Fire Emblem and Advance Wars but you’re vampires.
At PAX West 2019, I played a handful of games using a keyboard and mouse that are planned for release on Switch, and Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars stood out to me for its turn-based strategy gameplay, interesting combat, and gothic setting. Across three campaigns, you play as the leaders of different factions of vampires, each with its own units and abilities. On top of this is a card system that allows you to play cards to enhance your troops or debilitate your foes, among other things. The culmination of card mechanics, strategy gameplay, and empire management shows a lot of promise.
In the 15-minute demo, I was introduced to the Lord and Lady of the Dracul clan in a brief cutscene, Vlad and Cecilia. Cecilia takes on a mission to hunt down a group of humans who’ve put one of the Dracul villages to the torch. When the game proper begins, you’re given a set of three cards before seeing the top-down view of the territory where the mission takes place: this is called Kingdom mode. The map is divided into spaces called provinces that house towns, forests, and other elements that can be interacted with in different ways. You can claim these spaces in order to recruit troops for your army or acquire new cards from them, for example, and you’ll also gain clan experience that allows you to add and improve traits across a skill tree.
Once you’ve bolstered your forces and finished your recruiting drive, it’s time to track down your targets and enter Combat mode. Moving into a space with enemy forces will initiate a battle that takes place on a different screen, a zoomed-in perspective that shows each of your individual troops as selectable units. This part of the game reminds me of Fire Emblem and Heroes of Might and Magic, and it will likely feel familiar for turn-based strategy fans. Before combat starts, you have a chance to rearrange your troops within a small section of the starting area. Afterwards, you take turns moving your units around the grid-like map and attacking your enemies, with turn order being displayed at the top of the screen.
The objective of the battle I played was to destroy all of the opposing units, and there are a few elements that made Immortal Realms stand out for me. One is that during your turn you can spend stamina to play cards to improve your chances of winning. Given that you only have a limited number of stamina points and cards to play with different costs, you have to think carefully about which cards to use and when. Another neat element that I noticed is that you can gain bonuses to your attacks based on how many units you have surrounding an opponent, so your position on the battlefield becomes even more important. Overall, I found the combat segment of the demo very easy to get into, but I also thought that the movement and attack indicators on the map were a little faint and hard to see. Given that so much of the screen uses dark colors for the environment, it would have been nice to see brighter lines and lights used to show where you could move the units and what your attack range was. Damage indicators also looked lackluster and could use some kind of style or flourish in keeping with the theme of the game.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars plays like a combination of familiar games, but this is coming from someone who is fairly experienced in the turn-based strategy genre. There are a lot of little things to learn at the outset, and this could be a somewhat daunting task for newer players. I am also very curious how the experience will translate to consoles since I was using a mouse and keyboard rather than a controller. We are seeing more and more titles being ported to consoles that were originally released on PC. Some of these, like Diablo III, have worked out really well and made the transition seamlessly. If you have a thirst for all things vampire and strategy, keep an all-seeing eye open for Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars when it comes to Switch in Spring 2020.