Ubisoft Quebec’s Immortals Fenyx Rising has had a rather strange lead-in. During E3 2019, Ubisoft debuted a trailer for Gods & Monsters. It was a whimsical and vibrant look at a game swept in Greek mythology. From the creators of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Gods & Monsters looked to bring a new take on an action-adventure game in a Greek setting. At first glance, it was hard not to compare the footage to Ubisoft Quebec’s previous title. It also harkened back to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with its visual aesthetic.
Gods & Monsters was initially posed to release on February 25th, 2020. Though, during a restructuring phase set across the company, Ubisoft delayed Gods & Monsters indefinitely. The game disappeared for quite some time. However, earlier this month, Ubisoft announced that the game known as Gods & Monsters has been renamed Immortals Fenyx Rising. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Ubisoft promised a new look at the title during its second Ubisoft Forward.
I got a chance to go hands-on with Immortals Fenyx Rising ahead of its Ubisoft Forward spotlight. The demo offered me a chance to fully explore a chunk of the open map. I was able to get a feel for the combat mechanics, exploration, and puzzles, which is put on the forefront in the game. Immortals Fenyx Rising often felt familiar. It was primarily attributed to the confirmation that my gut feeling of the game being a hybrid of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Breath of the Wild was wholeheartedly correct. While Immortals Fenyx Rising can come across as uninspired at first glance, the melding of these two properties made for a compelling experience.
Dipping My Toe into The Forgelands
The tone of Immortals Fenyx Rising was immediately set during the demo’s opening cinematic. Narrated by Prometheus and Zeus, the two banter back and forth, establishing the demo’s core narrative. Introducing us to the titular demigod Fenyx, Prometheus explains that our protagonist is on a quest to defeat Typhon, a dreaded god destroyer. In order to do so, Fenix must explore The Forgelands, a named section of the map in Immortals Fenyx Rising.
The Forgelands was once Hephaistos’s home. However, mythological monsters including cyclopses and minotaurs have now overtaken the area. During this bit of exposition, Zeus chimes in with various quips and questions where his skip button is. The opening ends with Zeus introducing Immortals Fenyx Rising as “the video game formally known as Gods & Monsters”. As the game transitioned away for its cinematic and into gameplay, Immortals Fenyx Rising opened with a handful of story missions and the full area of The Forgelands ripe for exploration. Perched off a clifftop, I was able to scan the nearby POIs and mark them on my HUB. Below me was a small group of enemies, guarding a rift in the ground, known as a Vault.
It was here I was able to get my first taste of the combat in Immortals Fenys Rising. Like recent Assassin’s Creed titles, Fenyx carries light and heavy attacks as she wields an axe. Stringing together combos, Fenix can chip away at enemy health bars while dodging incoming attacks to keep the combo meter going. Activating a “perfect dodge”, time will slow down allowing Fenyx to rush enemies and deliver additional blows. Enemies can also be parried, which will stun them, leaving them open for a flurry of attacks.
Combat is not only boiled down to two attacks. No, Fenyx also has a selection of ‘Godly Powers’ to use. For the demo, I had preselected powers including Hephaistos’s Hammer, which turned out to be my favourite. Using Hephaistos’s Hammer, Fenyx conjures a large hammer to swing down on her opponents. Additionally, I had access to Athena’s Dash to run and slam into enemies. I also possessed a power to raise spikes from the ground, and one to call a friendly phoenix to come in for support. These powers run off a cool down system, which Fenyx can replenish quicker with a potion.
Once clearing out the area, I was given skill points that can be used on Fenyx’s skill tree, unlocking new powers and buffs for Fenyx. I then jumped into the Vault which brought me to the Underworld. Similar to Breath of the Wild’s Shrines, the Underworld is a small area with a series of physics-based puzzles, platforming and combat. This first dive into the Underworld taught me the basics of Herkales’s Strength. Using this power, Fenyx can manipulate and move heavy objects complete puzzles. Moving steel crates over pressure plates or throwing them across gaps, I was able to progress through the Underworld level. I was also taught the basics of Fenyx’s bow and arrow by being instructed to hit a series of moving targets to open a door. In the end, I was rewarded with Zeus’s Lightning.
Reclaiming the Forge
Now that I got to sink my teeth into Fenyx’s powers, I had the opportunity to put my new-found skills to good use. The overworld of The Forgelands has many puzzles to solve, treasures to find, as well as core missions to complete. Progressing with the story, I found myself in the Forge area. Tasked with lighting four furnaces, I had to use muster practical solutions to light the fires. Utilizing Herkales’s Strength, I found bits of coal I could throw into the furnace. To light them, I had to seek out lit fires and use my bow and arrow to ignite the coal. Fenyx can use a standard shot or opt to use a controlled shot, in which I can maneuver the arrow as it flies through the air. This section of gameplay taught me the valuable lesson in Immortals Fenyx Rising that if something feels like it should be possible, it likely is.
Once this task was completed, I progressed to face the Clanking Automaton Lieutenant, a high-powered boss. Born from the Forge, the Clanking Automaton Lieutenant lumbered over me and casting devastating attacks while firing lasers from its hands. It became imperative that I throw every available move I had to defeat it. Thankfully, Fenyx can use a collection of potions to heal, replenish the use of Godly Powers, and buff her strength. It was a rather challenging encounter but showcased the fluidity of pairing regular strikes with the Godly Powers. It hit the right balance of making me feel like I was a threat to this mechanized foe, but had to keep my wits about me.
A World Ripe for Exploration
As the Clanking Automaton Lieutenant fell, Hephaistos’s forge was free. I was rewarded with a new helmet to equip. Fenyx has many upgradable slots for equipment, including helmet, armour, main weapon, secondary, bow, and wings of Daidalos. Fenyx is fully customizable with many different weapons and armour to change her appearance available in the game (though the available selections I found were limited). Through traversal, Fenyx can glide and dive in the air by unfurling her wings. Controlling her and the camera in the demo was a bit of a struggle due to the fact that inverted controls were the standard control scheme available to me in the demo. Thankfully, Fenix can also call upon her horse to get from point A to point B (with fast travel options as well). Additionally, Fenix can climb nearly any wall or cliffside. Though, she does have a stamina meter I had to keep an eye on for risk of falling. I was now left to my devices at this point in the demo.
I began crossing The Forgelands hitting points of interest and completing challenges. A test of strength pitted me against a Leuitanent Brontes, a glowing green cyclops. Once again, the combat was expertly displayed as I dodged my way from thrown boulders and began building my combo with an assortment of attacks. After that, I travelled across the map to a ‘Myth Challenge’. Offering a Coin of Charon, I had to shoot an arrow through a line of targets, and finally light a fire. Going back to the inverted control hurdles, I spent far too long on what should have been an easy puzzle to solve. At face value, this was an example of how Immortals Fenyx Rising builds in-game puzzles around core gameplay mechanics in an interesting way.
The area of The Forgelands wasn’t just built for challenges. There are ways to naturally come across treasure and consumables across the map. Finding mushrooms, I could head to a Cauldron of Circe to brew up potions for my inventory. I also found numerous treasure alcoves guarded by mobs. Defeating those and opening up the chest rewarded me with new weapons and loot to upgrade Fenyx.
A Puzzling Situation
Progressing across the map, I found myself within another Underworld Vault. This one, in particular, was my favourite encounter during the entire demo. The array of puzzles revolved around pinball––yes, pinball. Activating a pedestal, I then controlled a large ancient flat of stone with paddles on the end. A large stone would shoot into the area and I would have to play a very traditional game of pinball, getting the stone into a hole in the middle. While Immortals Fenyx Rising is unabashedly inspired by Breath of the Wild. This concept was an innovative addition to these vertical slice puzzles. A large smile was drawn across my face and I chuckled to myself: “No way!” as I came across my first puzzle in this section.
Immortals Fenyx Rising also features some larger puzzles in the overworld called Myth Challenge Constellations. These were a bit more complex. It often boiled down to completing a series of smaller puzzles to collect a set of blue orbs. I found myself having to put myself into the mindset of my previous notion. Here, to complete them I had to concentrate on what the practical solutions could be. Using physics, I had to throw boulders to destroy broken walls, manipulate objects to weigh down pressure plates and juggle orbs to bypass lasers and barriers. The interesting note about these challenges is that once you tackle a specific puzzle, it may naturally lead you straight into the second.
These puzzles are very well thought out and quite enjoyable. I found myself playing this game of trial and error, finding the rules of this game’s world. Immortals Fenyx Rising is cartoonish in a sense but it still very much baked in a sense of realistic possibilities. Though, because of the time constraints put on me during my demo period, I wasn’t able to put the full amount of concentration into these puzzles. Constellation Challenges can take time and dedication. I walked away thinking about how much focus I want to put into these upon the game’s full release because of how satisfying it felt to complete one.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is a very familiar game. I found the comfort of playing through the standard open-world checkbox gameplay loop of a Ubisoft title. Venturing forth to various POI, completing the objective and moving on to the next one. Fenyx’s gameplay and character progression are very much akin to what we’ve seen in the latest Assassin’s Creed games. Though, Ubisoft Quebec was wise to innovate off that skeleton after developing one of the more popular games in the franchise.
There’s an air of lightheartedness that flows throughout the game. It never takes itself too seriously and the visuals of the game pop with colour and vibrancy. Ubisoft Quebec appears to have taken the intrinsic DNA of their games and paired it with what worked in Breath of the Wild. Ridding weapon degradation and laborious cooking, Immortals Fenyx Rising took core traversal mechanics and puzzle-based gameplay from Nintendo’s acclaimed titles and riffed on it.
I’m still uncertain if Immortals Fenyx Rising has enough differences to help it stand on its own as a new IP. But while many of Ubisoft’s games are centred on catering to a more mature audience, Immortals Fenyx Rising appears to be a gateway for a slightly younger generation. I’m walking away excited to learn more about the game and to see the sort of innovative puzzles Ubisoft Quebec has packed into their game.
Immortals Fenyx Rising will launch on December 3rd, 2020 on Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC. It will also be available on PlayStation 5.