Title: Immortals Fenyx Rising
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Genre: Open-World Action-Adventure
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PC, Google Stadia
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Official Site: ubisoft.com
Release Date: December 3, 2020
There has been plenty of games that focus on the stories of Greek mythology. There has also been an excessive amount of fantastical open-world action-adventure games. The latest of both categories is Ubisoft’s Immortals Fenyx Rising. Stacked against it are the enormous amount of similar and, in many cases, well-regarded games that came before it. Also operating against it is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; a renowned game that Immortals frequently and heavily takes inspiration from.
So, does Ubisoft’s latest do enough to stand out among the rest?
The Story of Immortals Fenyx Rising
Like many great adventures and even a few Greek myths, Immortals centers on an unlikely hero. The Titan Typhon has worked very hard to rain terror on all of humanity. Most of the Gods are cursed, monsters wander the Golden Isle, and Fenyx lays shipwrecked and surrounded by their now-stone compatriots. Among them is their brother, more of the warrior to Fenyx’s head-in-the-clouds and story-obsessed persona.
But Fenyx’s obsession with mythological tales is what makes them so admirable. Despite their brother’s fate, Fenyx is ecstatic to meet the Gods from stories and aid them against Typhon. There are plenty of elements both small and large that showcase this quality. Upon consoling Ares, the mighty God of War who has been humorously turned into a chicken, Fenyx speaks of his impulsive and sometimes reckless decisions that made him a favorite. Even small animations, such as when Fenyx excitedly taps on a treasure chest in anticipation of what’s inside, helped characterization.
This is Funny… Right?
The art style and humor are the elements that work hardest to make Immortals stand out. The tale is narrated by Prometheus with the help of Zeus, who Prometheus bets his freedom against that they’ll be saved by a mortal. Prometheus is essentially the straight man to Zeus’s “bro” personality. Most of the time, this dynamic is pretty funny. Zeus will often be bored of Prometheus’s ramblings and this leads to some great meta-jokes. For example, the title card doesn’t appear until after Fenyx leaves the opening area. Depending on how much time you spend there, this can take 1-3 hours. Zeus makes fun of it taking so long to appear; it’s perhaps a self-deprecating joke on the developers, who did the same thing in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
However, sometimes the humor creates an inconsistent tone. Most of the map is covered in fog with portions sectioned off for each God or Goddess you help regain their form. Climbing up the statue of each deity in each section is what dispels the fog; these are the towers in every other open-world game. These were remarkable moments as Fenyx looked out on the monuments they had heard about in stories. It wasn’t just unlocking the terrain on the map screen. Prometheus’s narration combined with Fenyx’s look of wonder added more depth when completing the climb. But as I made note of landmarks and their history, Zeus would chime in with a joke that took me out of the moment. As many games have an issue with, not every joke lands.
Here There Be Monsters
Immortals Fenyx Rising features some pretty fantastic combat. The opening section of the game gives you the essentials and exploring every other part of the map will lead to armor and weapon variants. Balancing and upgrading your arsenal and attacks isn’t as complicated as in many other games of the genre. It doesn’t overwhelm the player with an insane amount of weapon properties. Each weapon or piece of armor gives you 1 perk while collecting an armor set gives you an additional perk. Everything, including your four different potions, can be upgraded with the right materials.
It was immensely fun finding an armor/weapon combination and stringing together various combos with special attacks. While special attacks, such as delivering a powerful blow with Hephaestus’s hammer, drains stamina, regular attacks with your sword, ax, or bow don’t. As well, special attacks and heavy attacks (with the ax) will add to each enemy’s stun bar and open them up for more damage. One of my favorite combinations was a sword called the Gleam of Helios and a helmet called the Bristled Helm. The Gleam of Helios adds extra damage to the finisher moves of combo attacks as long as you reach 30+ in your combo meter. The Bristled Helm just generally adds damage to combo finishers, making the combos much better as a result.
But there are also 3 blessings you can earn from Gods and Goddesses. The first of Ares’, called Ares’s Command, allows the combo meter to last twice as long before resetting. The second of Aphrodite’s, Aphrodite’s Kiss, makes it so the meter doesn’t reset after begin hit once. Those blessings in tandem with my sword and helmet made for some incredibly powerful combos.
Although combat is terrific, some things make it quite frustrating. The first is that there is no way to block. You can dodge attacks, and doing so at the perfect time will slow time down briefly and make enemies vulnerable. But blocking still would have been useful. Holding L1 and pressing various other buttons is how Fenyx performs their special attacks. L1 + R2 attacks with Hephaestus’s Hammer, for example. You can parry by pressing L1+R1, though it and dodging take some definite practice. However, L1 by itself does nothing and could have been used to block.
Then there are your potions. They are assigned to each direction of the D-pad: Up for strength boost, Right to refill stamina, Down for Defense boost, and Left to refill health. Each only takes one plant to make, but you’ll need to visit a cauldron to make them. If you just have the plant for health or stamina, you can eat those for less productive results by holding their respective directions on the D-pad. If you find yourself in combat without any health potions, you’ll have to hold Left on the D-pad to heal. Given the controller’s layout, you’ll have to stop moving. That doesn’t mean the enemies will though. You can remap your controls, but it still means holding a button rather than pressing quickly. And it does make a difference. I would have rather just been able to purchase potions rather than worrying about resources.
Then there are Wraith Zones. Each section of the map is home to the lair of a Wraith version of a famous Greek hero. If you don’t find their lair and defeat them, Typhon will periodically call on them to hunt you down. These Wraith zones are accompanied by tentacles sprouting out of the ground and fiery boulders raining from above. Once, I exited a Vault of Tartaros (I’ll get to those in a second) without potions only to be confronted by the powerful enemies waiting outside AND to have Typhon call Wraith Odysseus on me. Needless to say, I ran as quickly as possible. It all seems a bit unbalanced.
Shrines and Other Zelda Influences
Well, not Shrines exactly. But Immortals Fenyx Rising does take some overall design ideas from Breath of the Wild. There are smaller challenges outside of combat in the world. But Vaults of Tartaros are the most satisfying challenges you can find. Similar to the Shrines of Hyrule, these underground vaults task you with solving puzzles or navigating dangerous obstacles.
And boy, are they fun. Making a difficult glide through laser fields, pushing giant balls through a series of ramps, controlling the movement of floating boxes with gusts of wind (and also riding on top of them). The game was at its most entertaining when completing these Vaults. And it was likely due to not having to deal with any of the issues I have with the overworld. The Vaults simply present you with a problem and the tools for the solution. Although the physics of Immortals aren’t as defined as those of Breath of the Wild, these puzzles and obstacles were nevertheless rewarding.
This is far from the only element Immortals borrows from Zelda. The aforementioned Perfect Dodge. Looking out over a cliffside and gliding to your destination. The ability to climb anything. The overall cartoonish art style. Herakles’ wristbands, which are used to pick up heavy objects, spring forth golden beams that grab onto the objects rather than have Fenyx pick them up. And when pulling things towards you, it looks eerily similar to the Magnesis Rune. But while Immortals borrows a lot from Breath of the Wild, it uses those elements just differently enough to make them not feel the same while playing. As an example, gliding with wings is faster (and arguably cooler) than using Link’s paraglider. But Fenyx’s stamina depletes more quickly.
Verdict: Immortals Fenyx Rising is a fun, action-heavy romp through the tales of Greek Mythology. While it doesn’t bring much new to the table, its combat and puzzles are extremely satisfying. There are definitely some frustrating elements that are hard to ignore, such as some unbalanced enemy encounters and potions. But the good far outweighs the problematic.
- Play as Fenyx, a new winged demigod, on a quest to save the Greek gods and their home from a dark curse. Take on mythological beasts, master the legendary powers of the gods, and defeat Typhon, the deadliest Titan in Greek mythology, in an epic fight for the ages (via official site).
- Cartoonish art style
- Likable protagonist
- Balancing weapons, armor, and blessings
- Fun combat mechanics
- The Vaults of Tartaros
- Humor sometimes leads to an inconsistent tone
- Some unbalanced combat encounters
- No block button