When something as phenomenal as Hades comes around, you can be sure that it’s going to inspire a generation of games. Now three years removed from Hades‘ 1.0 release, we’re already seeing that with 33 Immortals. Developed by Spiritfarer studio Thunder Lotus, 33 Immortals is a top-down hack-and-slash game built around mythology. The twist on that formula is that it features 33-player co-op, but it’s not hard to trace the inspiration.
Even after I saw its debut trailer, however, I didn’t fully understand how deep the similarities went. I wouldn’t even realize those connections when I went hands-on with it to experience its promising co-op combat. It was only when I asked the Thunder Lotus team about its approach to narrative that those connections would become bright as day. And trust me: I most certainly don’t mean that in a disparaging way, though like Hades, early access will be the key to its success.
The basic gameplay flow of 33 Immortals is easy to explain. My teammates and I are thrown into a map where we must travel together and hack away at waves of enemies. I controlled a character equipped with a bow who could fire off three arrows at a time and recall them to hit enemies again on the way back. Along the way, we completed different challenge chambers filled with rewards, like relics, that grant passive perks. Each biome culminates in a big boss fight that needs to be unlocked after a tough wave defense challenge.
Combat itself seems relatively simple so far. I mostly just plucked arrows three at a time, sometimes holding the X button to charge a more powerful shot. The only major twist comes in the form of co-op abilities. By pressing the right trigger, a player spawns a series of connected sigils. Three players need to activate the symbols at the same time to trigger an ability, like a healing burst or a rain of arrows. It’s a neat little twist that makes good use of its mass-multiplayer aspect.
33 Immortals isn’t set to launch until next year, when it’ll enter early access — and it’ll need to make the most of that period. I imagine a lot of tweaking will be done when it comes to finding the right balance and deepening the combat system. I’m also curious to see how Thunder Lotus enhances in-game player communication. Right now, there’s just a simple emote system, but I can’t imagine it’ll be easy to direct 32 other people to get on the same page with that. Perhaps the chaos is the point, but I do hope there’s a good way to rally the troops.
As mentioned, the most interesting part would come after the hands-on demo, when I asked the team about 33 Immortals’ narrative. The game is a loose adaptation of the Divine Comedy, where each player is trying to escape from their eternal punishment. The denizens of hell decide to form a rebellion and break out, and to do so, they must find the Crown of Immortality. The Thunder Lotus team says players will fight bosses like Lucifer, Adam and Eve, and, yes, God himself.
It’ll also feature a hub filled with NPCs like Dante that players can talk to between missions. At that point, the Hades comparisons were crystal clear. It certainly feels like the studio is trying to find its own spin on that game’s winning formula with this action roguelike.
I don’t think we’ll know how successful that approach is until the game hits its 1.0 launch, whenever that may be. For now, Thunder Lotus has a lot of work to do to make sure its 33-player experience really works. It’ll need to overcome some basic challenges, like making sure 33 players can even pair up consistently (the team is targeting crossplay between consoles, PC, and Epic Games Store, which should help). As we learned with Hades, though, there’s no rush. The key to victory in this genre is patience and learning from every mistake. If Thunder Lotus can do that next year as early access rolls out, I have faith in its ambitious plan.
33 Immortals will be released for PC and Xbox Series in 2024. It will be on early access at release.
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