Immortals Fenyx Rising enters the heavyweight slugfest of the holiday release season amid a new console generation's launch and aims to come out on top.
To do so, developer Ubisoft Quebec doesn't hide the inspirations for the single-player adventure game oozing creativity and Greek mythology—this one has Assassin's Creed and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild written all over it.
But thanks to incredible art direction, must-experience storytelling devices and the sheer ability to capture—if not improve upon—what made those other games great, Immortals doesn't have a problem standing out on its own.
Graphics and Gameplay
Immortals' visuals are surely the first thing to grab players.
It's a fun, colorful experience that catches the eye and doesn't really let go. While this sort of style has been done ad nauseam of late with games like Fortnite, it's hard not to get some Wind Waker-ish Zelda vibes from the overall presentation package.
The Golden Isles and its gargantuan, distinct seven regions are beautifully littered with Greek-inspired designs. Whether it's abandoned shrines or crumbling architecture, the world and its visual presentation always offers up a treat and rewards exploration.
While Immortals probably won't do enough to win over players who don't like this sort of direction, the smooth performance paired with the colors that leave no end of the palette unaccounted for is impressive in motion.
That goes the same for the sound design, with the voices—including a voiced protagonist—being well-acted, witty and sometimes hilarious. The soundtrack that booms in the background is often fitting, and while the world's ambience does enough to make it feel lived in, the musical score sure doesn't hurt.
Gameplay just screams The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, too—and veteran Assassin Creed players are going to feel at home, right down to the mostly identical-feeling controls.
The stamina gauge is the biggest driver of gameplay complexity. It dictates how long Fenyx can run, fly and climb, how high he or she can jump, and it plays a key role in combat. As such, one can see how exploring the world to improve that stamina gauge becomes the crux of the game—and managing it in all aspects becomes a sort of fun minigame in the process.
Combat itself—while basic with light and heavy attacks, plus a dodge—can amount to something like a game of chess depending on the enemy encountered. A bigger bad, for example, might have a shield guard that can only be shattered with an axe, exposing it to effective attacks from a sword.
Other staples of familiar-feeling fighting exist, such as a well-timed dodge slowing down time, leaving foes open for devastating attacks. Through skill-tree progression, better combos and eventual mastery are possible.
Funnily enough, this somewhat-cutesy-looking game that draws inspiration from many well-trodded places manages to do something many games in the genre struggle with—something we'll call camera compensation. When fighting a group of enemies, a bright arrow alerts the player to an attack from off-screen, which is quite a bit more useful than it might sound. Players who have been hit repeatedly by off-screen enemies in other games know what a nuisance that is, so it's nice to see it so smartly handled.
Keep in mind familiarity isn't a bad thing here for the combat. While things are colorful and often lighthearted, combat is actually rather heavy-feeling and can be surprising in its challenges at times. At its most basic, combat is fun, regardless of whether it is simply revisiting well-trodden places.
Besides combat, traversal is what players will spend most of their time doing. The wings of Daedalus, also utilizing stamina, will play a big role in getting around the world and exploring. The good news is that's fun, too.
Players will groan when they hear Immortals boasts a scan feature from high vantage points, taking in the scenery and such. But it's a little more interactive and rewarding than in Assassin's Creed—players scan the world from a great height but then have to manually control "scouting" the area by looking around and uncovering items of interest, with vibrations of the controller providing feedback.
Like other Ubisoft games, world and map markers, once scanned, don't leave much to the imagination about what a player is getting themselves into. But oftentimes, the challenges and unique experiences at those markers are so unique and fun it's hard to complain.
Take the Vaults of Tartaros, for example. These are discoverable platforming challenges and otherwise that are somewhat akin to BoTW's Shrine challenges that were found throughout the world. As was the case there, it's an absolute blast to uncover as many as possible and see what sort of unique challenges await.
To illustrate just how big the world is and what a time investment Immortals can be (plus the potential for getting sidetracked), there are 50-plus vaults to find and overcome.
That's just the headline item, as there are droves of side missions, too. Some require skill with a bow and arrow, others are straight-up puzzles. And don't forget stumbling upon strong enemies or even mini-bosses, which get their own boss-styled intro.
Much of this on the gameplay side won't sound overly new, but it is done incredibly well and in a way that might surprise players just expecting an "Assasin's Creed for kids" offering. Adding to that in an amazing way is the presentation of the story itself.
Story and More
At it's most basic, Immortals won't shock players with its narrative. They're a shipwrecked Greek soldier tasked with saving gods. After a brief trip through a smaller character creator, they're set free in the Golden Isles to explore and eventually tackle the big bad, Typhon.
It's the narration of Prometheus and Zeus that shocks.
Few games employ the narrator role at all these days, and arguably none do it this well. Both gods orate the experience of Fenyx as he or she progresses through the game in real-time. It's not so simple, of course—they get in verbal spats with each other, dispute how the player should do things and why and generally are often hilarious with memorable dialogue.
This could've easily been just another open-world game (TM) where the player mows through a sparsely populated, albeit beautiful countryside sometimes collecting things or hunting while on the way to the next story beat. Instead, there's this backdrop of genuinely funny commentary from two gods who happen to hope this untested-in-battle soldier can rally and save them, never mind the world.
The entire world is open to players from the start, which is very, very important. Few games in modern history capture the feel of Breath of the Wild. There was a centralized destination and goal there, but the lure of exploration and improvement meant players could get immersed and sometimes forget about that end goal for hundreds of hours (endless memes of doing something mundane like collecting cooking ingredients instead of saving Princess Zelda exist for a reason).
Immortals largely captures the same feel. And also like BoTW, the lighthearted nature of the world, its tone and inhabitants makes for a cozy setting and experience despite the all-too-dangerous big bad looming over it all as the endgame.
In the background, there are bigger Assasin's Creed-esque skill trees for players to improve Fenyx. Given the scope, there should be some nice diversity of builds from one player to the next. Timesink completionists can presumably max everything, but the system appears to allow for some dramatically different playstyles.
Speaking of builds, earnable loot plays a big role, too. Like AC games, armor found out in the world can have certain bonuses tied to it and not just simple stat buffs. Armor changes Fenyx's appearance, too, which chalks this all up as yet another reason to get out there and explore.
Players are also free to transfer the cosmetic look of one piece of armor on to another—another little thing Immortals does better than some of its counterparts at times. There's no sticking with one piece of armor with meaningless stats simply because it looks the best, folks.
From a technical standpoint, Immortals boasts droves of admirable options. Different difficulty settings alter how the game plays, including things like fall damage. And different levels of puzzle assistance exist, too, among other accessibility features.
The ability to make diverse builds is something that should make Immortals a fun speedrunning experience, both for players or viewers.
That applies to any-percent runs or otherwise, though a sprint to the finish is bound to be the most common.
And when it comes to tips upon the game's release, optimization is key. That means pre-planned routing to tackle as many pits as possible early on in a sensible manner. That will permit maxing out things like stamina as much as needed before really getting into the meat of the run.
While that will address traversal at almost every turn, combat is a little more interesting. Stealth can feel overpowered at times, and the enemy A.I. isn't always the best at detecting when the player has taken down one of their cohorts. That's exploitable in a big way if a player finds themselves stuck in an area where combat must happen.
But, generally, combat is best avoided, as is always the case with open-world games. So too is memorization of mandatory puzzles. Actually earning the god powers and equipment is pretty streamlined, so there isn't much of a reason to sidetrack off the main story besides the stamina upgrades. Even those, in time, will become less useful as pro runners get their hands on the game and start routing the most official tracks to run.
Still, these things take time, and given the allure of open-world shenanigans and skill it takes to make a world-best happen, Immortals should not have any problems thriving in this area.
Immortals is a sly release. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking it's a borderline knockoff or kids-based offering of other games.
But it's not so simple.
There's a fun experience here in all respects, as a mashup of the best features in games like BoTW and AC, all doused in a stunning Greek mythology romp. Add in the shattering of the fourth wall thanks to some unreliable, hilarious narrators and Immortals manages to set itself apart and never look back.
While open-world fatigue is certainly a thing right now, Immortals' personality and execution in important ways make it a worthwhile experience, never mind the allure of what the team behind it might do next.