Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a magnificent, family-friendly open-world adventure
- Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Release date: 21st October 2020
- Genre: Open-world Action-Adventure
- Platforms: Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows, Stadia
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Steeped in mythology
With such a rich source of mythology to draw its material from, it should come as no surprise that the story in Immortals: Fenyx Rising is very entertaining, but it’s the way it puts a modern spin on the classic tales that is most interesting. Even if you aren’t familiar with the mythology, the back and forth banter and larger-than-life caricatures of the Gods will draw you in, but if you have a working knowledge of the history it’s even more entertaining, with lots of references and jokes that may go over your head without that familiarity. Even though it’s set in ancient Greece, the scriptwriting and dialogue are very modern. They’ve done a great job at bringing the characters to life, humanising them and bringing humorous takes on events.
Fenyx, the story’s protagonist, is a shield-bearer, who is the only survivor when her fleet’s ships are wrecked and all of the humans are turned to stone. She (or he, you can choose) must assist the Gods, whose essences have been captured by the evil lord Typhon. Each of the Gods has its own set of quests and side-quests to complete, along with loads of hidden quests to discover and Myths (puzzles) to complete.
When you think of an open-world game from Ubisoft, set in ancient Greece, the last thing you are probably expecting is humour, but Immortals: Fenyx Rising constantly delivers. Whether it’s the comedic exposition provided by Prometheus and Zeus, or the over-the-top animations when you upgrade your character, Immortals has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. I found myself continually chuckling away to myself and occasionally even laughing out loud. I’ll admit, it threw me for a curve as it wasn’t expected, but it’s all the better for it, especially coming off the back of 100 hours of the much more serious tone of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
While I’m talking about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. Immortals and Valhalla are both sprawling and beautiful open worlds, released within weeks of each other, and it’s hard not to draw comparisons. They are both divided into regions, with environments crammed full of collectables, puzzles and similar mission structuring, but Immortals: Fenyx Rising does more than enough to distinguish itself from Valhalla.
Exploring the world
The environments of Immortals: Fenyx Rising are simply beautiful, and each region has its own distinct style, blending seamlessly from one area to the next. With biomes ranging from lush green forests and Mediterranean sun-kissed shores to barren craggy outcrops or snow-covered frosty peaks, Immortals always has something new to show you, which keeps the game feeling fresh as you progress.
The regions of the map are shrouded in fog, to begin with, but you are not restricted from visiting any of the areas apart from the very centre of the world, which unlocks in the end game. Ascending the statues of the Gods in each area lifts the veil and gives you a good vantage point to find the various points of interest and provides a very useful fast-travel point. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, though, simply climbing these peaks doesn’t reveal anything. You have to activate your Far Sight and physically move your cursor over the landscape until the controller vibrates, then move it about until you can press RT to reveal the secret.
At first, I thought this was a unique way of discovering everything, but Immortals is crammed full of chests, vaults, myth challenges, ambrosia and more. Scouring the environment for the umpteenth time, slowly scanning every inch of the world, quickly becomes tiring. I’d have liked to just ignore it and find things organically through exploration, but there’s so much to find and much of it is necessary to get the resources needed to upgrade your character so you can tackle the harder encounters and make progress.
Traversing the world is a cinch. You can tame some of the animals to use as your mount, which can then be summoned at will, and once you unlock Daedalus’s wings you’ve got enough tools to navigate the map at a good pace. The God statues in particular provide a great launching point, enabling you to cover vast distances with ease, while also taking in some spectacular views. There’s a lot of verticality in the world-design, so it helps that Fenyx is an adept climber, but unlike Assassin’s Creed, you can’t just climb to your heart’s content. Like many things in Immortals, you are governed by the amount of stamina you have.
Double jumping, gliding with your wings, dodging during combat, and using your God powers and skills all uses stamina. It’s easy enough to replenish during combat, as light attacks build up your stamina, and you collect more than enough consumables to keep yourself topped up. If you want to navigate the world faster and scale the higher peaks, though, you’re going to need to upgrade your stamina sooner rather than later. Fortunately, the way you upgrade your stamina involves some of the best content in Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
It’s a puzzle
To upgrade your stamina you need to collect Zeus’s lightning bolts, which are earned by finishing Vaults of Tartarus. These vaults have an excellent variety of combat challenges, physics puzzles and platforming sections. In the later stages, these puzzles become far more complex, and while you are unlikely to need to reach for a guide, they offer up just enough challenge to keep your interest and stave off frustration.
The open-world puzzles, in comparison, are reasonably involving and on occasion very good fun, but they can become tedious and feel like busy-work for the sake of it. Too many of them involve searching around the immediate vicinity for weight blocks to place on pressure pads, shooting flaming arrows to light braziers or finding switches hidden behind breakable walls. I really enjoyed the majority of these puzzles, and they do add more involved mechanics and challenging puzzles the deeper you get into the game. In comparison to the excellent vaults, though, it’s disappointing they didn’t make all of the open-world puzzles as engaging.
There are occasionally some interesting twists, like the Fresco (Sliding block) puzzle I found which is surrounded by lasers. I had to find a couple of metal blocks, and position them to protect me so I could finish the puzzle. None of the puzzles are particularly taxing, though, and once I sussed the mechanics I found myself inwardly groaning when I once again had to go searching for some hidden cabbages or similar to unlock yet another force-field. With such a huge amount of mini-puzzles to solve, it feels like they’ve just shoehorned some really basic ones in to pad it out. Fewer puzzles with more challenging and varied solutions would have been far preferable.
Bish Bash Bosh
If the open-world puzzles are Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s Achille’s Heel, then combat is its Herakles. To begin with, fighting involves mixing up your light and heavy attacks, while parrying regular attacks and dodging the enemies power attacks. As you progress and purchase more upgrades, you unlock bigger combos, aerial dodges, counter moves and the epic Godly Powers. Chaining these all together is extremely satisfying, as you deflect projectile attacks back to the sender then dispatch minions with sweeping attacks of your axe, before conjuring up a gigantic hammer to deal a crushing blow, then launch yourself upwards surrounded by a sea of spikes.
At first, I found some of the enemies to be damage sponges, which drew out combat unnecessarily, but this was because I had advanced too far without upgrading. Once I spent some time collecting the resources for upgrades I soon found Fenyx to be capable of defeating even the toughest of foes with ease. They still take a fair amount of thwacking to take down, but once you master the parry system and unlock some new skills and God powers, encounters become far more entertaining and satisfying.
Although for seasoned adventurers it’s not that difficult, there are numerous gameplay assists and modifiers to make it accessible for younger gamers or more challenging for pros. The combat difficulty can be raised or lowered, fall damage can be reduced to minimise deaths if you misjudge how much stamina you have for a climb or while gliding, and puzzles can be completed unaided, or there is an option to help locate items needed or guide you on what to do next. Ubisoft has made great progress in making its games accessible to everyone, and Immortals: Fenyx Rising is the epitome of that. I added enough challenge to keep me entertained and test my skills, while on the easiest settings it was approachable for my younger children without being too punishing or locking them out of content or achievements.
One of the best things about third-person adventures is crafting your character exactly how you like. In many games, though, you end up with a weird mish-mash of armour and weapons as you select the best attributes to suit your playstyle. In addition to the cosmetic variations of gear you will find in chests or through combat encounters, you can change the appearance of any of your gear to one of the other pieces in your inventory. I absolutely love this flexibility that allowed me to equip the best gear for the job at hand, while also having Fenyx dressed in whatever outfit took my fancy.
You will find loads of different weapons in your journey, but they are all variations on the basic sword, axe and bow and don’t give you different moves, just some stat modifiers like dealing more damage with air-combos, giving you more health or stamina, or dealing more damage to named enemies. I’d have appreciated some more diversity, but when you’ve unlocked the full skill set and all of the God powers you still have enough variety in your attacks that it’s just a minor niggle that weapons don’t offer more tactical options.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising does have microtransactions, but they are hidden away rather than being thrust into your face constantly. All of the premium content for sale is purely cosmetic, so you aren’t missing out on any super-gear by not buying it. I’m generally not a fan of microtransactions, but the lack of prominence and non-essential nature of these ones makes them inoffensive. If we have to have premium content in games, I’m more than happy for this to be the way forward.
Series X enhanced
I played through Immortals on the Xbox Series X, and it runs at a silky smooth 60 fps in performance mode. There are a few dips in resolution to maintain this frame rate, but it isn’t really noticeable due to the art style. I tried out Immortals in Quality mode, which runs at 30 fps in 4k, but as mentioned, the design of the game means any advantage the higher resolution gives you is far outweighed by the smoothness at 60 fps. Regardless of the lower resolution, the combination of HDR, vivid and colourful environments and the slightly cartoony aesthetic make Immortals look sumptuously beautiful. The controls feel tight and responsive, too, with Fenyx reacting quickly to your inputs, which is essential during the trickier platforming sections or when timing dodges or parries in combat.
If you are the kind of player who weighs up a game’s worth by the amount of playtime you can get from it, Immortals has a sizeable chunk of content to keep you going. While it’s not as epic as the 100+ hours you’ll need to invest in something like AC: Valhalla, I have spent 60 hours playing Fenyx Rising so far, including 10 hours in New Game+. I’ve completed the main questline (which has an interesting if slightly predictable twist), roughly two-thirds of the myths and side-content and earned 950/1000 gamerscore. It’s always a sign of a great game when you find yourself itching to go back and play more, even when you’ve only got the clearing up of collectables left to do.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a magnificent, family-friendly open-world adventure. There’s a well-crafted story, humorous and engaging narrative, and plenty of content, most of which is great fun with the exception of a few repetitive puzzles. In between story missions and puzzle-solving, the frequent and excellent combat and a wide variety of enemies to take down keeps your journey exciting from start to finish. The 60 fps performance mode is the best way to play, and even if it’s not as crisp as the 4k quality mode, the bright and colourful palette used and excellent level design makes it a joy to explore the world of Immortals. Simply put, Immortals is a must-play for fans of the open-world adventure genre.