I came into Immortals Fenyx Rising needing an escape from what has been an otherwise chaotic week. So while I was by no means expecting to be blown away, but a virtual trip to the Golden Isle. So I’m surprisingly overjoyed to report that while this Greek-gods-infused epic treads heavily on game mechanics and story elements that have been all but carved in stone at this point, Immortals Fenyx Rising soars thanks to a lot of heart and humour, a world that’s full of intrigue and things to do and a combat system that allows you to adapt or adopt your own style.
The mythology makes the journey
According to game director Scott Phillips, the pomegranate seed planted to grow into Immortals Fenyx Rising came from the research phase for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. They are developing what they learned of mythology and pairing that with the gameplay mechanics and challenges they’ve come to love allowed the team at Ubisoft Quebec and around the world to explore and create under an IP not yet established. It’s a move that helps Fenyx’s story to be their own indeed.
However, that’s not to say that everything is fresh in Immortals Fenyx Rising. In your adventures, you’ll find a lot that comes directly from titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Assassin’s Creed, God of War and even a little Kid Icarus for good measure.
And the freedom mostly works up until things begin to follow a formula, but more on that later.
It’s All Greek to Me
Immortals Fenyx Rising exists in a timeline where Typhon, who in this tale could be a stand-in for Dragaux from Ring Fit Adventure, has succeeded in escaping his prison inside of a mountain on the island and defeating the Greek gods in their hall, sending them back to their domains upon the island as beings imprisoned in caricatures of their personalities.
In a last-ditch effort to change the outcome, Zeus goes to visit his cousin Prometheus, who is imprisoned upon a snowy mountain for his sin of giving humans fire. Prometheus tells the tale of a human who is fated to save the gods and reverse Typhon’s reign. The two make a bet upon the tale that if the human fails, Prometheus will agree to help Zeus in a final battle. While if the human triumphs, Zeus will free Prometheus and allow him back into Olympus.
I thought I would quickly tire of my adventure being told as a constant narrative, but it turns out that much of Immortals Fenyx Rising‘s heart comes from the interplay between the two that unfolds as you progress. Ubisoft mainstay Elias Toufexis is endearing and lovable as the wise and infallible Prometheus. He tells the tale clearly and charmingly that leaves you with no doubts about his love for humans. Inversely, Lionnel Astier brings it as a larger-than-life Zeus, who appears as a sort of college frat boy who has let his ADHD run wild. While Prometheus is sure-footed and trustworthy, Zeus is a total mess, leaving no question as to how Typhon escaped his prison.
As the story evolves and you meet more gods, the tale only grows stronger in its charming presence. The story is sure you keep you interested as you traverse the Golden Isle.
Hello from the Golden Isle
Immortals Fenyx Rising adopts a cartoon veneer that’s suitable for recounting it’s a mythical tale of Fenyx’s travels upon the Golden Isle. And while the same would suggest a bright and fertile land perfect for a Saturday morning cartoon, Daedalus’ Golden Isle isn’t all bright and airy. In fact, Ubisoft Quebec’s developers have worked skillfully under the guise of the great Greek architect of legend to create a seven-region game world where each diminished god once ruled a section reflecting their status in Greek Mythology.
Aphrodite is the goddess of life and beauty, so it would stand to reason that she’d feel at home atop a serene cliff facing a land of rolling green hills, pomegranate orchards and fields of beautiful animals that would be at home in a movie Studio Ghibli would make about Greece. Whereas Hephaestus’s domain is a scorching quarry desert full of stone and other resources resting in the shadow of a mighty forge and it’s smokestacks. Travel to Ares’ realm of battle, and you’ll find a fair amount of skeletons dotting the scorched lands. Ubisoft has spared no expense in time and effort in making sure each domain functions as an exciting environment. Following the prologue, you’re free to explore on your terms — just as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild allows you to do with Hyrule.
Fight as you mean it
Fighting in Immortals Fenyx Rising is a perfect mix between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed. It handles as an RPG numbered-hack-and-slash where you’ll often be taking on several foes at once — and they refreshingly attack at the same time, for the most part. There’s excitement in taking on a group of Typhon’s foot soldiers up close while a giant cyclops hurls rocks at you from a distance.
Much like the two titles mentioned above, Immortals Fenyx Rising‘s combat rewards players who’ve mastered chaining combos, parrying and dodging with an enemy stagger system and bullet time that make combat fluid and exciting.
But the real joy of Immortals Fenyx Rising‘s combat comes from its ability to adapt to your fighting style. Early on, Fenyx will come across the sword of Achilles, the axe of Atalanta and the bow of Odysseus — all of which they can use in combat on the fly. When paired with Hercules’ super strength and the flight abilities of Daedalus, which are both also unlocked early on, Fenyx has numerous methods for dispatching their enemies.
You may choose to hit fast and often with the sword. Or maybe you like to hit hard and at the right moment with the axe. Perhaps you aim to keep your distance by choosing to work with the bow. Likewise, using Hercules’ strength to throw rocks does huge damage and staggers quickly, but it also leaves you open for an extended amount of time. Taking flight in combat requires excellent precision, but it makes you harder to hit, and if you manage to get your enemy in the air, chances are they will be completely helpless!
The beauty of Immortals Fenyx Rising‘s combat is that it’s all up for you to decide how you fight. And there’s very little tax for choosing how you go about doing that. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself in situations where you have to adopt multiple tactics to make it to the other side.
There is one form of combat I wish had gone through some improvement, and I’m surprised that it didn’t because it’s something Ubisoft is legendary for stealth. There’s a mechanic in Immortals Fenyx Rising that allows you to sneak up on enemies and do major damage off the get-go and several skills to learn that will help in doing this. But I’ve mainly found that the groupings of enemies and lack of vegetation and hiding places lead to stealth blowing away on the breeze. Although, I’ll happily admit that it may just be that I’m awful at stealth when I can’t stick to vegetation and whistle to bring foes to me as I would in Assassin’s Creed.
A godly performance
If you’ve been following my Ubisoft PC reviews of late, you’ll know that I’ve been having a hell of a time with performance issues. It had me worried that my 2019 Dell G5
was going to have to go out to the lands of the dead in order for me to keep up with next-gen gaming. My time spent in Immortals Fenyx Rising has me feeling energized — as if I’ve been imbued with Zeus’ lightning. I’ve been running the game on “very high” settings with some anti-aliasing present to keep the extremely bright and detailed landscapes soft, and I’ve been getting 40 to 60 FPS pretty stable.
Immortals Fenyx Rising appears to be one of Ubisoft’s most balanced games in recent memory. I’ve been expecting to experience more performance hitches than I have — especially with environments packed to the brim with assets and battles involving multiple enemies in the vicinity. The worst performance I’ve experienced so far is when a group of foot soldiers and a cyclops wandered into my battle with the boar that slew Adonis. My FPS dropped to 25, and my controls began to stick, but it was nowhere near enough to prevent me from continuing the battle.
Repetition extinguishes the fire
The greatest problem I have with Immortals Fenyx Rising is that while its take on Greek mythology, fresh and fantastical storytelling and creative combat all burn brightly, it’s overall repetitiveness threatens to blow out the candle here. The seven domains of the Golden Isle and each of its gods are fresh and exciting, but the mechanics begin to grow stale.
Moving into a new domain consists of scouting the area from atop a statue to reveal the map and search for treasures, resources, puzzles and story missions. Next, you’ll adventure to complete your scouting process, do a few things for the god of the region and then face a hero of legend as a boss.
Most of the optional puzzles dungeons unlock when you complete a battle with some foes around the point in question. And dungeons become a slog of solving a puzzle or a few puzzles and then deciding whether or not you want to solve another to grab the chest found in each dungeon.
I am enjoying my trip to the Golden Isles far more than I ever expected to. The interplay between Zeus and Prometheus had me worried that it was going to overstay its welcome. But I’m happy to report the two are opposed and perfectly enjoyable in their own right. The Golden Isle works as a setting because it’s a vast land that is split into seven domains that reflect the personality and splendour of the Greek god that calls each home. Additionally, there are plenty of puzzles, secrets and fierce bosses to keep you busy for hours. Combat allows you to be as creative as you care to be, and on the fly no less — quite literally! Finally, just like any proper hero, Fenyx suffers from one glaring weakness: Their adventure involves a fair amount of repetition. There’s enough variation in puzzles, battles and main objectives. But it’s an experience all held together by the now-seemingly-standard climb a tower, scout an area and do a few things before a mission and a boss battle formula. Still, if you’re in the market for one more open-world adventure, Immortals Fenyx Rising is worth the trip.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- Story is full of heart and humour
- The Golden Isle is full of things to do
- Combat is creative and happens on the fly
- The formula dampens the full experience
- Optional dungeons can be challenging, but they become a slog