When I got this game for review, I didn’t really know much about it at all. I got told it was sort of an Assassin’s Creed for kids, and in some ways it is, but Immortals Fenyx Rising is so much more than that. Let’s dive into my
love letter to review of a game I never saw coming.
Welcome to a land of gods and legends
Given the fact that Immortals is a Ubisoft game set in ancient Greece, comparisons to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are inescapable. One of the primary characters in this game is voiced by a prominent voice actor from Odyssey. Heck, you can unlock Kassandra’s outfit and iconic hairstyle through Ubisoft Connect. And yes, there are some similar game mechanics as well, but I feel there’s enough that sets this title apart, allowing Fenyx to stand on her own two feet.
Immortals Fenyx Rising starts with a shipwreck. Fenyx, a lowly shieldbearer, washes up on the shores of a fantastical island of the ancient Greek gods. You get to customise your character. Fenyx can be male or female, with any combination of hairstyles, skin colours and tattoos. These can be changed at any point in the game, so you can experiment until you find just the right combination. Personally, I preferred Fenyx’s female voice (Elana Dunkelman). It brought me great joy to see the female version of the character in the trailers, box art, and pretty much everywhere else, putting it lightyears ahead of the marketing for the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
The story is told by Prometheus, recounting Fenyx’s tale to Zeus. This works well, as there are only a handful of NPCs in the game, but the narration and banter between Prometheus and Zeus is a frequent source of humour and interesting tidbits, even when exploring areas that aren’t related to the main story. Early on, Fenyx meets Hermes, the messenger of the gods, who explains that Typhon has escaped his prison and neutralised the gods of Olympus. The gods need a champion to restore the mighty Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Athena to their old selves and prevent Typhon from remaking the world as he sees fit.
Armed with a sword, some broken wings, and little else but her wit, Fenyx sets out to aid the gods, and defeat Typhon’s minions. Immortals is an action adventure, so the primary gameplay focus is exploring, solving puzzles, and combat. There are some similarities to Assassin’s Creed here, but Fenyx has a stamina bar that forces the player to consider their exploration more carefully than just picking a direction and climbing straight up the highest peaks. Rocky outcroppings on which to rest become very important, especially in the early game when you have a very small stamina bar, something that Breath of the Wild fans may find familiar.
Fenyx also learns somewhat more fantastical abilities than her assassin cousins. As you explore the world and progress the story, you’ll gain more sturdy wings that allow you to jump higher, climb faster, and glide around the beautiful landscape. You’ll get access to the strength of Heracles, and special god-themed attacks, like Ares’ Wrath or Athena’s Dash. You even get a flying companion, but they aren’t used for scouting the landscape. They do grant some rather cool abilities, however.
Combat and moving around in general in Immortals feels wonderfully fluid. You can run, ride, or glide around, diving into fights from above and unleashing powerful attacks on unsuspecting harpies, bears or chimaeras. Combat is certainly more kid-friendly than Assassin’s Creed: all the enemies are mythical monsters, animals, or undead minions of some description, and there’s no blood or gore at all. That’s not to say combat is easy by any means.
Immortals offers five difficulty levels, with the last one only unlocked once you finish the game. I started out on normal, and ended up dropping down to ‘story’ difficulty until I got the hang of the combat. Towards the end of the game, once I’d improved both my skills and Fenyx’s abilities, I was more than comfortable on normal.
Speaking of difficulty, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a range of accessibility options beyond just basic combat challenge. You can change some of the button holds to toggles, such as arrow aiming, and you can also tweak how much help is given for puzzles, including on-screen clues to practically handing you the solution in some cases. The different difficulty presets also adjust puzzle timers, something that many games forget about. If I’m bad at combat for whatever reason, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to complete that race or shoot those targets in the normal time limit either. I do wish they had separated the puzzle from the combat difficulty, however, much like AC Valhalla did, as by the end of my 65+ hours, I was a combat ace but still sucked at the timed puzzles. Needless to say, as it is now, I feel the game does cater for a variety of people, which is always great to see.
A feast for the eyes and ears
With gorgeous stylised visuals, Immortals Fenyx Rising proves that games don’t have to look hyper-realistic to be beautiful and immersive. The open-world environment is expansive (though not quite as massive as some modern games) and highly detailed in bright colours. The characters and monsters look great too, and this really fueled my desire to collect the many dozens of outfits and weapons available for Fenyx.
On the audio side, the score is composed by the amazing Gareth Coker (of Ori fame), setting the mood perfectly. The sounds in the game are both ‘juicy’ and helpful. Every swing of your sword feels impactful, and audio cues can help you locate nearby treasures and monsters, or let you know that you’ve triggered the next step in a puzzle.
As I mentioned earlier, there are quite literally dozens of items for Fenyx to wear. The world is littered with chests containing both new equipment and cosmetic items. The game organises these well to avoid overwhelming the player. Instead of having an inventory filled with different weapons and armour pieces, Fenyx’s equipment all has the same stats, which you can upgrade using the various currencies you collect on your journey. You can upgrade all your swords, for instance, then equip the sword that gives you a perk that you really like, then apply any sword cosmetic skin that you’ve collected.
The same system applies to Fenyx’s axe, bow, helmet and armour. Each unique model has specific perks, like increasing your stamina recharge speed or damage with a specific type of weapon. Every model also has several colour variants as well – usually three variations for weapons, and four for armours and helmets. In addition, there’s a number of mounts, bird, and wing skins to collect, meaning you’ll be able to finetune your appearance to your heart’s content, without sacrificing on damage or defense.
Improving Fenyx’s weapons, armour, potions and abilities all involve spending various currencies that you’ll collect in the course of your adventure. Each type of equipment or potion uses its own currency, so you never have to choose between weapons or armour, for instance. Many of these currencies can be found in the optional challenge vaults, which vary in difficulty from pretty easy to extremely challenging.
Like the puzzles in the open world, no two challenges in this game are exactly the same. You might have to move boulders, or trigger pressure plates, or shoot flaming arrows to light braziers, or do tricky jumps at just the right time, but somehow every vault and puzzle is different. I struggled with this aspect of the game initially, as I’ve never been very good at puzzles, but I eventually learned what to look out for, and I can now tackle all but the nasty timed puzzles without help. Of course, most of these puzzles are optional torture that I voluntarily put myself through in order to collect more outfits.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started playing Immortals Fenyx Rising, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I got. From the fluid combat to the fun exploration to the challenging puzzles to the endearing characters and story, this game is a real treat, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, light-hearted action adventure game.