Vampires used to be pretty big! Would you believe there was actually a pretty popular novel and film series based on the lords of the night? They were a sparkly sort back then, but in Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, the world’s been taken over by vampires and they’ve decided that warfare beats high school. You’ll take control of one of the battling vampire clans and try to lead them to victory. Maybe you’ll end up in a popular novel and film series of your own…or maybe you’ll end up staked.
Vampire Wars plays a bit like Total War combined with the classic Heroes of Might and Magic with a little bit of a collectible card game (CCG) thrown in. It’s an interesting mix of flavors that tastes pretty good, all things considered. The Total War aspect of the game is mostly covered by the overworld map where you’ll move your armies about, recruit troops and capture territory; when you’ve managed to find yourself a fight, you’ll switch over to the battle interface which plays out in a turn-based fashion on a grid like Heroes of Might and Magic.
Meanwhile, your hand of cards influences pretty much every aspect of the game. Your vampires’ spells are represented by cards, their gear shows up as cards that you deal out to them and you can even obtain discounted troops with the right cards, allowing you to stay topped up on the Blood Points you’ll use to interact with pretty much everything. The ability to slightly bend the rules by playing cards makes for the most interesting and unique aspect of Vampire Wars, and scraping by a difficult battle by twisting things in your favor just a bit is pretty satisfying.
As your empire grows and your vampire lords become more powerful, you’ll also be able to improve your hand, so there’s a palpable sense of progression even from one turn to the next that feels very satisfying.
This may sound pretty complex. Vampire Wars’ clunky UI, based largely around small and confusing icons, doesn’t help much. Still, once you get past that you might find Vampire Wars’ take on its genres to be a little easier to grasp than most. The fact that Blood Points serve as your primary resource helps, since you aren’t juggling fifteen different flavors of gems or whatever to keep your empire running. Additionally, combat is straightforward and speedy, particularly when you understand the use of your cards, so the game keeps moving forward at a nice clip rather than becoming a bureaucracy simulator.
The flipside of this is that Vampire Wars’ AI ends up feeling a little cheaty at times, since presumably the game needs to lend it a hand to keep things competitive once you know what you’re doing, and many of the campaign missions futz about with the basics so you aren’t able to put every answer you’ve discovered into practice. Your mileage may vary here. Fans of truly classic strategy games are probably used to the sort of overwhelming odds that Vampire Wars likes to throw your way, but more modern games tend to offer a more reasonable challenge.
The campaign features missions for each of the three clans, the Dracul, Moroia and Nosfernus; these represent traditional vampires, blood mages and monstrous creatures of the night, respectively, and their armies are different enough to feel unique. Let’s hope you enjoy these missions, by the way, since there’s no multiplayer. That’s a pretty glaring omission that puts a limit on how much you’re going to get out of Vampire Wars. As rough as the AI can be at first, once you’ve got a handle on how to win, you’re probably going to keep winning. If this feature shows up in a sequel it’ll make for a much easier recommendation.
That said, if you’re willing to accept that your vampiric reign will likely come to an end sooner than expected, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a pretty decent strategy game that’s worth a look. A land ruled by vampires certainly makes for an interesting setting and Vampire Wars does enough with the concept and its many influences to stand out. Mixing grand strategy, tactical combat and card games leads to some sanguine satisfaction…but it would have been great to be able to feast on some of your best friends.