Immortals: Fenyx Rising Review – Breath of the Titan
Immortals: Fenyx RisingDecember 3rd, 2020
Immortals: Fenyx Rising, the umpteenth open-world game developed by Ubisoft, didn't have it easy right from the start. Originally announced as Gods and Monster, a very plain that name that however does encapsulate well what the game is all about, the open-world title completely disappeared from everyone's radar until earlier this year, when it was announced that the game would be named Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Even with the name change, Immortals: Fenyx Rising did not look much different from before: the Zelda: Breath of the Wild similarities were uncanny, despite the different setting, rooted in Greek Mythology.
First impressions may be a little deceiving, true, but sometimes they are right. While the similarities with the latest entry in the Zelda series are even more prevalent than what it looked like in pre-release footage, Immortals: Fenyx Rising manages to be an incredibly solid open-world title that stands out from the competition thanks to the masterful way it mashes together its many influences, ranging from the Nintendo game to the Assassin's Creed series and the colorful 3D platform games of the early 2000s.
One thing that stands out immediately in Immortals: Fenyx Rising is how the game never takes itself too seriously, starting from the story, which is narrated by two extremely funny narrators: Prometheus, the Greek Titan who gifted fire to man and was punished for it with eternal torment, and Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and the ruler of Olympus. The thunder god sought the help of the Titan to restore the world to its previous form after the Titan Typhon freed himself from Tartaros and robbed the other gods of their forms and powers. Instead of helping the thunder god directly, Prometheus starts narrating the story of Fenyx, a mere mortal with no combat experience who will be the one to save the world from Typhon and the curse he unleashed upon it, a curse that turned all humans to stone in the process. During the course of the game, Prometheus and Zeus will continue narrating Fenyx's tale, constantly trading jokes that delve deep into Greek Mythology in an exciting way.
It's not just the banter between Prometheus and Zeus that is funny, but pretty much the entirety of the story. During Fenyx's journey, players will meet a colorful cast of quite memorable characters, like Hermes, the gods who have lost their powers like Aphrodite and Ares, tons of Greek Mythology creatures all come with their own unique quirks that make them instantly recognizable. The story also moves at a very quick pace, if one focuses on the story quests only, resulting in a very enjoyable experience. The unique narration style, which only gets more intense and funnier as the game proceeds, does the rest.
While the Immortals: Fenyx Rising's story does feel like a breath of fresh air, compared to many other open-world games, the gameplay feels like a breath of the wild, pun wholly intended. It does not give a very good impression at first.
Right after the intro and creating your own Fenyx with a character creator that offers an acceptable amount of options, you are thrown right into the thick of the action, with a few quick tutorials that teach movement and combat basics. These basics are almost identical to those of Breath of the Wild: a classic 3D combat featuring light and heavy attacks, parrying and evading, and the ability to climb up anything until the stamina gauge is empty. A little further in the starting island, things continue to bear a striking resemblance to the latest entry in the Zelda series: to acquire some of the tools Fenyx needs to save the gods and defeat Typhon, you will have to solve puzzles located inside the Vaults of Tartaros, which effectively function as the Shrines in Breath of the Wild, with puzzles built around a particular mechanic. Even some of the tools available, like the Bracelets of Heracles, are mysteriously similar to those seen in Breath of the Wild. All this results in a very uneventful, predictable beginning that does not bode well for the rest of the game, and not even Prometheus and Zeus' narration can make it any less boring.
And then, once you obtain the Wings of Daidalos, and you're out of the starting area, everything changes, and not just because gliding on these wings feels amazing. The Hall of the Gods grants access to the leveling and customization system which lets players learn and improve skills, upgrade equipment, health, and stamina, mechanics that open up the game a lot. Once a few skills have been acquired and leveled up, to make an example, combat takes a whole different face, allowing players to combo skills together to defeat enemies quickly or fill the Stun gauge of more resilient enemies like bears and minotaurs to deal additional damage. Enemy variety is also extremely good, forcing players to master mechanics like parrying and evading, use the Bracelets of Heracles to hurl boulders at enemies and seamleassly switch between ground and air combat, melee and ranged. Combat is definitely among the highlights of Immortals: Fenyx Rising, a far cry from the combat systems usually seen in Ubisoft open-world games.
Exploration doesn't exactly reach the same heights of the combat system, but it does become more enjoyable after getting out of the starting area, mostly thanks to the excellent design of the different islands. They all come with different biomes and a certain theme that makes them stand out from all the others and almost feel like they belong to a 3D platform game from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube era: full of charm and full of secrets to discover. Maybe too full of secrets to be completely honest.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising does suffer a bit from the Ubisoft typical open-world design. While not on the level of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Fenyx Rising does feature a little bit of bloating, as there are tons of activities to take part in, treasure chests to discover, and additional Vaults of Tartaros to explore. While everything is obviously optional, ignoring all this side content will make you miss out on some of the best mechanics the game has to offer, as everything from health and stamina to weapons and skills can only be improved or unlocked by using different types of items. It does feel a bit too confusing at times, to be honest, but if you want to truly have fun in the game, you will have to engage the optional content as much as possible. Thankfully, it is quite varied.
The optional content in Immortals: Fenyx Rising includes a lot of diverse activities. Alongside the already mentioned Vaults of Tartaros, which feature some quite clever puzzles that feel rather rewarding, the game also features different collectibles, treasure chests that can be either locked behind more puzzles or protected by enemies, Navigational Challenges, simple platforming challenges, Odysseus Challenges that involve shooting guided arrows through a certain number of targets placed in a set area, Lyre Challenges, simple musical challenges that require players remember a melody and play it back on a big Lyre that is found in each of the map's areas, and Constellation Challenges, other puzzle-based challenges that also provide additional details on the story of Daidalos. Collecting Ambrosia, which is used to increase Fenyx's health, is a little more straightforward than the other challenges, but it often requires good mastery of climbing and gliding to be reached. The rewards for completing side content include new gear, different gems that can be used to improve weapons, helmets, armors, and potions, and the valuable Coins of Caron, which can be used to learn new Skills and Godly Powers. And if all this wasn't enough, players can also take part in combat-focused content and take on the wraiths of legendary Greek heroes like Achilles and Odysseus in some heated battles that will put your skills on the test. Immortals: Fenyx Rising really has a little something for all types of open-world games fans.
As already mentioned, learning all Skills and Godly Powers is more than incentive enough to engage in some of this optional content, as they are extremely diverse and can be used in combos to make combat more fun. Obtaining new gear is also a very good reason to seek out treasure chests, as they all come with unique perks that empower different playstyles and open up some interesting combat options. They are also upgraded in sets, making it much easier to experiment without having to upgrade each and every weapon, helmet and armor individually.
All this would mean very little if quest design left something to be desired, but thankfully Immortals: Fenyx Rising delivers on this front as well. All main quests are well-designed and quite varied, offering the right balance of exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving that makes them feel different from simply free-roaming the Golden Isle in search of treasures. The big God Vaults also deserve praise, as they are much bigger and complex than regular Vaults of Tartaros, providing a good level of challenge in regards to both puzzles and combat. It's nothing out of the ordinary, to be honest, but they are so well-designed that it's easy to look past the fact that they are not particularly surprising nor innovative.
The cartoonish and colorful presentation is another area where Immortals: Fenyx Rising delivers. Character and world design are quite good, presenting main and secondary characters as well as enemies and locations that are instantly recognizable. Each island's unique biome is also designed well, giving the game tons of personality.
Performance on PC, sadly, doesn't seem to be too solid at the moment. Even with the day one update installed, the game doesn't manage to keep a solid 60 FPS frame rate on a system powered by an i7-3770 CPU, GTX 980 Ti and 16 GB RAM at 1440p high settings. The game seems to struggle the most in closed areas with multiple light sources, and even turning off Global Illumination doesn't seem to improve things too much. There are also random FPS drops in areas that do not feel particularly demanding. Thankfully, the game does feature a lot of different visual options, including Adaptive Quality for Anti-Aliasing, so a little tweaking can definitely improve performance.
Speaking of the Immortals: Fenyx Rising soundtrack and voice acting, the game does a more than acceptable job. The individual tracks are more than decent, employing some unique instruments that try to replicate the feel of ancient Greek music, and the fact that they dynamically change depending on the current situation is a definite plus. Voice acting is also competent, and the constant jokes are delivered properly, despite some weird accents here and there that do become a little grating over time. Thankfully, they are not as offending as the ones heard in Assassin's Creed Odyssey, so they are definitely bearable for the duration of the game.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed Immortals: Fenix Rising way more than I thought I would. The first impressions were pretty bad, but as the game progressed and more options became available, I found myself fully engrossed in the tale of Fenyx and his war against the terrible Typhon, smiling at the jokes told by Prometheus and Zeus, and loving every second of gliding around the Golden Isle in search of treasure. Sure, the game is not innovative at all, but the way every little element and mechanic comes together makes it easy to look past this issue and enjoy one of the best open-world games put out by Ubisoft in recent years.
PC version tested. Review code provided by the publisher.
Despite a huge lack of innovation, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Zelda: Breath of the Wild's central mechanics, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a great open-world game featuring a light-hearted, humorous tone, great combat, tons of content, and a well-designed main quest. It's also reminiscent, in a good way, of 3D puzzle games from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube era. Sure, the game does suffer a bit from the usual Ubisoft open-world design bloat, but do not let this put you off: Fenyx's journey to save the Greek Gods and restore the world to its former beauty is one worth experiencing.
- Humorous, light-hearted tone
- Excellent combat
- Great puzzle and quest design
- Colorful visuals
- The similarities with Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of mechanics can put off some
- Despite its quality, the game lacks any real innovation
- Some performance issues on PC