Immortals: Fenyx Rising Review: Next to godliness

Immortals Fenyx RIsing learned a lot from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This is not to say it should be compared to BotW — those comparisons don’t go very far and would be unfair at best. Immortals uses BotW’s mechanical trappings as a platform to say something else. It isn’t interested in a silent, contemplative exploration of crumbling history, but in contemporising the myths that arise out of that history. Despite being crafted by the team behind the giant Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft Montreal (somehow) had more to say about Greek culture and mythology.

Unreliable narrators

Immortals: Fenyx Rising follows the story of Fenyx, a human mortal thrust into the world of ancient Greek gods on a quest to save their brother from a stony fate. Their quest co-incides with a crisis already in progress — the evil Typhon has escaped from Tartarus and taken the entire Pantheon as his hostage. Fenyx’s story is told from the perspective of Prometheus, chained to a rock for the crime of giving humanity the gift of fire. Prometheus’ goal is to get Zeus, attention-deficit lightning enthusiast and head of a rapidly dwindling Pantheon, to see how this remarkable mortal might be of use.

The two of them bicker and argue over plot points, make deep cut jokes aimed at history majors, and frequently break the video game fourth wall. Their banter constitutes some of the better comedic writing Ubisoft has produced in the last decade or so — Ubi’s pubescent sense of humour often leads to groans, but here there’s a concerted effort to craft something more well-rounded. Not all of the jokes land — there’s still a few true Ubisoft clunkers in the mix — but there were jokes that made me laugh out loud too, a rarity in AAA.

One instance of this occurred early in the game when Zeus, his attention already faltering, demands action. Prometheus, understanding how to pander to his audience, sighs “Ok, fine, there was like eight bad guys there and they all had swords or something.” The game spawns in eight enemies for the player to beat up and Zeus, placated, tables his objections.

I mentioned this in our preview last month but this banter is one of many ways Immortals stands apart from BotW. Where Link’s adventure was conducted in silence, Prometheus and Zeus rarely shut up. The degree to which their chatter annoys will, I imagine, vary player to player. There are going to be people who love the tone and tenor of this game, and there are going to be people who cannot stand it.

Big shoes to fill, big cliffs to climb

The other area where Immortals: Fenyx Rising looks to BotW is in overal exploration. It deploys the same stamina bar, used for everything from climbing sheer surfaces to general physical exertion. Like BotW, you can climb any structure, cliff or tree you like provided you have enough stamina to reach the top safely. It also borrows from battle royale games like Fortnite, carving its map up into discrete biomes that are viewable from great heights before being dropped into with an Assassin’s Creed-style leap.

Combat is kept in the current AC vein, lots shielding and countering incoming attacks. It’s less punishing than AC though, allowing you to successfully go on the offensive far more often. The early portion of the game wastes little time filling Fenyx’s inventory with weapons, materials, equipment, and new attacks. It feels at times as though it’s in a bit of a rush to give you all of its toys so that you can use them to explore. This urgency would surely please Zeus, but it makes for an early game that feels somewhat top-heavy.

The exploration itself is often more limited than what is found in BotW — the map simply isn’t as big as Hyrule, its challenges less complex — but it’s also nice to see something that plays in the same space. Immortals never ascends to BotW’s dizzying highs, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to. It’s smart enough to know that coming for the king is a fool’s errand. Imitation, it insists, is the sincerest form of flattery.

Togas, but make it fashion

Immortals: Fenyx Rising eschews the realistic look of Ubi’s modern games for something more animated and stylised. It’s clearly shooting for the look of an animated film from Pixar or Dreamworks, and in the main the illusion holds. The game has been updated for play on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S and includes performance (4K60 with reduced effects) and fidelity options (4K30 with enhanced effects) that can be changed at any time.

Where the game’s visuals excel is in its many enemies and their animations. Watching a lumbering upright slug man unwarily scratch his behind as he patrols his patch is funny every time I see it. The way enemies pirouette away into the distance when vanquished like Team Rocket blasting off again never gets old.

There’s a love and appreciation not just for the Greek isles on display here, but also a love of their culture and art. Greco Roman buildings and statues are littered throughout the landscape, which has been tuned to resemble an idyllic realm of the gods no matter where you wind up.

 

Final thoughts

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a rarity for the modern day Ubisoft. The company once considered a third party wildcard has become a bit comfortable as it has aged. Reliable hits are the order of the day, sequels to the same five or six popular franchises produced on time every two years. Immortals breaks the mould, becoming Ubi’s first new AAA IP in years. If its debut effort is any indication, we expect it to be another of its reliable franchises before long.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

HIghlights: Strong character work; Varied map; Exploration is fun
Lowlights: Sense of humour won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and you’ll know right away
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

 

Review conducted on Xbox Series X using pre-release code provided by the publisher.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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