|Developer||Ubisoft Quebec City|
|Platforms||Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||December 3, 2020|
When it was first announced at E3 2019, many weren’t sure what to make of “Gods and Monsters”. Details were scarce as the year went on but as 2019 came to a close it was revealed that Gods and Monsters was still alive and had changed its name to Immortals: Fenyx Rising. This project turned out to be effectively an amalgamation of games including Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Now, I’m sure plenty of gamers are likely to stop reading right there and write this off as just another Ubisoft open world game, once again set in Ancient Greece. They’d be only partially correct as Ubisoft continues to introduce new IP on a near yearly basis and Immortals is a breath of fresh air in the industry. Like God of War, it calls back to games that came before it while doing things differently enough to set its self apart entirely.
Violence: Being a game set in Ancient Greece with many mythological creatures and daring warriors, it can be quite violent. Enemies are stabbed and slashed with swords, lit on fire, smashed with hammers and axes, shot with arrows, and crushed by rocks and/or boulders. However, there is no blood or gore to speak of as most enemies are “shadows” created by the villain Typhon and his powers of corruption and thus they vanish in a puff of smoke once defeated. Alternatively, enemies will sometimes be launched into the horizon.
Sexual Content: While there is no explicit sexual content, there are MANY jokes and references that contain sexual innuendo. Younger players likely won’t make the connection for many of these jokes but parents should be wary that they’re there.
Language: Minor expletives, but nothing major.
Spiritual Content: Formerly known as Gods and Monsters, the game takes place during the time of the gods in Ancient Greece. Here the gods often communed with and even fathered children with mere mortals. Any spirituality deals with how these gods were viewed and worshiped by their subjects.
Alcohol/Drug Use: Nothing major, characters will occasionally drink or reference drinking in celebration
After washing up on shore, I created my version of the main character, Fenyx. This is all done at the urging of the ever-present narrators, Zeus and Prometheus, the latter of which has been chained up by Zeus as punishment for giving humans the knowledge of fire. Once I’ve finished tweaking how I want Fenyx to look I venture off down the path ahead unarmed but unafraid. Soon I encounter Fenyx’s crew and discover that Fenyx (male or female depending on what players choose when creating the character) has a brother, a noble warrior who she had been training under, who has since been turned into a pillar of stone. Due to Typhon’s dark magic, almost everyone on the island has been turned to stone or some other object or animal. Picking up my brother’s sword, I proceed to slay the dark minions summoned by Typhon as he taunts my prowess in battle. Once dispatched, my enemies fly off into the horizon like Team Rocket blasting off after a failed attempt to snatch Pikachu. From there, I set off toward the statue of Athena to survey my surroundings and figure out where to go next.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising is full of emergent storytelling like this, and after the tutorial section, the narration is less frequent. That’s not to say that the narration is bad or annoying, but it can be overwhelming at the start of the game when Fenyx meets a new friend, one of the few demigods on the island not influenced by Typhon’s magic. It becomes difficult to follow along with everything that is said and what the player’s goals are with the pair bickering back and forth during these early moments. That being said, their banter is actually funny and quite witty as both Prometheus and Zeus have a knack for sarcasm and deliver blistering zingers to one another throughout the game.
Right from the start, players can go anywhere in the game. However, they may not want to as, similar to Breath of the Wild, a stamina meter limits where you can climb, how far you can glide, and how much you can dodge/parry in a fight. Even with these limitations, however, there is plenty to keep players entertained. From the Vaults of Tartarus, which test one’s puzzle-solving and combat skills, to hidden enemies and bosses, to Fresca puzzles that reward players with upgrade tokens. Even tameable mounts return, though they’re arguably better here as there is no requirement to take them to a stable, and taming is done via simply getting close enough to them without scaring them off and pressing a single button.
After the first couple of Tartarus Vaults, players will unlock the Hall of Heroes which becomes their base of operations. Here Fenyx’s appearance can be changed on the fly, including her gender. Weapon upgrades are also available here and require materials found during your adventures. However, unlike in similar games such as AC Odyssey, upgrades are spread out across weapon categories rather than individual weapons. Each piece of gear offers some type of enhancement to Fenyx’s stats.
For example, a certain sword may offer increased damage when used immediately following a successful parry. Meanwhile, a new axe might deal more damage from AOE attacks than it would with basic swings. This way, each piece of unique gear can be equipped to the player’s liking without having to worry about compromising a chosen playstyle, and each new sword essentially acts as a new cosmetic skin for that item. That being said, finding a better version of an existing piece of gear will increase its level and improve the stat enhancement that it offers. Players can even change the appearance of a newly acquired piece of gear to favor what they’ve been using while keeping the stats attached to that gear. This option is available from the start of the game and does not need to be unlocked.
Combat is a more simplified version of AC Odyssey’s system. R1 is for basic attacks, while R2 is for swinging a hammer or axe and both can be combined to form some devastating combos against Fenyx’s foes. Once players acquire the bow, L2 is used to aim while R2 fires arrows. There is even the option to slow down arrows in mid-flight or while in mid-air (just like in Breath of the Wild) for more precise aiming and for some tricky puzzle solutions. Despite its simplicity, there are some additional layers to combat as well. Fenyx gains the ability early on to pick up large boulders and other objects. While initially these are used to activate pressure plates to access hidden treasures, it’s also a useful combat ability.
Similar to a lot of Souls-like games, each enemy has a stagger meter which temporarily stuns them once filled up. In standard combat, this can take forever. However, when Fenyx hurls a rock or piece of broken column at most large enemies they become much easier to stagger, leaving them vulnerable to some of her best combos and abilities. Once Fenyx acquires even more abilities and gear she can combine gliding, lifting objects, and her equipped weapons into some unique combos created by the player. Stealth attacks are also included and usually require Fenyx to tiptoe up to the back of an enemy and use a strong attack to either send them flying for an instant kill or greatly increase their stagger meter from the start making them easier to dispatch. If you want to immerse yourself in fun-filled games like this, you can try sites such as rolet online.
The story of Immortals starts out fairly basic, with Prometheus imploring Zeus to free him if he tells him the story of a potential savior of Greece who can defeat Typhon and restore the power of the gods. It’s a neat set up in that everything the player does is essentially the story Prometheus is telling Zeus. Fail too many times and Zeus will make a quip about it. But that’s not the only story arc in the game: Fenyx’s story involves him or her wanting to prove themselves as a capable warrior by saving those turned to stone and freeing the islands from Typhon’s grip. This is done by finding four large statues, each representing a specific greek god, like Achilles or Aphrodite, and freeing the associated god to help in the fight against Typhon.
These are similar to the viewpoints in Assassin’s Creed games as scaling these structures will reveal different points of interest on the map, as well as main quest objectives. What these don’t reveal are side-quests, which are discovered naturally as players progress through the game. I loved how I would be traversing through one area on my way to a quest objective only, to stumble onto a side-quest that required me to gather the necessary materials to lay to rest a group of dead soldiers who now walk the islands as ghosts. In this way, the storytelling can be very emergent at times.
The core of gameplay involves solving numerous puzzles with the gear and abilities Fenyx acquires throughout their journey. If players enter a Vault they may be presented with a simple combat challenge or a series of puzzles involving blocks, boulders, metal balls, air lifts, and any number of structures and traps that impede your progress. Each vault contains a chest filled with upgrade materials and at least one new gear piece or cosmetic upgrade for existing gear. Traversing to the end of each vault will award players with a Bolt of Zeus’s lightning which is required to upgrade Fenyx’s stamina back at the Hall of Heroes. Health can also be upgraded there, and players can accept daily and weekly challenges that involve completing some of the tougher vaults, killing a certain special enemy, or slaying a specific number of common enemies. While these challenges might seem somewhat mundane, their rewards are anything but. These often yield some of the best rewards and require only a sliver of the player’s time as most of these challenges are easily completed by following the main quest line or defeating enemies whenever they are discovered.
There is so much that Immortals borrows from BOTW that at first, it may be hard to differentiate the two. Perhaps the most glaring upgrade from BOTW is that equipment does not break. Once Fenyx has found a piece of gear he/she favors, that gear will never break and players won’t have to go out of their way to find the resources to repair it. Instead, players should pick up everything they find while adventuring to focus on upgrades to their health/stamina, and crafting one of four types of potions to survive against bosses and some of the more challenging combat vaults.
While Immortals at first glance seems like yet another open-world game from Ubisoft, it’s actually a very nuanced and well-developed adventure inspired by both AC Odyssey and Breath of the Wild that manages to do enough differently to set itself apart from its inspirations. From the more simplified and streamlined combat and upgrade systems to the lack of weapons and gear deterioration, Fenyx Rising allows players to simply focus on the journey and all the joy and sense of wonder that comes with it. With the year we’ve all had in 2020, I don’t know what more gamers could ask for from a new IP in an industry consistently drowning in an ocean or reboots, remakes, and remasters. Immortals may wear its inspirations on its sleeves, but the story and how it’s presented is the most innovative aspect of the game and what really differentiates it from the titles it borrows heavily from.
The Bottom Line
From the more simplified and streamlined combat and upgrade systems to the lack of weapons and gear deterioration, Fenyx Rising allows players to simply focus on the journey and all the joy and sense of wonder that comes with it. With the year we've all had in 2020, I don't know what more gamers could ask for from a new IP in an industry consistently drowning in an ocean or reboots, remakes, and remasters.