Game name: Immortals Fenyx Rising
Release date: December 3, 2020
Available on: Ubisoft Connect
Genre: Action adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Disclaimer: Review code provided by Ubisoft.
Ubisoft Quebec gave us the Assassin’s Creed title that reignited my interest in the franchise (Odyssey), and apparently, while they were working on it, they stumbled on a bug that birthed a game inspired by Greek mythology and titled Gods and Monsters. I’ll admit not being super interested when it was revealed last year, but over time, I saw videos and read interviews that made it look like my kind of thing, so I started following it more closely. That was a good thing, because somewhere along the line it was renamed to the much less attractive title of Immortals Fenyx Rising. Fast forward a few months, and I’ve spent a week with it, so it’s time to share my thoughts on the game with the world. Does it sink to the bottom of Tartarus, or did Ubisoft Quebec manage to bring Olympus’ glory to our computer screen?
Immortals Fenyx Rising tells the tale of Fenyx, a mortal shield bearer who must become a hero in order to save the gods from the vengeful Typhon. Fenyx is a fully customizable character (we can choose gender, skin tone, hair style, voice, etc.) that will gradually earn the favor of the gods, getting different Godly powers and upgrades that will allow them to overcome certain obstacles or defeat powerful foes in combat. The most important of these upgrades is the Wings of Daedalus that we’ll get almost at the start of the adventure, and will be a powerful tool that’ll aid us during exploration and combat. The story won’t wow anyone, but it’s a lot better than I expected it to be, and it’s obvious that the writers read and understood the classics. It helps a lot that the voice actors had fun with the script and delivered great performances all around (Elias Toufexis as Prometheus stands out above the rest, but it’s a pretty balanced cast overall). I can see people having trouble with the comedy or the way the game talks about the Greek gods, but I didn’t have such issues. Prometheus will narrate parts of your journey, and there are cool moments when another character decides to change the story a bit, in a way similar to Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. I won’t say more because I prefer to write spoiler-free content though.
The main draw of the game is not its storytelling, of course, but rather its commitment to open world adventuring. We’ll start our journey on a relatively tiny island before gaining the ability to cross the pond and go on a big quest on the Golden Isle itself (the place where the gods dwell and the adventure takes place). Once on the Isle, our objective is to find the statues of four gods and climb them in order to find out more about our mission in this divine land. This is a task that can be accomplished in any order we wish to, and once we start each god’s questline, we’ll run around doing jobs for them and trying to piece things together. It’s not your usual grindy questing though, as Immortals goes to great lengths in order to feel more “condensed” than other recent open world AAA releases.
This is a game made by the same team that created Assassin’s Creed Odyssey but with a very different aim, and it shows. The Golden Isle is definitely a far smaller playground than the Greek nations in Odyssey, but it still feels incredibly fun to explore thanks to constant smart decisions by the developers. Fenyx can climb pretty much anywhere as long as they keep their Stamina topped up, and this can be accomplished through the use of potions we can craft, or even the raw material (though this is a far less efficient use of resources). As we explore the world and complete Vaults (which are puzzle areas that present us with different obstacles that can be overcome through the use of our Godly powers and some common sense) we’ll get different resources that can be used to improve our Stamina, Health and equipment, as well as unlock even more powers that can, in turn, be used to come back to Vaults we couldn’t tackle before. It’s a very engaging progression system that does away with RPG elements in favor of more straightforward upgrades that suit the game incredibly well.
Our character’s arsenal is also organized in a similar fashion. We can find new weapons and armor through exploration or as quest rewards, but they don’t bring a “power level increase” with them, instead offering new perks but the exact same damage output during combat situations where those perks don’t come into play. This doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our arsenal’s damage, of course, as we can upgrade our weapon and armor categories with resources collected from the game world, and these upgrades will apply to all the equipment we have collected so far (and any we might get in the future). This system does away with problems such as having a cool weapon we enjoy that can only be upgraded a certain number of times before becoming useless, as even the starting sword can carry us through the whole story with no issues as long as we upgrade the sword category. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a transmogrification mechanic that lets us easily customize a piece of equipment to look like another (with no resource expenditure or any crazy requirements). Everything around Immortals Fenyx Rising seems to be designed with the idea that it’s better to let the player enjoy the adventure and the open world exploration at their own pace, with no artificial limits in place or elaborate RPG systems that require careful investigation before committing to something.
The Godly powers we’ll unlock as we advance through the story or find enough resources to buy them are very useful, both in combat and while exploring the world, and they contribute tremendously towards making the otherwise formulaic combat system feel involved and interesting. Sure, we’ll spend a few hours dodging attacks and slashing enemies with sword and axe, but before too long, we’ll be launching our enemies to take the fight to the skies, throwing rocks, summoning bird attacks, calling for Haephestus’ hammer to help, etc. Crucially, attacking and dodging are actions that don’t consume our Stamina, letting us wail on enemies like there’s no tomorrow, even if we might not have upgraded our Stamina gauge as much as we would wish. Godly powers are a different story, as those do expend Stamina on use, but that makes a lot of sense, considering that they can be incredibly powerful when wielded correctly. Enemies have a posture meter that can be exploited in order to leave them knocked out for a while, and there is a combo system that rewards continuous attacks and special moves. Rank and file grunts won’t require a lot of thought when dispatching them, but later encounters will not only increase the number of enemies we fight, but also include a very impressive list of mythological creatures and corrupted heroes to fight, all with their own move sets and special abilities.
I had fun with the combat, as you might have expected from my description above, but the real star of the show here is the open world exploration. Immortals doesn’t shower us in icons every time we open the map screen, which is a cool thing that makes me hopeful for Ubisoft’s future games, as that’s two titles in a row that have leaned more on letting the player find the stuff the developers have put in the world on their own instead of force feeding them a thousand pieces of information at once. Climbing the divine statues I’ve mentioned before will unlock each area of the map, but if we want to start filling it up with things to do, we can either go around the place on foot looking for chests and challenges, or enter a focus view mode that uses audio cues to indicate the proximity of points of interest. Either way, we’ll end up with some map markers that lead to cool things to do, like beating up monsters so we can take their treasure, or completing traversal challenges in order to get Coins of Charon that can be used to buy or upgrade abilities, etc. If that wasn’t enough, then there’s the Vaults, accessed through red holes in the ground (that are often guarded by Typhon’s minions) and hiding all sorts of bounty in their interior. Most Vaults act as challenge rooms dedicated to one of the God powers we possess, but late game areas will start combining our powers, and throwing us gauntlets of challenges that we have to overcome in order to loot their contents. If we don’t have a required power, the game will tell us to come back once we’ve acquired it (and the Vault will remain accessible through Fast Travel). This happened to me a few times, but thanks to the way the game is designed, it wasn’t a frustrating experience.
Honestly though, even if the Fast Travel system was a lot less generous, I’d still feel pretty OK about going back to places on my own, because the simple act of running around is fun. The Wings of Daedalus are always at our disposal, and the game is very generous with its supply of potion-making resources, so we can top up our Stamina frequently without feeling like we’ve wasted a precious drink frivolously. If that wasn’t enough, we can tame mounts found in the wild (and they have a rarity system where the best mounts have more stamina, and can run for longer periods of time). As I’ve said before, Immortals constantly feels like it wants the player to have fun more than anything else. Exploring the world is fun, so the game gives us tools to do it well, and puts treasures, cool fights, challenge Vaults, etc. all around the place so we feel rewarded for our efforts. It’s a tactic that works, and I can already see many people who are disappointed with the RPG direction of the Assassin’s Creed series falling in love with this new IP, in spite of it being created by the same people who crafted Assassin’s Creed Odyssey only a few years ago.
So, we’ve established that the game is very fun to play, and that it seems to be very grind-averse. What else is left? Oh yeah, tech stuff. Well, I also have some good news on that front. Immortals Fenyx Rising (god, why couldn’t they keep the Gods and Monsters name?) is a gorgeous game, and it performs surprisingly well compared to something like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I had no trouble holding sixty FPS at 1440p max settings on my Ryzen 5 3600, 32GB, RTX 3070 machine (in fact, most of the time my framerate was hovering over 80) and I experienced no crashes or game breaking bugs, even though I was playing on pre-release code. The soundtrack is a bit less memorable than the last two Assassin’s Creeds, but the voice acting is often great, and you’ll get to hear Elias Toufexis’ blessed pipes a lot over the course of your adventures on the Golden Isle.
Verdict, your Honor? Immortals Fenyx Rising is a surprisingly refreshing open world adventure that is not only extremely fun to play, but very respectful of the player’s time. I sincerely hope that Ubisoft will continue this series once the final DLC pieces are out (one of them will take us to China with a new hero, and I’m now very hyped for it) because I could use something like this every few years.
9/10 – Great.