Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a hard game to pin down, to categorise, and compare to. It’s an empire management simulation that also has turn-based, top-down grid-based battling, like a fantasy-based XCOM game. Oh and it asks you to manage resources, has RPG elements, and also some trading-card mechanics thrown in as well. All this is based in a world full of vampires, werewolves, and giant bats looking to take down their human hunters. It’s a melange of themes that certainly gives it a unique feel. Some will enjoy it, others will tire of it quickly, and some, like me, will flit between those two feelings whilst playing through its fairly meaty content.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars has a very steep learning curve and getting used to all of its complexities requires a ton of patience and practice. Once you get to the point where it all starts to make sense then the gameplay turns from overwhelming and perplexing to somewhat rewarding and enjoyable so if you're willing to put in the necessary work then you may end up having a good time. However, there's no denying that the controls haven't been adapted well for playing on consoles. Issuing commands and navigating the menus often requires odd button sequences and on top of that, sliding the cursor around is quite slippery so it's sometimes tricky to point at specific things. I sincerely hope there will be a patch that makes the controls more bearable.
That strong impression flows through to the combat, where the Total War comparisons become apt. While Total War battles play out in real-time, Immortal Realms’ are a turn-based affair, but otherwise the experience is the same, in that you’ll skirmish your armies around until one side of the other is dead. There are just enough units and special abilities available to make this tactically interesting, and the developers have achieved a feat I consider critical to strategy games; it’s possible to offset a weaker army with superior tactics. It’s more than possible to be overwhelmed, of course, but if the difference between the forces is only mild, then the come-from-behind win is entirely possible, and will make you feel an undead take on Napoleon.
Some of the rules feel a little confusing too. The first mission, for example, restricts your ability to recruit new units for your army. Death is permanent in battle, so you need to ensure you don’t lose units. You’re now relying on your tactical nouse in battle or a very expensive random card that gives you two base units when certain conditions are met. I was confused because my card hand was being filled up with cards that made recruitment cheaper, which felt odd given I couldn’t recruit. I randomly tried using one after many turns of discarding them and bizarrely, the game let me, leaving me gobsmacked. I’m now on a mission where you can’t recruit, but you can.
Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars certainly doesn't suck as much as vampires do but it can be quite a monotonous game. The moments when you overcome challenges and cover the map are rewarding but they're fleeting and all you're left with is an anemic experience.