It's never a good day when you wake up in hell, but it helps when you've got friends.
That's the pitch behind 33 Immortals, an upcoming game from Thunder Lotus — the developer and publisher of the decidedly more relaxed Spiritfarer — that asks a simple question: Can you and 32 others fight your way through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven?
Shortly following the Xbox Games Showcase 2023, I had the chance to play a scaled-down version of the game with five other players. The gameplay and art direction instantly hooked me, and I'm eager to try it again, even though there's a couple of important questions lingering.
Bring in backup
Based on the descriptions found in Dante's Inferno, 33 Immortals features a sharp aesthetic, with stylized demons roaming hell as angelic fire rains down in an attempt to purify and pacify the attempted rebellion. It's not the most graphically-intensive game, but the art direction is gorgeous and helps things stand out despite how busy the action on the screen can get.
Starting out as a newly lost soul, I had access to either a sword or a bow in the demo, though the developers tease that there could be up to five other types of weapon-wielding spirits, citing the importance of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Heavenly Virtues.
Things are pretty simple starting out, with small groups of weak foes that are easily dispatched. Players can pull up a map of the current region in case they lose track of where everyone is at, something I imagine will be critical when dealing with over five times the number of players that were in my gameplay demo session.
While you have a series of attacks that vary depending on your weapon — my sword-wielding soul could charge up for a heavy attack that dealt damage in a wide-ranging arc — you'll soon struggle if you wander off by yourself. Coordination is key to activating special abilities. Sword users can heal and bow users can send a torrent of missiles across the screen, but both of these require the aid of two other players to begin the process.
If a player is killed (something that is extremely likely to occur as time goes on) there's a brief window of time where you can revive them. While it's not technically a requirement, the game has a set difficulty; it doesn't adapt based on how many players are left. Because of this, it's a good idea to try and keep as many players alive as possible, to ensure you have a good shot at clearing the more punishing boss fights.
When you continue trying with more and more attempted runs, you'll eventually find permanent upgrades for your soul, making it ever-so-slightly easier to survive on your next try.
As you clear out dungeons, earning special items and currencies, the difficulty picks up, and you'll have to manage massive hordes of demonic foes and advancing walls of heavenly fire herding you in. Despite our best efforts, my group did not make it to the boss fight, but I'm told that after beating Lucifer in the Inferno, your adventure is only beginning. Adam and Eve await in Purgatorio, and above it all in Paradisio is the creator of all.
While this was only a small taste of 33 Immortals, I'm hooked and can't wait to try again. At least based on what I've played, Thunder Lotus has effectively merged the style of something like Hades with some truly intense co-op combat.
With that in mind, I do still have some questions. Keeping track of just five other players was already a lot with everything else going on, so I'm wondering just how reading the screen will go with 32 other players all fighting to survive. How will the matchmaking system go? I don't know about anyone else, but for my internet circle, getting three other people online at the same time can already be a herculean effort, so some sort of system will have to be in place and work easily.
I can't wait to find out the answer to all these questions next year. 33 Immortals is slated to launch in early access at some point in 2024 across Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC via the Epic Games Store. It'll also be available day one in Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass.
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