Though sometimes confused in the necessity of making an easy, elevator pitch for a game, there’s still a big difference between a game’s genre and its themes. Kalypso Media’s genre, broadly speaking, is strategy and management games. Their themes have been all over the map — railroad tycoons, banana republic dictators, evil dungeon lords, World War II commanders, ninjas and prohibition-era gangsters have all gotten closeups.
Now Kalypso is cloaking its efforts in the gothic and occult themes of vampires, with Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, from new studio Palindrome Interactive of Sweden. “The concept of the dark vampire world, it’s not something that’s really represented in this genre,” said Johan Algreen, the studio’s chief executive.
“It’s turn-based combat blended with empire management, with a fairly unique concept of a card game,” Algreen said from Kalypso’s E3 booth. “We thought that was a nice twist to the genre; it allowed us a big of flexibility.”
A set of nine images here show the setting as well as the standard gameplay elements; note the tray of perk cards at the bottom of the screen.
Algreen promises Immortal Realms isn’t simply kitting out a familiar nation-building exercise in a puffy shirt and a cloak with a chain and pointy collar. The card-playing layer he described isn’t a deck-building game, per se, but more like a perk system — basically, your dark lords have access to certain spells (and better or more effective ones as they rank up) that allow them to do things a more conventional strategy title wouldn’t. A basic example Algreen gave is recruiting new units in an area where a player has no agents, physically.
Players will take command of one of three factions in a story-driven single-player campaign estimated at around 20 hours of game time. The traditional sandbox mode is accompanied by a skirmish setting where players can focus entirely on combat strategy against the game’s AI.
But mostly, running around commanding dark armies and plunging the land into eternal, gothy night is the lure here; “Everyone at the studio is a fan of the gothic vibe we’ve got going here. The setting is very appealing,” Algreen said. “We wanted to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
Immortal Realms has the tough task of trying to attract attention in a space where dense strategy titles are often overlooked or less effective than their PC brethren. Palindrome started building the game on PC, Algreen said, “but we reached a certain point where we saw that all of these mechanics work well on consoles, then also tablets and Switch,” he said. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars will launch on PC this fall, and follow that about six months later on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Mobile devices get the game sometime after that.
The console audience is sort of where the card-playing mechanism comes in, as much as the eye-catching vampire-and-undead themes. “Conceptually, we played around with a lot of mechanics early in development; people understand how a card is played, so that is very approachable,” Algreen reasoned. “We wanted to attach that to a strategy game as a way for users to interact with the game.”
In addition to building up infrastructure and training and developing units, players will also rank up their vampire lords, and take them directly to battle if they so choose. There’s a tech tree component to deliver more perks and buffs that suit a player’s strengths or preferences. Overall, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a game in pursuit of blood — literally, as a clan’s strength is measured in blood and keeping that resource flowing is critical to success.
“We think in general the concept is a really good mix of games like Might and Magic, Warhammer and Hearthstone,” Algreen said. “There are quite a lot of references [found in other games] thrown around. But the concept of a dark vampire world, it’s not something that’s really represented in this genre.”