Very few games come out of nowhere and completely redefine a genre. When such a feat is achieved, it is remembered and celebrated among gamers. With plenty of praise to speak for the game itself and create an atmosphere that welcomes others to play these games. Journey did this in 2012, The Last of Us did it again a year later, and many other names before and after them created lightning in a bottle or were able to pull a deus ex machina. Immortality is easily one of those games that have the potential to join those ranks as a standout masterpiece in the FMV Games genre. It is easily a game I will not soon forget, and at the same time, I wish I could forget. In our Immortality review, we take a look at one of the best games of the year.
Immortality is a game from Sam Barlow, the creator of Her Story that came out back in 2015. While the game released by Sam would go on to make a significant name for itself, it eventually did enter the space between the shelves where a game gets forgotten after a time.
Immortality is his latest work, another entry into the FMV Games genre. Here’s there unique twist though – your job is to rebuild 3 different movies in no particular order, to understand what happened to the protagonist of the 3 movies, Marissa Marcel.
As you dive deeper into a web of lies, scandal, sexual tones, and much more in the world of Hollywood and the likes, you understand Immortality destroys the typical approach to telling a narrative story and retells the medium in such a brilliant way, to where you never want to leave the rabbit hole, and forcing yourself to dig deeper for answers.
Here is our review of Immortality.
Right off the bat, Immortality is the story of Marissa Marcel. A young Hollywood actress who gets her start in 2 movies in the late 60’s and early 70’s as the lead actress and reappears for a new film in 1999.
None of the movies she ever starred in ever saw a release, and the young actress would disappear from the public eye after her last movie in 2000.
The game follows her disappearance by having an AI build a collection of her last known moments across the three movies for you. As the player, you have to find answers and solve the mystery of what happened to Marissa and the sequence of events behind all of the incidents that occurred to her along the way.
As you unravel the mystery of each movie, you get closer to unearthing the reason why these movies never saw a release. From there, the plot pulls you into the gravity of various situations, scenarios, and other places where you are rewarded for diving deeper into the game and trying to piece together a messy collection of clips to find out the truth behind each of the unfortunate incidents.
Along with Marissa, you will meet the director, lead actors, supporting actors, and other faces that would have made these films possible. By meeting each, you’ll also know what became of them along the way. There are separate achievements for each, and keeping track of them is a thoroughly rewarding experience that significantly enhances your journey of curiosity.
Each person who plays a role across the 3 films has their own unique personality and truly brings life to their character in a way that one wouldn’t believe is possible for a medium like this. There is no manipulation done by computers or cameras on a character model, you can feel the sincerity of the acting like you would a major motion picture in a cinema, and that only helps make Immortality all the more rewarding to play.
When you thoroughly understand Marissa and her connections to each of the people who play a role in making her movies happen, on-screen or off-screen, you want to shift the focus from Marissa to other characters and discover the ugly truth about them for yourself.
The pull of Immortality is not in its ability to make you piece together a story on your own, it’s the ability to turn the standard approach to narrative storytelling on its head and force you to watch three films with no particular order and form your own sequence of events to uncover the truth.
By figuring out the origins of each clip, you can slowly understand what happened at each point in time. Only after going from one web of lies to another will you finally be able to answer the question that makes up the game.
What happened to Marissa Marcel?
Before I talk about the game, I only have two major recommendations for you.
Most developers say that using headphones and a controller is the best way to experience their games. Usually, this is something that can be passed by using your speakers and the keyboard. However, in this case, a controller is something that greatly enriches the experience. A pair of headphones improve the immersion into something already so immersive that even earphones will do the job.
Without going too much into spoilers, you will need the controller because a rumble cue gives you a hint in certain scenes. There may or may not be an audio cue, but the rumble cue is a significant part of your early game.
The game is basically a completed series of collected clips. As soon as you choose any clip, you are immediately thrown into the said clip, a recording. From here, you will watch the recording like a classic VHS tape or a DVD movie. You will learn about the ability to rewind and forward the footage and, later on, speed up both operations.
Early in the game, you only press the Y button on the controller to focus on an object in the scene and move to a new clip. You will do this with characters’ faces and, later on, experiment with anything else in the scene. These can be anything, like a prop, a mug, or anything that turns from a plain dot to an open-eye icon, indicating that this item leads to a new scene.
That is the core of the gameplay. From here, you begin a long series of investigations into the mystery surrounding Marissa Marcel and what happened to her. You will venture through several clips, and there is no guarantee that exploring a specific clip will lead you.
Plenty of times, I have found myself being in Ambrosio, her 1969 film, and suddenly observing a prop in the movie would teleport me forward to 1999-2000 for the making of Two of Everything.
Between Ambrosio and Two of Everything, you will also find Minsky, her 1970 film.
Blink, and you’ll miss it
As you jump between random clips of all three movies, you must have sharp eyes and ears. It’s not enough to watch the clip once but to go to another clip, return to a previous clip, and rewind it until you spot an anomaly. From there, the rabbit hole begins to form, and you genuinely find yourself lost in the majesty that is Immortality.
As I mentioned in the story, you are entirely unable to watch her movies in the order you are ideally would. Usually, a movie is played from beginning to end, from 0:00:00 to the end timer, which can vary between movies. However, the constant jumping of clips will lead you to spoilers of the movie you have yet to explore or even the current movie you are on, and that’s okay. Because finding the details before the spoiler or after it is just as rewarding. Even finding the spoiler itself is truly some of the best work I have seen in a video game.
There is nothing more to say about the gameplay mechanics. Your fundamentals come down to the analog sticks and the A and Y buttons. That’s it. There is no complex control scheme to learn, and while there are more buttons, I would leave you to discover that on your own.
The sound design in the game is easily its second most prominent feature. As the game utilizes Full-motion video, it is the absence of modern-day graphics that utilize character models or other forms of representing artificial bodies on the screen and instead opt for real people acting in front of the camera.
As such, the sound is easily one of the more vital facets of the game that truly delivers a package you won’t soon forget.
At the beginning of the game, the sounds are normal and fit to the scene. There is nothing ordinary happening here, and nothing will for a while. It won’t be until you start hitting the little bit of metal as you excavate the profound dark mystery of Marissa’s movies that the sounds become more ominous and captivating to where you will need to rely on them to help you find the next mystery clue.
In the later parts of the game, you will need to navigate the controller’s rumble and audio cues in tandem to figure out the next big secret in the game. This is where the immersion aspect of the game is further solidified.
The sound changes from calm and mellow to building up suspense. At times, is enough to make you feel a jump scare is about to happen, straight from a horror game. This is the beauty of it – the sound will keep you hooked and always on your feet.
There are seldom moments in video games where I acknowledge it deserves a rating of above an 8. However, the pull of this game and my brief time with Her Story in 2015 piqued my interest in this new project. Once this game lured me into its trap, I was unable to continue playing any of my other games until I learned the truth of all the events that transpired in the game.
Immortality does a brilliant job of delivering subtle and direct tones about the world of acting: trust, love, and other important vital social traits are needed of an actor, and once you shatter the glass ceiling and are faced with the ugly truth about what happened that led to the grim events for all three films to be archived and the mysterious disappearance of Marissa Marcel, you too will learn why this is a captivating piece of video game as art.
This is not a video game I can recommend to just anyone, though. You need to have resilience, patience, and the need for curiosity to thoroughly enjoy what I can describe as one of the best gaming experiences of all time for me.
If you are a fan of games with thoroughly deep stories, a brilliant cast of characters, and a video game that will undoubtedly spawn a wide array of essays on YouTube, look no further than Immortality. This is a game that, in the beginning, may frustrate and annoy you with the non-linear direction of storytelling. Still, by the end, you will awaken to an experimental medium that truly elevated your thinking.
A new benchmark for interactive storytelling
Minor bugs aside, Immortality is a game I wish I could forget and replay from the beginning. I admit that I was not the biggest fan of FMV Games since they went out of fashion in the 90s and early 2000’s games. While they are still a micro-niche in modern-day gaming, I would dare say that Immoratilty stands as the Mona Lisa of the FMV Games world. It is one of the best examples of video games as an art medium in more ways than in a modern context.
What did you think of our Immortality Review? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
The game is now available on PC via Steam and Xbox Series S|X. It is also available on Xbox Game Pass on both PC and consoles.
This review is based on the PC version of Immortality. The key was provided by Half Mermaid.