The tales of the ancient Greek gods have spanned centuries and have been told and retold countless times. They're the stuff of legends and there are few tales more fascinating than where those legends begin. Immortals Fenyx Rising tells the tale of a burgeoning hero thrust into a giant conflict between larger-than-life gods and the monsters that threaten to overthrow them. Ubisoft Quebec aims for a grand epic tale and while the game doesn't quite hit those heights, the developer does put together a pretty good summer blockbuster.
Oh ye gods!
Immortals Fenyx Rising takes place on the Golden Isle, where the evil titan Typhon has subdued the majority of the Greek pantheon and turned all mortals into stone. The only mortal still standing is a shieldbearer named Fenyx, who finds herself recruited into this grand battle. Players take control of Fenyx and live out her story (or his, as I'll explain shortly) as it's told by the prophetic Prometheus. Prometheus serves as the game's narrator, telling Fenyx's story to Zeus, who serves as both an active listener and comedy relief. It's a novel narrative device, even if Prometheus and Zeus sometimes go overboard with their comedic stylings. Some moments are just meant to be tense and could go without Zeus cracking a one-liner.
Fenyx will run into other members of the Greek pantheon over the course of her journey, starting with the swift god Hermes. Hermes tasks Fenyx with finding the other gods, who have been cursed by Typhon. The gods all have their own personality quirks, which often tie into their current depowered state. The game's story is just as much about Fenyx helping the gods come to terms with their own flaws as much as it is about working to regain their omnipotent power. It's all meant to convey character growth, though it can be hard to focus on that, because the gods are also nonstop quip machines, which again, defuses a lot of the story's tension.
At the start of the game, players are given the option to shape Fenyx however they wish, but the character creator proves to be a superfluous feature. There are so few creation options that the game would have been better served making Fenyx into a mascot. Given some of the relationships the character has throughout the game, it feels like Ubisoft Quebec knew who they wanted Fenyx to be from the start. I wish they had just run with that rather than try to tack on a character creator where it wasn't needed.
Lost on a desert isle
Beyond the story, Immortals Fenyx Rising is about exploring the Golden Isle. From the moment Fenyx scouts the landscape from the top of Aphrodite's statue, it's apparent just how massive this world is, especially because the view from the top of that statue is just a small fraction of the whole world. And there is a lot to do in this world, including taking on puzzles, trial challenges, legendary bosses, and dozens upon dozens of Vaults of Tartaros, which are puzzle chambers containing Zeus' lightning bolts, as well as other inventory pieces and crafting materials.
The Vaults of Tartaros and the sheer size of the Golden Isle will inevitably lead people to compare Immortals Fenyx Rising to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While the two games have those elements in common, Immortals feels noticeably simpler in its approach to the open world. There's a stamina meter for when Fenyx needs to glide across the world or climb giant mountains, but players won't have to worry about complex crafting in order to keep Fenyx's health and stamina up. Crafting is restricted to using simple ingredients to create one of four different potions. And while the Golden Isle is a big place, there are no towns or hubs with NPCs. It's a big, raw island that's begging to be explored. The only problem is, outside of the side quests, there isn't a lot to find on the island and it'll reach a point where you're frequently reaching for fast travel shortcuts.
The other issue with the island itself is that it's really easy to get lost. There's a compass system along the top of the screen and a map on the pause screen where players can set custom pins. However, Immortals doesn't offer a waypoint system, which means it's really easy to get lost. You can overshoot your target or you'll struggle to find it if it's underneath you. It's an annoyance to deal with for most of the game. It gets much worse in the game's final few hours, as it becomes easy to go around in circles and erase 10-15 minutes' worth of progress in a single fall. The Vaults of Tartaros are just as bad in this regard, offering no dungeon map or any indicator of Fenyx's location. While this isn't a big deal in the smaller vaults, the larger ones make it easy to get lost or go off on completely different paths. I was even able to start one objective in the final vault and somehow find myself going down a path for a totally different one, just because the way forward isn't made clear.
Hero in training
Where Immortals starts to shine is with the combat, which has a lot of elements to it, but still feels simple to understand. Fenyx can land quick strikes with a sword, hit hard with an axe, and even deliver an ultra-heavy blow with Hephaistos' hammer. Once players incorporate parries and the game's various Godly Powers into battle, fights become even more fluid.
Sure, the Godly Powers aren't always useful. Ares' Wrath and Athena's Dash can feel more flashy than useful. However, playing around with Phosphor both in and out of battle was a treat. Phosphor is Fenyx's trusty firebird and can help cloak Fenyx in battle to enhance stealth or create Fenyx decoys out of battle to help trigger switches. Those decoys outright helped me cheat certain puzzle solutions near the end of the game. Phosphor proved to be a godsend by the end.
Speaking of puzzle solutions, the Vaults of Tartaros are where Immortals Fenyx Rising is at its best. The vaults all have their own distinct puzzle elements to them, requiring strategy, lateral thinking, and platform proficiency. Many of them utilize different puzzle pieces, such as rolling rocks, pressure switches, blocks that levitate after a physical blow, switches that influence wind direction, and many more, sometimes multiple elements combined. These puzzles are masterfully designed, often requiring heavy thinking without getting overly obtuse. Whenever Fenyx reaches Zeus' lightning bolt on any of the tougher vaults, it feels like an accomplishment.
The legend begins
Ubisoft Quebec aimed high with Immortals Fenyx Rising, crafting a new hero, an epic tale filled with larger-the-life gods and terrifying monsters, and a giant island playground. It's an exciting story filled with memorable characters, even if some of the twists near the end are a bit hard to swallow. It doesn't quite pack the same punch as the studio's previous effort, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, if only because there aren't as many NPCs or other characters to play off of. For what it is, though, Immortals is a fun island getaway with simple-to-grasp combat and a lot of well thought-out puzzles. The Immortals legend isn't fully realized yet, but this is at least a good start.
This review is based on a PC digital code provided by the publisher. Immortals Fenyx Rising will be available on Thursday, December 3 on the Ubisoft Store, PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store, and Nintendo eShop for $59.99. The game is rated T.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
- Strong story with clever narrative device and memorable characters
- Large, gorgeous island setting
- Simple, elegant combat system
- Clever puzzles throughout the game
- No overly complicated crafting systems
- Phosphor is the best bird with cool abilities
- Characters sometimes go overboard with their humor
- Easy to get lost on the island
- Godly Powers are hit-or-miss on usefulness
- Story twists near the end border on lame
- Character creator feels tacked-on
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Immortals Fenyx Rising review: Birth of a legend