Ubisoft has been crafting sprawling open worlds for over a decade now, with franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry. If there’s one thing all of these franchises have in common, it’s that they, for the most part, take themselves quite seriously. These games have you performing tasks that range from assassinating an ancient order of templars, taking down an oppressive regime of dictators, and hacking a city in order to take down a corrupt corporation.
It’s not like Ubisoft doesn’t do silly, in fact they have their fair share of that as well with franchises like Rayman and Rabbids. But the open world Ubisoft formula has been relegated to these more serious franchises, which is why Immortals Fenyx Rising feels like a breath of fresh air.
The game, which was previously known as Gods and Monsters, has now been reborn into Immortals Fenyx Rising, a name that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like its previous one. You step into the shoes of Fenyx, a hero who finds themselves washed up on the coast of the Golden Isle, a vast land in disarray after Typhon unleashes his hordes of monster upon it. It is then up to you to explore each region, help the god associated with it and grow in power in order to take down Typhon once and for all.
The game’s tone is apparent immediately from the start of the game, as Prometheus and Zeus are the ones narrating over Fenyx’s adventure, with Prometheus being the more straight-laced narrator and Zeus being the wise cracking counterpart. In my preview I wondered whether I would grow tired of the silly banter, and while it certainly did grate on me a little bit, I still couldn’t help but chuckle throughout most of the adventure. This is also highlighted by some great characterization of other notable characters such as the mischievous Hermes, but the award for the funniest portrayal of a god that I certainly didn’t expect was Ares. I won’t spoil his storyline here but meeting him and subsequently completing his objective was easily one of the highlights.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is undoubtedly heavily inspired by Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in almost every way, but it also manages to mix in some staples from the Assassin’s Creed franchise as well, namely Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The similarities to Zelda begin with the inclusion of a stamina meter, something Fenyx will rely on throughout the entire game. While attacking doesn’t consume stamina, basically everything else does, whether it’s climbing, gliding, or performing special godly attacks.
To take the similarities even further, Fenyx can also lift various items with an almost telekinetic like ability to solve puzzles or damage enemies in battle, tame and then summon wild animals to be used as mounts, perform perfect dodges to slow time, cook picked up ingredients to make potions, and dot various points of interest on the map by using the Far Sight ability. It is a game heavily reliant on exploration as well, rewarding players who comb through every nook and cranny to uncover hidden items, devious puzzles and even world bosses. And like Breath of the Wild, Fenyx also has a large focus on verticality, meaning you’re not only going to be exploring far and wide, but high and low as well.
The structure of Immortals Fenyx Rising is also largely similar. Each region is governed by a particular god, such as Ares or Athena, and Fenyx must complete various objectives in order to get them to help take down Typhon and receive their blessing, which isn’t too dissimilar to Link needing to help the various tribes in taking down the Divine Beasts in order to get a particular Champion’s boon.
The gameplay loop of Fenyx is easily its strongest feature, and kept me constantly engaged. It works like this: Fenyx ventures into a new area that must first be uncovered by climbing a giant god statue, at which point the player can then choose to meet said god to complete their objectives, or set out to roam around, discover and complete all the various challenges dotted around the map. It’s the latter point that’s particularly strong here since the map is just absolutely dense with things to do.
You’re always a stone’s throw away from the next Ambrosia pickup which extends Fenyx’s health, or from any number of challenges that require a particular skill or some clever puzzle solving. My favorite among these were the bow challenges that required Fenyx to shoot an arrow that must then be guided through various checkpoints. The others include shifting a picture puzzle around to solve the image, finding special orbs to solve a constellation puzzle, race to a checkpoint as fast as possible, or memorizing a lyre tune which must then be replayed onto a giant lyre in each region.
Each of these puzzles aren’t overly complicated and aside from the constellations, they won’t take you more than 5 minutes to solve, making them always worth pursuing, and never tiresome. Even by the end I still found myself happily partaking in all of these, since I found them all so well designed.
The map is also littered with Vaults of Tartarus, which can be equated to Breath of the Wild’s shrines. Each one houses a Zeus bolt at the end that can be used to upgrade Fenyx’s stamina, and each one contains a unique puzzle mechanic and sometimes combat challenge. Most of these are also rather simple, but there are some that can be quite tricky to figure out. I never found myself frustrated enough to put the controller down and stop playing, but there were certainly some headscratchers in there.
To give some context, each of the Vaults is usually centered around a single mechanic to solve its puzzle, whether it’s moving boxes onto platforms to activate them, using a lever to shoot out boulders to break boxes Angry Birds style, or hovering from platform to platform avoiding deadly laser beams. It’s clear that the devs were given quite a lot of freedom to be creative, which was the most apparent when I stumbled across a Vault that included an actual pinball machine, where I had to activate levers that corresponded with the left and right flipper.
It’s these brilliant challenges coupled with the fact that they’re never very long that drove me to never pass them up, as I was always wondering what kind of unique mechanic am I going to have to utilize next time, and knowing that they wouldn’t usually take me longer than 10 minutes. This philosophy is what the game is built around it seems, unique challenges that aren’t aimed at taking up a ton of your time, and I certainly appreciated it.
When you’re not exploring the wonderfully designed map or solving its many challenges, you’ll be engaging in some simple, albeit fun combat. Fenyx will have access to a fast sword, a slower but more powerful axe, and a bow to take down enemies at range. These three can be mixed and matched at will, though you will undoubtedly use the former two the most. You can start a fight by shooting an enemy from afar, then closing the gap and performing a few quick slashes with your sword, lead into an uppercut that launches them into the air, and then slam them back down with the axe.
This can get even more intricate with the use of godly powers such as being able to summon Hephaistos’ giant hammer, a big circle of spears with Ares’ Wrath, or dash forward with Athena’s shield damaging anyone in your path. These rely on your stamina bar which means they can’t be constantly spammed but do offer a nice changeup to what is otherwise a pretty simple and somewhat repetitive combat system.
There’s also plenty of customization Immortals Fenyx Rising. Aside from being able to create your character in the beginning, allowing Fenyx to be either male or female, every piece of equipment Fenyx can equip will alter their appearance as well as provide some sweet stat or ability boosts. For instance, my personal build for Fenyx focused on air attacking. My sword and axe had the potential for triple damage in the air, while my equipment increased my raw and stun damage.
While that means that most of my fights revolved around me jumping and attacking, it was certainly one viable way to play the game, and given that players will be able to find 12 different armor sets and weapons, there are plenty of ways to mix and match these abilities and boosts to bolster any kind of playstyle.
I played the PlayStation 5 version of Immortals Fenyx Rising, which runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, and what I assume is either native 4K or a variable 4K resolution. Either way the game looks and performs great. While I can’t speak on the other versions, I would imagine this extends to the Series X as well. With that said, this game will be available on basically every platform, including the Nintendo Switch, PC and even Google Stadia. It is perhaps because this game is available across all these systems that it doesn’t look or feel decidedly next-gen, though its caricatured aesthetic certainly helps.
One disappointment I had was with the lack of meaningful haptic rumble or responsive triggers in Immortals Fenyx Rising. The latter was especially strange because the game does have them implemented, but not in ways that I’d consider good. For instance, when using farsight, the right trigger will pulse when you get closer to location that can be revealed. While helpful, it is ultimately pretty useless. Similarly, when climbing or extending your wings, there will be a slight “click” that happens whenever Fenyx does either of those actions, but neither of them “feel” like the action being performed. Given that the adaptive triggers were always touted to make bows feel more realistic by increasing tension when the trigger is pulled, it’s pretty disappointing that Fenyx doesn’t utilize this feature at all.
As is now standard with most Ubisoft open world titles, there is an in-game store that offers various cosmetic items for Fenyx such as new armor and weapon sets. These won’t provide any sort of bonuses and are aesthetic only. Interestingly enough, the mounts you can purchase do come with the most amount of stamina they can have, so technically purchasing one of those will give you an advantage early game, but I wouldn’t say this is game-breaking in any way.
Ultimately, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a delight to play. Its focus on being a lighthearted take on Greek mythology is appreciated, especially since Ubisoft has mostly reserved its open world formula games for franchises that take themselves a bit too seriously. While the comedic tone and constant banter between all the characters won’t strike a chord with everyone, it’s certainly bound to make someone smile, and even chuckle at its most cringiest writing.
The Breath of the Wild formula hasn’t really been done to this sort of extent and despite Ubisoft certainly borrowing a slew of elements from Nintendo’s flagship game, they still managed to craft a game that’s undeniably their own, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
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