Review – Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars

Total War meets turn-based meets vampires. That’s the bold claim Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars sold itself on. As someone who appreciates bold claims in a genre that is so often stagnate, I was intrigued. Total War is my favorite strategy franchise, I love a good turn-based game, and vampires are just cool. Still, it had the look of a game that was trying to do a lot of things at once. Also being the first game from a relatively new studio, I balanced out my interest with realistic expectations. Upon playing the game however, I found my fears unfounded. It does many things, but with elegant simple implementations. All of these varied mechanics blend together for a smooth and fast-paced 4X experience.

Hanging skulls. Super edgy.

The story and setting are fairly simple, and better for it. There are three playable vampire clans. The warrior Dracul, led by everyone’s favorite vamp Vlad. Then the human-hating Moroia nobles, who specialize in magic and on discussions about how much humans suck. Finally, there’s the monstrous Nosfernus, who are the wild bestial monster vampires who go bump in the night. FYI, these names aren’t misspellings, it’s what the game calls them. Gotta put your own spin on it, I suppose. The relatively short campaign focuses on the interactions between these three clans and the encroaching Human Empire. There’s also a few other bot players and organizations, but honestly, none of them were memorable. Fun while it lasts, but that’s about it. The flavor delivers though, and that’s what matters here.

Blur your eyes a bit and this is easily a Total War victory screen. Except much better designed.

Mechanically, things are quite different and much more interesting. At first, it seems just like Total War with turn-based battles, which is by no means a bad thing, but there was more done here. Most intriguingly is the extensive streamlining done at nearly all levels. As an example, building and province upgrading. Instead of a variety of buildings to choose from, each location simply has three unique upgrade levels. Buildings are also pre-generated on the map, requiring you to simply capture them to use them. Instead of dumbing the game down, this just creates a faster paced system with buildings themselves serving as conquest points. There are specific buildings that everyone wants, and instead of building your own, you have to take them. Need creates conflict, which further drives everything forward.

That’s a big bat.

The whole game is like this. Everything seems designed to make the game constantly feel like it’s moving forward. There’s no building or recruit times, it’s all done instantly. Similarly, the tech tree functions more like a RPG skill tree than the standard End Turn button pusher simulator from other 4X games. Your faction levels up, you get a point for the tree, then you use it. Done deal, move on to the next thing to do. There’s no waiting, there’s no delaying, it’s a constant train of momentum that takes everything great about 4X games and speeds it up. Complexity wasn’t sacrificed either, as each faction comes with their own unique mechanics and units which make gameplay both in battle and on the world map just as complex as most other games in the genre.

There’s a card system, but it’s basically just a spell system in card mechanic form. No deck-building or any other kind of similar mechanics to bog things down.

There are two modes. Campaign takes you through twelve missions, four for each of the main factions. It’s not bad, but it tragically wastes the game’s best mechanics for a strangely paced middling quality story. The other mode, Sandbox, is where this game shines. Your standard Grand Campaign style mode, it’s a free for all, winner takes all. There’s also a decent tutorial mode which walks you through everything you need to know, meaning there’s no need to play the Campaign if you don’t want too. You can jump straight into Sandbox and start your blood sucking, bat worshiping, human eating, reign of terror.

One of my favorite small little additions, every battle gives your lords random objectives to accomplish that can greatly change the course of battle if you choose to pursue them.

Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars was so much better than I dared hope it could be. The theme is fun and delivers everything a vampire fan could want. The gameplay has a lot of moving parts, but is done simply and focused on speed, a rarity for this genre. And while the Campaign isn’t exactly riveting, it’s not awful, and there’s always Sandbox, which perfectly showcases what the game can do. It was just so refreshing to play a 4X game that wasn’t obsessed with making everything as needlessly complex as possible, while taking as much of your time as it could to do it. If only more games in the genre took the hint…

Graphics: 6.0

I hate the term “mobile game graphics”, but I can kinda see that particular look here. It doesn’t look bad though, just simple.

Gameplay: 8.0

All mechanics are designed to be deceptively simple and streamlined to keep you constantly moving forward. Total War at Civilization speeds.

Sound: 5.0

I’ve heard better, both soundtrack and voice acting wise. I’ve also heard much worse.

Fun Factor: 9.0

It’s addictive as hell. Campaign mode may not be riveting, but the real game lies in the Sandbox mode, and boy, does it deliver in spades.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is available now on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars was provided by the publisher.