to make canny use of the terrain. Cavalry units have a charge ability, which adds more damage for every tile they move across before making an attack. I found it very rewarding at times when I lined up a unit of demonic horsemen just right to trample does from afar and destroy them in a single attack with a little planning and forethought. Though acolyte units are not quite as tough as other melee units, they do have the ability to restore HP to their injured allies, making them important.
In combat, your vampiric heroes also have a pool of mana, which they can spend to play spell cards. These are also upgradable as your hero gains experience. One thing I really did enjoy is that your hero (the leader of each respective army), is a unit in their own right who can wander around the board and fight enemy units like they are a one (wo)man army. It was very enjoyable sending the patriarch of the Dracul clan into a cluster of enemy units and letting him emit an area-effect blast of vampiric energy, damaging units all around. Now that’s what I call a hands-on leader!
I was really impressed with how intricate the combat system was even if the storyline wasn’t quite so complex. The first campaign gives a fairly standard tale of mopey emo vampires exacting a terrible revenge on the dogmatic humans who hunt them: it’s entertaining if a little straightforward. Though Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars isn’t quite so heavy on the narrative, it still gives Heroes of Might and Magic a run for its money in the turn-based battling stakes.
The overworld map, like the combats, allows heroes to play cards, but instead of mana being expended, your economic currency is blood! Each year (four turns) of game time, new cards are drawn which can give you various advantages. These range from cards that heal your battered armies to cards that give you a discount on summoning more vampiric minions. There’s even a couple of rather overpowered cards that can drain enemy heroes’ mana and health before the combat even begins.
One area where the Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars sharply diverges from Total War is that its economic management is simplistic to the point it’s pretty much fire-and-forget. You can upgrade your buildings to produce higher tier units and upgrade villages and cities to have a higher capacity of people and generate more blood. After that, there’s pretty much no reason to manage or think about your economy again: just let the blood pour in and recruit new units if you need them.
There is an option to feed upon human settlements, gaining a short term boost of blood in return for consuming the population and lowering your income, but with a few upgraded settlements under your belt, you’ll be so flush with crimson, this will very seldom be necessary. On one hand, it was nice to be able to focus on battling and adventuring with my heroes, but on the other, the economic management being so bare-bones means there’s a lot less flavour and variety to the essential gameplay loop. With no multiplayer options and no branching paths during the campaign, Vampire Wars has limited replayability.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars does have some pleasingly involved battles, but as a grand strategy game, it is a tad simplistic and limited in scope compared to the titles it draws inspiration from. Still, the campaign provides for an entertaining romp, and it’s well worth delving into these dark realms if you’re a fan of the strategy-RPG genre.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Kalypso Media; Developer: Palindrome Interactive; Players: 1; Released: August 28th, 2020;
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher