Ubisoft have sent gamers through multiple time periods and across a range of varied countries in the Assassin’s Creed series, with 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey proving to be one of my favourite entries thanks to its interpretation of Ancient Greece. It was wonderful to explore the beautiful islands, with the mythological representation of creatures, its fantastic bustling cities, and its impressive architecture making for plenty of memorable moments and sights.
I wasn’t quite done with Ancient Greece when I was finished with the game though, so I was pleasantly surprised when Ubisoft then announced Immortals: Fenyx Rising (previously known as Gods and Monsters) back in 2019. This was a game that seemed to take the Assassin’s Creed formula, add a lot more vibrancy and playful charm to the experience, and then send players on another fantastical adventure… it seemed perfect for me.
Well, after finally playing through the epic adventure, I’m happy to report that I had a fantastic time with the game. That earlier Assassin’s Creed comparison was a little bit off though, with Immortals: Fenyx Rising feeling more like Ubisoft’s take on The Legend of Zelda series (and most notably Breath of the Wild) than anything else. That’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s something players will certainly notice within multiple facets of the game’s design.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s tale is narrated by a couple of recognisable figures in the world of Greek gods, with Prometheus and Zeus leading players through the adventure. You’d expect a professional (and undoubtedly epic) telling of the story with those pair at the helm, right? Well, it turns out that they’re seemingly always at odds with each other, with plenty of comical moments to be found as they bicker, poke fun at one another, and give their own interpretation of the events that unfold. Their presence immediately sets a more vibrant and charming tone for Immortals: Fenyx Rising and lets players know that this open-world adventure isn’t going to be quite the same as others that they might have experienced from Ubisoft.
The crux of the tale is that the evil god Typhon has escaped from the underworld and returned to the land of the living, with revenge certainly on his mind. It turns out that Typhon’s idea of revenge consists of turning humanity into stone and banishing the gods that wronged him in the past, leaving nobody to oppose him this time around. Fortunately, he did forget about Fenyx: the game’s customisable hero that arrives in the land just in time to avoid Typhon’s wrath. The responsibility then falls on them to uncover the vast land, help those banished gods recover, and bring Typhon down.
From the get-go, it’d be easy to think that Immortals: Fenyx Rising feels like just another Ubisoft open-world adventure, with Assassin’s Creed being the easy point of comparison. You’ll have a massive world ahead of you to explore which you can run, jump, and climb across, with a big emphasis placed on climbing up the highest points of the map in order to uncover more of the region that they lie within. Add to that an abundance of treasures to find across the world and a whole lot of missions to complete that’ll see you traversing further afield – it all sounds very familiar, right?
Well, Immortals: Fenyx Rising does a little bit more to change things up from the norm, most notably with its Vaults of Tartaros. These are dungeon-like areas that typically consist of tricky environmental-based puzzles, with each challenging your logic and puzzle-solving skills in a myriad of ways. A lot of these are physics-based and will see you cleverly shifting around large balls or applying weight to pressure pads in order to activate switches, whilst others might simply test your skills with the bow and leading arrows to targets that are seemingly impossible to hit. Some may test your platforming prowess, whilst some may bring hazardous poison clouds, levitating platforms, or manipulatable objects into the mix.
Either way, they’re always fun challenges to face off against and add an impressive sense of variety to Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s adventure. Open-world games can often be guilty of feeling formulaic in design, but the Vaults of Tartaros will continually test players’ puzzle-solving and platforming skills across the entirety of the adventure with their cleverly designed enigmas. And hey, some even bring with them some epic boss encounters, so don’t be surprised if you encounter a few mythological nasties in-between all of the puzzling…
Whilst Immortals: Fenyx Rising does place a heavy emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving, there’ll still be plenty of moments where you’ll need to wield a weapon and take enemies down. Combat itself can feel pretty simple from the get-go, with players able to unleash basic combos, dodge out of the way of incoming attacks, or catch enemies off-guard with a well-timed parry. A lot of your success in battle will come down to your timing, but with stamina affecting your capabilities you’ve also got to make sure not to overexert yourself too.
Admittedly, my initial impression of combat didn’t leave me too excited, with Immortals: Fenyx Rising feeling very by the numbers with its encounters with enemies. However, it doesn’t take too long for Fenyx to gain access to a range of god-like capabilities and powerful weapons that can really change the tide of battle, giving you the ability to unleash all kinds of special manoeuvres upon your foes. Not only do these look and feel stylish, but they add an empowering slick flair to combat that makes you feel unstoppable whether battling from up close or afar.
Standard enemies are pretty easy to take down (and were admittedly a little lacking in variety), but those aforementioned bosses and some optional encounters against the more powerful enemies of the world really emphasise the depth found in combat. There’s a satisfying sense of progress found in becoming more powerful too, with plenty of new weapons, pieces of armour, and resources to upgrade your capabilities found as you simply venture across the world – a lot of these are optional to find too, which rewards those players who are willing to go a little further afield and explore during their adventure.
Combat and puzzle-solving make up the nuts-and-bolts of the core Immortals: Fenyx Rising experience, so it’s good that they manage to deliver plenty of entertainment across the board. However, a lot of hours will simply be spent traversing the world, so how does that hold up?
Well, this is where one of the core similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild comes into play. Sure, the puzzle-design, combat, and even the story and world-building have clearly taken a bit inspiration from Nintendo’s critically-acclaimed adventure, but it was when exploring the world that it felt most obvious. Besides some similarities in the world design itself with its emphasis on vertical exploration, you can also expect to have to manage your stamina as you climb anything and everything around you, gain access to a gliding ability so you can soar through the skies to anything you see in the distance, whilst the visual style itself bears a resemblance too. Trust me; if you’ve played Breath of the Wild, you’ll feel at home when travelling across Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s world.
It’s not a bad thing at all… I mean, so many games have taken inspiration from other titles over the years, so why not copy a few ideas from one of the most beloved titles of the generation? Immortals: Fenyx Rising never feels like an outright carbon copy either, with the influences obvious but also strengthened with enough of its own ideas to feel like more than just a ‘cut and paste’ job. It’s good stuff.
I was a big fan of the scale of the adventure too, with Immortals: Fenyx Rising catering itself nicely for different types of players. Want to prioritise the story and skim through it as quickly as possible? You can focus on the main questline, with minimal need for grinding found along the way. Want to search every nook and cranny of the world for secrets and equipment to power yourself up to the max? There’s plenty to find, with simply reaching some of these collectibles an additional challenge in itself. Want to help others around you and invest yourself in side stories? Side missions are aplenty in Immortals: Fenyx Rising, with plenty of folk out there needing your help.
Sure, these are all hallmarks of an open-world adventure, but Ubisoft titles have been guilty of forcing players to grind through them in order to progress in the past; it’s something that’s been more obvious in the previous few Assassin’s Creed titles which have also been pretty lengthy to reach the conclusion of. Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a whole lot less intimidating in that sense, with its adventure certainly a meaty one but also flexibly enough to give the player exactly what they want. There’s a whole lot to do here, but ONLY if you actually want to do it.
I’ve got plenty of praise to give Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but there’s no denying that it can be a little bit of a slow burner. Those opening hours when you don’t have a full repertoire of combat skills at your disposal and when your stamina is too low to attempt climbing some of the larger structures around you? It can be a little bit of a slog, especially when titles like Assassin’s Creed give you so much freedom in exploration. You have to stick with Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s more inhibited pace early on, with the rewards only truly being reaped when you build up Fenyx’s skillset. It’s all worth it in the end, but it’s a noticeable slower pace during those opening hours.
It could probably be argued that some facets of its design aren’t as strong as those seen in the titles that inspired it either. Is it better than Assassin’s Creed as far as world design is concerned? Probably not. Is it better than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it comes to its puzzling and traversing the world? Again, I don’t think so. This doesn’t make Immortals: Fenyx Rising bad at all since the amalgamation of all of its inspirations come together to make for a very enjoyable experience, but there will be plenty of moments where you’ll be in the midst of a set-piece and may think to yourself, “I’ve seen this done better before”.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising offers a thoroughly entertaining open-world adventure that’s made up of creative puzzles, a wonderful world to explore, and some top-notch combat. Sure, it can be a bit of a slow burner to get going, but when the game finally kicks off? It’ll REALLY pull you in for the long haul.
It is guilty of borrowing a lot of ideas from other games (and not necessarily bettering them), and sure, it might not necessarily be the most original of open-world adventures out there. Fortunately, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in charm and fun, with the grand journey that players will embark on to defeat Typhon certainly proving to be a memorable one.
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC