I thought I knew what to expect going into my hands-on session with nearly four hours of Ubisoft’s upcoming Immortals Fenyx Rising. I knew I’d be playing an open-world adventure that combines elements of the modern Assassin’s Creed games with more than a few borrowed ideas from Breath of the Wild. I knew that I’d be roaming around colourful and heavily stylised environments inspired by Greek mythology, and naturally beating up plenty of mythological creatures. I knew that I really don’t like the game’s new title. What I hadn’t expected though, is that it’d be so damn funny.
If the Internet is to be believed, it was a bug in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that spawned some accidental cyclops and inspired Ubisoft Quebec to start crafting a title richer in the mythological side of Ancient Greece. The resulting project is something distinctly more high fantasy and light-hearted than its close cousin. In Immortals, the titan Typhon seeks to enact vengeance on the mighty Zeus for banishing him to the underworld, Tartaros. In doing so, he tears open the fabric between Tartaros and the home of the gods, the Golden Isle. As the titular Fenyx, a Greek soldier who finds themselves shipwrecked on the Isle, it falls on you to help save the gods and a human race all turned to stone.
While I can’t speak too much to the game’s overall story from only having played the opening few hours of it, I can say one thing with certainty – Ubi Quebec is seriously nailing the tone and humour so far. I audibly giggled numerous times listening to the narration from Prometheus and Zeus, with the former trying his best to tell a proper, Greek epic and the latter undermining him at every turn. Zeus cracks (often subtly adult) jokes and even changes the story from time-to-time while Fenyx is adventuring, meaning there’s both a neat sense of dynamic narration as well as a few laugh-out-loud moments in the early hours where the two argue over details, causing things to change in-game. All of the gods that I’d met in my time were hilariously-written caricatures of themselves as well, so I’m hanging to meet the rest of them.
Dialogue aside, there’s also a good amount of physical, slapstick humour – notably the way enemies are flung out into the distance Smash Bros-style when they’re defeated. I lost it the first time I snuck up to an innocent enemy for a cowardly stealth attack and subsequently sent it flying out into a nearby wooded area where it bowled over a group of trees. I can’t wait to see some glorious, emergent physics-based clips hit the web when the game is in people’s hands.
Having come off of my recent hands-on session with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, combat in Immortals felt instantly familiar. The combination of two melee attack buttons, a dodge, parry and over-the-shoulder ranged aiming accompanied by customisable quickslots for special abilities is a near match for Valhalla, which should be handy for anyone jumping from one to the other. Where Immortals differs is in its pace and verticality. Fenyx can perform feats of gravity-defying acrobatics using their newfound wings, which quickly comes in handy for large or airborne enemies, and they’ve also got the ability to stagger enemies with enough parries and heavy attacks, which opens them up to increased damage.
…I struggled to keep to the critical story path for finding myself constantly drawn to secrets and shiny things around me, and not because anyone in the game told me to but because I wanted to
As someone who’s only okay at action games, I’m shocked at how quickly I settled into the rhythm of Fenyx Rising’s combat. It’s freeform enough that more skilled players should find a good groove, especially on higher difficulties (I played on Normal in my session), but the option to either brute force fights or play defensive and work on staggering enemies for maximum efficiency lends it some nice accessibility. I’ll be interested to see how necessary the later, godly powers become and how the game’s power climb feels.
Like Breath of the Wild, Immortals benefits from a refreshing change of pace among other open worlds thanks to a lonelier world filled with genuinely fun environmental puzzles. With humankind all completely stoned, Fenyx is able to traipse around the place and explore pretty well uninterrupted (save for evil beasties and the odd, godly encounter). Unlike my session with Assassin’s Creed, in this hands-on I struggled to keep to the critical story path for finding myself constantly drawn to secrets and shiny things around me, and not because anyone in the game told me to but because I wanted to. When I did allow myself to stray, I found quite a few neat little bespoke gameplay or puzzle elements in the world to reward my curiosity. At one point I’d happened across a dilapidated Olympic track, for example, and by running along it quickly enough I was rewarded with a cheeky bit of loot.
I’m desperately trying my best to avoid comparisons to Breath of the Wild here but there’s honestly not much I can do about it, especially when it comes to the game’s puzzle shrines Tartaros Rifts. Dotted around the Golden Isle, you’ll find these rifts to the underworld that house self-contained puzzles not unlike those found in that game. Honestly, the resemblance is uncanny in some of the layouts and mechanics. The good news is that the ones I did get to check out were pretty fun, and made good use of the abilities that Fenyx had started to accrue over those early hours. From the few that I did do, it seems like they’re quite a bit more open and sprawling than anything in Nintendo’s game though, which is a nice point of difference.
After I’d made it through the introductory region and reached the game’s central hub known as the Hall of the Gods, the folk at Ubisoft kindly granted me a huge boon of resources to spend on exploring all of the options for character building. In the Hall, Fenyx can upgrade their weapons and armour, brew potions and more. Everything I checked out seemed deep enough to allow for satisfying progression while not being overly complex or bogged down in numbers, instead focusing more on immediate gameplay benefits than min-maxing stats.
In the Hall of the Gods, Fenyx can also mix up their look at any time, including completely changing the body and gendered characteristics you’d given them at the beginning. It was nice to see that none of the options in character creation, from body types to facial hair to tone of voice, are locked to a particular identity so players are free to present themselves however they want.
After spending significant time with Immortals Fenyx Rising, I’m more excited than ever. The comparisons to other games are unavoidable, but if Nintendo really did start a trend then Immortals seems to carry that trend proudly. Ubisoft Québec seems to be doing a decent job of adapting the distinctly freeform approach to open-world gameplay to a more traditional RPG format, so hopefully that holds true for the rest of the game. There’s so much more of the Golden Isle to explore and I can’t wait to poke into every corner and see what I can discover. I also can’t wait to continue listening to my new favourite storytellers, Zeus and Prometheus. Give those boys their own podcast.