Much has already been made of how Immortals Fenyx Rising looks a lot like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild mixed with Assassin’s Creed. And coming from the development team at Ubisoft Quebec that made Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, their knowledge of Greek history and mythology shines through. Whilst it can easily be compared to the two aforementioned games, Immortals Fenyx Rising takes its cues from several other titles too, all whilst remaining defiantly another Ubisoft open-world title.
Immortals isn’t afraid to set its stall out early though. Fenyx awakens from a shipwreck on the beach, with a big cliff face in front of them. The only way is to climb up, and immediately on-screen your stamina bar appears. And as anyone that has ever played Breath of the Wild can attest to, expect to see this an awful lot.
The story of Immortals Fenyx Rising is told through the constant bickering between Zeus and Prometheus – the respective Gods of thunder and fire. Typhon – an immensely powerful monster – has managed to escape and has plunged the Golden Isles into disarray, turning all residents to stone in the process. But, rather than simply take on Typhon themselves, Prometheus places a wager with Zeus that he bets a mortal can defeat Typhon. If you haven’t guessed it already, you play as that mortal, tasked with the seemingly impossible.
Fenyx is completely customisable – and can be altered at any point as you see fit – even down to the appearance of armour and weapons. All items have different benefits, but you can enter a different menu to change their individual appearance. And with all the cutscenes rendered in real-time, this is how you will see Fenyx at all times.
Early on, Fenyx encounters Hermes who informs them that several other gods have been corrupted by Typhon. For example, Aphrodite has lost her passion and Ares has lost his courage. Restoring these might sound a little bit like The Wizard of Oz, but these are essentially the Divine Beasts from Breath of the Wild. You will need to perform various tasks to free them of their unique and humorous shackles, but they can then aid you in your fight afterwards.
Immortals might be liberal in its implementation of Greek mythology, but it isn’t afraid to show off its deep knowledge at the same time. Even someone like me with only a passing understanding of who’s who in the Greek world can follow what is going on. It is usually in the back and forth between Zeus and Prometheus who name drop gods like it is going out of fashion, but it is always a laugh whenever they open their mouths. Through narrating the tale of Fenyx as it happens, they provide lots of lighter moments, such as spawning monsters when the action gets a bit ‘stale’.
Some of the darker and more illicit details of Greek mythology are glossed over by Zeus and Prometheus. Immortals is a very light-hearted game throughout. It could be enjoyed by a family with younger children almost as a ‘My First Open-World’ game; this takes nothing away from the depth and longevity of Immortals, but the light-hearted tone and lack of adult content makes it a strong contender.
Immortals is also heavily stylised. Truly gorgeous to look at in 4K on the Xbox Series X|S, the Golden Isles have a more cartoony look to them than a traditional open-world. Not wanting to detract Immortals away from an older gamer, but when one of the customisation packs is based on the popular cartoon Adventure Time, you can understand the target audience: kids and big kids alike.
These aren’t the only legends of Greek mythology you will encounter. There are persistent enemies such as Achilles and Herakles that will appear randomly and provide a challenging mini-boss battle.
In fact, the combat as a whole is challenging on the default difficulty. During the opening hours you are kitted out to the nines with swords, axes and bows, and you can freely switch between them all when in combat. Don’t be afraid to be defensive though; you can easily create openings for a quick, slashing combo by dodging or parrying. It is fast-paced and dynamic, and you can quickly come a cropper if you don’t ensure your weapons and potions are upgraded consistently.
This is where other inspirations can start to be felt; in previous Ubisoft games you could be collecting items – ie. flags – on an open-world map just for the sake of it. In Immortals though, every icon you can see on the world map has a use and a purpose. At times, it can feel a bit loot-intensive like Destiny or, more closely, God of War, where every collectible feeds into some sort of upgrade tree. Ambrosia is used solely for improving your health bar, likewise finding Coins of Charon are used for unlocking new skills. Everything has a purpose in Immortals, and whilst it can be a bit overwhelming at first, after just a few hours the depth starts to come through.
At any point, you can take a scope of your surroundings by holding the right thumbstick down. This goes into a first-person view where you can look around and highlight any points of interest. It is useful if you need to find a particular material, for example to upgrade with. However, having your map littered with icons does reduce the sense of wonder and exploration.
Of course, it isn’t just a map full of tons of collectibles; there are plenty of other things to see and do. You will be spending a lot of time delving deep into the Vaults of Tartaros. Basically, shrines from Breath of the Wild, these are self-contained puzzles to complete. These can range from battle arenas against waves of enemies or standout ones like a makeshift pinball machine. The physics running these might not be as exemplary as Breath of the Wild, but they are still a fun distraction.
There are still the traditional quests to complete, that mainly revolve around freeing the trapped gods, alongside other sidequests. There isn’t, however, a standard quest list to speak of, and I’m not sure if I am sold on this yet or not. I like it because it encourages an open-ended style of exploring, where I consult the map at all times to know where next to travel. On the other hand though, it doesn’t give a set goal or primary objective to achieve. It is certainly an interesting design choice, but one I am not completely sold on just yet.
There are however Heroic Tasks you can view back at the Hall of the Gods – essentially your base of operations – and Daily and Weekly tasks. There are also a couple of shops to buy items in; one from Hermes that offers items, and a real-world store with microtransactions. This is a Ubisoft game however – there was always destined to be a ‘live’ element.
And yet, despite being a Ubisoft game – and their third open-world title in as many months – it has a completely different control scheme to Watch Dogs: Legion or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. For example, to sprint in Immortals, it is the X button; in Watch Dogs it is RT. To call my mount you must hold the Y button; for Valhalla it is the left button on the D-pad! My mind cannot comprehend three different control schemes. Please Ubisoft, have your studios talk to each other.
It might not be the biggest or longest open-world, but Immortals Fenyx Rising on Xbox manages to cram a hell of a lot in. It takes huge swathes of inspiration from Breath of the Wild, almost unapologetically so at times. But by also taking cues from Assassin’s Creed and God of War – plus many more – it carves out a little unique space for itself. Whether it is the start of another franchise from Ubisoft remains to be seen, though the DLC plans would suggest a much wider narrative. But what Immortals certainly is, is yet another hugely competent, deep and interesting open-world, with more than enough stylised and light-hearted individuality to make it feel that little bit extra special.
That said, Gods and Monsters was a far better name.