(Reviewed on Xbox Series X by Games of DAYNE)
Ubisoft have returned to adapting Greek mythology in Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Previously explored by the team in 2018’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, this latest reimagining of the wildly popular mythology is a breath of fresh air. Blessed with a simplistic art style that feels sleek and fun while guided by a light hearted narrative full of quirky characters, a surprising amount of comic relief and deep combat system, Immortals: Fenyx Rising inescapably borrows elements from Ubisoft’s staple Assassin’s Creed series while introducing enough of its own to feel unique and satisfying. Taking place in the fictional Golden Isles, the stage is set for an epic power struggle between good and evil with Fenyx enlisting the support of the Gods to stop the evil Typhon.
Walking with the Gods
Opening with an ominous monologue from Typhon, having recently escaped imprisonment beneath a mountain at the hands of Zeus, the evil monster has exacted his revenge on the Olympian Gods by severing them from their godly essence and therefore their powers. Zeus meets with Prometheus, shackled in chains atop a snow covered mountain, in an effort to enlist his aid. Prometheus however offers a wager that if a mere mortal can defeat Typhon, Zeus must release him. Prometheus, using his power of foresight, begins to tell the tale of a simple shield bearer and storyteller named Fenyx.
Players are able to customise Fenyx’s appearance from a simple suite containing an assortment of hairstyle, facial hair, eyes, eyebrows – all with colouring options, face markings and finally gender and voice. A selection of skin tones including some very cool red, green and blue options allow for some fun creations. These can all be changed at any point in the game after reaching the Hall of the Gods, at this location only. Having decided upon their appearance, Fenyx’s tale begins with a shipwreck. Fenyx’s entire crew and brother Legyron, as well as all of the Golden Isles human inhabitants, have been turned to stone. After rescuing Hermes, God of thieves and travelers, Fenyx learns of Typhon’s sinister plans to destroy the barrier between the mortal realm and Tartaros, a cosmic prison for the Titans and divine punishment of the wicked.
Tasked with saving humanity, Fenyx embarks on an adventure to free the Olympian Gods Ares and Hephaistos as well as Goddesses Aphrodite and Athena. Trapped in forms that are too spoilery and fun to mention, Fenyx must find and obtain their godly essences and reunite them with it to restore them to their true forms.
Intwerwoven throughout Fenyx’s quest is frequently comedic commentary from Zeus and Prometheus, discussing Fenyx’s current quest while often getting side tracked. This keeps the overall tone of the narrative light despite the grave stakes of Typhon’s malevolent scheme.
Each God has a quest line that awards Fenyx with three blessings, similar to perks, before ultimately obtaining the essence and restoring the Gods at the Hall of the Gods, a sanctum hidden from Typhon’s gaze by magic. These quest lines can be completed in any order and only when all four Gods have been reunited will players be able to access the final section of the map for an epic confrontation with Typhon.
Surprisingly, completing the main quest line can take as little as 10 hours. This can easily be blown out by some of the challenging environmental puzzles and of course exploration and completion of optional side quests. There are dozens of hours of additional things to do that will keep players busy long after the credits have rolled, including a New Game + for players keen to replay the story with their unlocked skills, gear, weapons and upgrades intact, however, a point of no return prior to the final encounter with Typhon eliminates any endgame content as such. Returning to an automatically generated Typhon Save at this point or starting New Game + are the only means to continue playing, with no new content that actually follows the conclusion of the story.
By presenting the story in such a short and simple package, Immortals: Fenyx Rising allows players to complete the main quest line without succumbing to open world fatigue or being overwhelmed by the optional content to complete. The story is tightly paced and full of enough drama, humour, twists and revelations to keep even the most casual gamer satisfied while also allowing those looking for more meat from their experience to be perfectly equipped and prepared to complete the abundance of additional activities.
Gods and monsters
The gameplay in Immortals: Fenyx Rising is undoubtedly going to draw comparisons to Assassin’s Creed, particularly Odyssey and Valhalla, the latest pair of entries. How Immortals manages to separate itself and establish its own continuity as far as engaging gameplay goes starts with its weapons. Fenyx has a sword and an axe, each of which is controlled by single button press and has an assortment for variants to find and choose between.
Each weapon has its own passive perks be it an additional stamina bar or extra damage in air combos for example. The axe is the heavier hitting of the pair and deals more stun damage than the sword. A bow and arrow also allow for ranged combat, also with alternative designs with their own perks to be found and unlocked. This trio of weapons provide a solid foundation for the weapon side of the combat and are fun and accessible to create cool and effective combos with.
Phosphor is a phoenix that acts as a companion to the player, soaring with Fenyx through the skies and constantly circling overhead when getting around on foot. Like everything in Immortals, there are alternate skins for Phosphor to find that also have perks, allowing for even further tailoring of play style preference. The inclusion of this companion is not just fun visually or practically in combat but Phosphor feels like a reminder that despite the odds and stakes at play, Fenyx is never truly alone.
Blessings, as briefly mentioned earlier, are passive perks that are rewarded for completing missions in each God’s quest line, with each God awarding three blessings each. These may be increases to stats or additional stun damage at the end of combos for instance. These, coupled with weapon perks, allow Fenyx to become a force to be reckoned with well before the end of the main quest line.
Godly powers can be unlocked at the Hall of the Gods by spending Charon coins, earned by solving the many Tartaros vault optional missions scattered throughout the Golden Isles. These powers include a powerful dash attack, summoning dozens of spears to rise from the ground launching enemies into the air and ordering Phosphor to attack from above.
As well as the godly powers, skills can also be acquired at the Hall of the Gods and are unlocked by spending Charon coins. Unlocking this arsenal to use alongside the godly powers can result in a very strong and diverse Fenyx to handle even the most overwhelming encounters.
The inclusion of a jump and double jump function add another element to not just traversal but to combat too. This allows for juggling enemies with combos in the air while avoiding melee damage from any other potential enemies. Enemies that use aerial attacks will be able to interrupt these combos but they too can be attacked in the air as well as from the ground. Successful parrying and use of the evade dodge will be essential to surviving combat while taking as little damage as possible. Evading and using the godly powers will consume stamina which will only recharge upon remaining completely still for a brief period of time, requiring a little management to avoid being completely drained at a critical moment.
Balancing all of these different types of attacks, abilities and techniques while considering stamina is simple enough with practice and depending on the difficulty selected to play through the game, in most instances the best offence is a good defence with parrying in particular stunning enemies and opening a window for a devastating counter attack.
The enemy variety is visually creative and combinations of melee and ranged enemies are enough to keep the player alert with each encounter, especially when multiple enemies are attacking at once. From the likes of fearsome giant cyclops that roam around alone or with a posse of allies, large birds that swoop and unleash flurries of feather like ranged attacks to the more common standard enemies or variants with shields to be broken with heavy axe attacks or godly powers, combat is dynamic and enjoyable with minimal feeling of repetition. At random, Wraith events are triggered where powerful enemies are sent to defeat Fenyx. These are simply cleared by defeating all enemies in the area amdist the chaotic firey storm and red hue that accompany the battle.
Plenty of different outfits and helmets can be found by completing side missions or optional challenges throughout the world. These too provide stat boosts or perks which act as an incentive to equip certain gear. All gear, weapons, mounts and even Phosphor can have a certain one selected while being able to customise its appearance to look like another that the player has found, similar to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. For example, you can select Helmet A for its perks but choose for it to look like Helmet B, offering a purely cosmetic change without losing the desired perk. This is an excellent feature for allowing the player to have the best of both worlds in regards to perks and appearance without either having to be compromised.
Potions that heal, restore stamina, provide attack and defence buffs can be crafted at various locations throughout the world. The materials required are fruits and vegetation that can be collected out in the wild or found in chests. Pomegranate and blue mushrooms, the ingredients for crafting healing and stamina restoration potions respectively can be consumed instantly for very small increases too.
Exploring the Golden Isles
Traversing the Golden Isles can be done competently on foot thanks to the sprint feature, which consumes stamina, on a mount such as a horse, zebra or even a golden Pegasus for example or by gliding using wings.
The way in which mounts are acquired is not as simple as buying them, instead, they need to be approached in the wild cautiously using stealth. Crouching and slowly moving closer to them will still alarm them, triggering a red exclamation point above their heads. Staying perfectly still temporarily will cause the mount to calm, allowing for the approach to continue and when close enough, an on screen prompt will allow Fenyx to tame it. There are several different mounts that can be tamed and they can be switched between easily within the gear screen.
Wings are perhaps the coolest and most enjoyable feature in the open world elements of Immortals. Initially they can only be used to double jump until progression awards a pair that allow the player to glide. This consumes stamina which can be replenished mid flight using blue mushrooms or a stamina potion to increase the flight time. Unable to adjust the pitch up or down, the wings literally only allow Fenyx to glide. This still covers a lot of ground very quickly and eliminates some rough terrain that may otherwise take a little more time to traverse. There are several alternate wings to be found which, as with everything else gear related, can be switched between instantaneously in the gear screen.
Jumping, gliding, riding and climbing comprise the core traversal mechanics of Immortals and the variety is great for avoiding repetition or feeling like getting from point A to point B is taking too long. As the map is fairly large, accessible traversal is a very welcome inclusion to the core gameplay.
In typical Ubisoft fashion the map is defogged by ascending tall environmental landmarks. In the case of Immortals, these are giant statues that represent Gods. Upon activating these Scout points, Prometheus narrates what Fenyx has uncovered which is cool alternative to the formula players have grown accustomed to throughout the likes of the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises.
Additionally, the actual points of interest are uncovered by using the Far Sight ability, triggered by clicking the right thumb stick. This reveals a cursor that will glow and vibrate when a point of interest has been hovered over and can be revealed by pulling the right trigger. This is a slightly more cumbersome approach to uncovering the optional activities and points of interest when compared to alternative uses of the feature in Ubisoft’s other titles. While it is unique it may alienate players familiar with Assassin’s Creed for example and also come across as a little tedious for newcomers to Ubisoft’s open world formula that has been used for over a decade.
Elevating Fenyx’s platform game
The Golden Isles are littered with optional objectives and a large number of these revolve around environmental puzzle solving. This may be as simple as eliminating all enemies in the immediate area to unlock a chest that can be opened or shooting arrows through flames to ignite unlit fire pits for instance. More complex puzzles include collecting blue orbs and placing them into specific slots with the solution visible somewhere in the immediate area. In some cases, these blue orbs can only be accessed by solving other environmental puzzles such as pressure plates that require light or heavy objects to be placed on them or maneuvering boulders into slots.
These puzzle solving situations are very prevalent and dominate a lot of the open world secrets, this is evidently clear in the Vaults of Tartaros locations. Large glowing red crystals circle a pit that can be jumped inside. Upon entry, Fenyx is inside a cosmic space that locks progression behind a varying number of puzzles to solve. These include all of the types mentioned above as well as shooting arrows to manipulate wind direction which guides thrown objects for pressure plates or slots as well as Fenyx when gliding to lasers and spike traps to name a few. These optional puzzles vary in difficulty while the story related ones can be quite challenging and take upwards of 20 minutes to complete. They’re fun and different initially but eventually they begin to tire, feeling a little more like work and send any kind of pace to grinding halt. Immortals feels more like a puzzle platformer than an open world action adventure with the sheer amount of these mostly optional sequences, some however are required for story progression.
Other types of optional activities include myth challenges which require players to get to a destination before a timer expires or solve more environmental puzzles within a time limit, rewarding players with Charon coins to spend in the Hall of the Gods.
Beauty in simplicity
Immortals: Fenyx Rising doesn’t strive for photorealism but rather a simplistic art design that is sleek, sharp and incredibly charming. The beauty of this direction is that it compliments the light hearted tones and themes that make Immortals a refreshing open world adventure. The enemy design is creative and inspired, as is the gorgeous Golden Isles that act as the battleground in the divine war between Typhon and the Olympian Gods. Each of the seven unique locations are vibrant and striking, feeling varied enough to make the world seem larger than it really is. This visual shift from Ubisoft’s typical photorealistic approach succeeds in establish the world of Fenyx as something new and exciting despite the familiarities of some of the gameplay elements.
The score is appropriately dramatic and light yet not afraid to get dark and foreboding when necessary and the sound effects are as energetic and alive as the wild and wonderful godly abilities Fenyx can tap into. The voice acting of the supporting characters is excellent, as is Fenyx with the female iteration of the character feeling a step above the competition. Each of the characters feel genuine and convey the appropriate ranges of emotion when called upon.
Fenyx, mortal instrument of the gods
Immortals: Fenyx Rising tells an endearing tale of a mere mortal blessed with glorious purpose that borders on impossible. Rescuing the Gods of Olympia and conquering the monstrous Typhon is an adventure rife with danger, drama and charm that is so excellently presented.
With a tight paced narrative, engaging gameplay that will feel familiar to fans of Ubisoft yet still manages to introduce enough new ideas to stand on its own merits. Immortals: Fenyx Rising feels like the beginning of something wonderful that comfortably appeals to players of all ages.
+ Gorgeous art design
+ Focused narrative direction
+ Fun and deep combat mechanics
+ Interesting characters
– Environmental puzzles dominate the optional activities
– Lack of diversity in optional content
– Forced New Game + or save reload to continue playing, no endgame content
Developed by: Ubisoft
Published by: Ubisoft
Release Date: December 3 2020
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC
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