Although this isn’t Press Start’s first hands-on with Immortals Fenyx Rising, the new action-adventure game out of Ubisoft formerly known as Gods and Monsters, the four hours I spent with the game were my first real exposure to the title. Of course, I’ve heard the discourse, it has shades of others—and it’s true, the Breath of the Wild is hard to miss and there are understandable hints of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, given it’s the same team.
But that being said, and despite its clear influences, Immortals Fenyx Rising does manage to forge a clear identity of its own. It’s a fantasy world steeped in mythology that never takes itself too seriously, in fact, it’s its humour that sets it apart a lot of the time. Though it’s Fenyx’s saviour story, it’s told like an unreliable campfire tale by Zeus and Prometheus, whose wager on whether our hero can succeed acts as a humorous jumping-off point for the adventure.
My time with the game let me see the first steps of Fenyx’s journey, from finding his commanding rank and his own brother still as stone to discovering all of the stories of Gods he’d heard as a child were true. It’s endearing that the hero, perhaps unwilling to believe, believes he’d just been stumbling across convincing replicas of mythological artefacts when, in fact, he’d been carrying the real Wings of Daedalus and Sword of Achilles all along. I think it’s this light-hearted tone that Immortals succeeds best at, creating a vibrant, welcoming world for the player to explore.
Though there are seven distinct regions of The Golden Isles, my demo limited me to just two of them, though I didn’t come close to running out of things to do. The first area, The Crashing Rocks, introduced us to sticky-fingered Hermes as well as many of the game’s systems. Once I reached the paintery, verdant Valley of Eternal Springs, the in-game region dedicated to Aphrodite, the experience really opened up and I got a greater sense of the options available to Fenyx, including a crash course in how to deal out my upgrade resources at the Hall of the Gods, the game’s character hub where you can spend points or overhaul your look entirely.
The most striking thing about Immortals Fenyx Rising is just how enjoyable it is to roam the world and explore. As it’s catered toward a younger audience, it’s fair to say that the gameplay and combat loop is simple to understand. Although, once you experiment a bit with the abilities and godly powers you’re able to work into combos, there’s a lot of nuances that should make the game and its dungeons a genuine challenge on tougher difficulties.
Although I didn’t put a lot of hours into Breath of the Wild, simply roaming The Golden Isles does take me back to that brief window in time. The stamina management while climbing and sprinting will be the immediate comparison many draw and, while I didn’t love those aspects of Link’s journey, I think they’re actually at home here. I love how Fenyx’s gradual buffs are all massaged out of the Greek mythology the game is based on, it feels like an educational seminar dressed up as an adventure game at times. Plus, being able to buff your stamina with the mislaid lightning bolts of Zeus, which can only be found in the game’s tough, puzzle-driven Vaults of Tartaros, speaks to that synergy between the mythology and the game’s design.
Though the game is a splendid mix of world traversal, exploration, and logic puzzles, I’d be a fool not to mention the game’s epic combat which feels as comfortable mid-air as it does with the ground underfoot. There’s a choreographed beauty to the fights that feel even more satisfying once all of the finishing combos, extra dashes, and God’s abilities are worked in. Drawing on the strength of Herakles to catch and return a boulder hurled by an ambitious cyclops and then pick a harpy out of the air using the arrows of Apollo, which Fenyx can guide through the air, all lead to some spectacular moments.
Based on what I’d been told, I thought I knew what to expect from Immortals Fenyx Rising. Though it wears its inspirations of its bracers, the game does set itself apart by offering the things that big open-world games don’t anymore, its brand of natty humour and its charming world are so well suited for a younger audience. I can’t wait to explore the remaining regions of the Golden Isles and learn more about the Gods—and monsters—they’re built up in honour of.
Immortals Fenyx Rising releases December 3, 2020, for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.