Immortals: Fenyx Rising Hands-On Preview – Ubisoft’s Next Great Adventure
The feeling of standing on a great precipice and gazing across the land never gets old. It's a feeling that dozens of games have tried to evoke, but not all of them have succeeded. The initial gaze across Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, leaving the sewer in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, exiting the vault in Fallout 3, and now, almost every high place you can climb to in Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Standing atop a statue of Athena, looking across the world, rock formations jutting out of the horizon, resembling Ireland's Giant's Causeway, it feels foreign, familiar, and begging to be explored. And across just under four hours of time, I explored as much as I possibly could.
It's been more than three years since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild became one of the biggest and most highly reviewed games of all time, and at long last, we are seeing games which clearly take a lot of inspiration from the game that reinvented the open-world genre. Immortals: Fenyx Rising does a lot to remind you of Breath of the Wild and the things that made that game great and unique, though perhaps seeing these tricks for a second time isn't quite as effective. Regardless of how you feel about that though, it's impossible to deny that Immortals: Fenyx Rising is shaping up to be a really interesting and engaging game.
You begin washed up on a beach as Fenyx, a warrior whom you can entirely customize; I chose a powerful young woman with short hair and a mustache, just because I could (it's nice to see Ubisoft actually welcome a character creator that encourages diversity if only the company culture could match). Fenyx has found herself in the realm of the Gods, and it is being overrun by Typhon, a demonic monster that has been causing chaos after escaping the underworld. Your journey is being narrated by Prometheus who is regaling Zeus with the story, and the two of them have quite an irreverent sense of humor. This punctuates your adventure as you run, climb, and glide through the world, with Prometheus telling Fenyx's tale, and Zeus cracking wise repeatedly. I suppose being immortal is boring if you don't have a sense of humor.
The jokes can become tedious, but luckily I didn't find the exploration to ever get boring during my playtime. This is a more structured experience than Breath of the Wild, much of the game can have you following set missions and waypoints in order to complete certain tasks, and your own sense of direction and intuition is a bit more limited. It feels like a hybrid between the open-world approach of Breath of the Wild and Assassin's Creed. In Breath of the Wild, you unlock portions of the map at towers, and these towers act as vantage points to pinpoint areas worth exploring. Immortals does things very similarly, with vantage points unlocking the map, and then you can use "far sight" to highlight points of interest on the map and put down waypoints if you want to visit them. Though, in Breath of the Wild this activity was basically fuelled by your curiosity - you decided what spot on the horizon was worth visiting. In Immortals, the areas you should visit glow and shine, and then get proper names once they're marked on the map, basically telling you what you can expect to find before ever getting there. This sucked away my natural curious instincts and replaced them with the more generic and typical open-world completionist anxiety.
But if you don't let how vast the world is wear on your mind, then exploring it is a great experience. You'll be managing your stamina meter, of course, while sprinting and climbing through the world, which has a rich ancient Greek aesthetic, of course. Pantheons and statues litter the world and the horizon, with broken bridges and ancient monuments scattered around. It does a lot to make the world of Immortals feel like it was lived-in once, and also somehow sacred, holy, and undisturbed. I approached a group of bears, and just as I expected, they didn't actually attack me. The more natural animals that live here don't want to fight, instead, they just gave off an aggressive display, never actually attacking. It felt tranquil, peaceful. And then later on I found some bears corrupted by evil energy, and they were definitely ready to fight.
The combat feels good, too. As weighty as you could want, while having numerous extra moves and combo strings open up as you upgrade your character and progress through the game. I quite like the amount of aerial maneuverability as you upgrade your character, and a quick jump, heavy attack, and light attack string can be chained back into the jump, heavy attack, which can lock certain early enemies in hit-stun. These small discoveries feel great to come across, and the combat, for the time I played it, remained fun and engaging. That is, with the exception of the long-range bow combat. Any time I came across a flying enemy I sighed, as firing the bow almost always felt like more a chore and an enjoyable experience. Those Breath of the Wild inspirations don't stop there though, you'll even be able to pick up incredibly heavy boulders and items and launch them at enemies to do much more damage than your weapons ordinarily do, and if you get the chance to throw around some boulders, it feels massively satisfying.
After just shy of four hours playing the game, I still wanted to return to it, so that's definitely a mark in its favor, but I didn't come away quite as convinced as I wanted to be. The sense of humor the game throws in your face is not offensive, but also not particularly enjoyable. Exploring the world feels great at first, but it had begun to wear a bit thin before I'd finished, partially because I never felt like I quite had the amount of freedom that I wanted - a quest where you can go to one of three objectives in the order you choose isn't the same as having an actual choice. And then there's the art style: to be clear, the world really does look vibrant and gorgeous, but I couldn't look at any of the characters without getting Fortnite vibes, which when combined with the comedy, took me out of my comfort zone.
All in all, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is shaping up to be an excellent open-world adventure with hours worth of world to explore, dungeons to complete, puzzles to solve, and bosses to fight, but whether or not that fun can carry you through a 40+ hour experience is another question entirely.
We won't have to wait too long to find out, anyway, with the game due to launch on December 3rd for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna.
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