I loved every minute of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey when it released in 2018. I’m a huge Greek mythology nerd, so everything Ubisoft offered up with that title made my inner fangirl squee a little too hard. Enter Immortals Fenyx Rising, which I (wrongly) assumed was going to be a repeat of ACO, just without the assassinating. Instead, Ubisoft Quebec has created an incredibly fun (and funny) open world experience for the realm of the Grecian gods. It has its own combat style, narrative style, dungeon-crawling style, and, yes, art style. And it’s delightful.
Immortals Fenyx Rising tells the story of that one time, back in Greek world of the gods, when the Titan Typhon broke free of his prison in Tartarus (the underworld). He’s far more powerful than he was when Zeus originally imprisoned him, and not only that, but he’s sealed away many of the Olympian gods. Zeus is all alone and without his lightning to help him in the fight. He seeks out help/advice from Prometheus–you know, that guy he chained to the mountain to have his liver pecked out every day after sharing fire with the mortals. Instead, Prometheus tells Zeus of an unlikely mortal who is coming to his aid as they speak. As you may have guessed, Fenyx is that mortal heroine.
Fenyx must travel through the Golden Isle with the sword of Achilles, the bow of Odysseus, and the wings of Ikaros in order to free the sealed gods and send Typhon back to Tartarus where he belongs. It’s truly a story of epic proportions, but it’s also rather trite. Fortunately, the gameplay of Immortals is anything but.
Ubisoft as a whole makes a lot of great open world games, and all of them have this typical formula that players either love or hate. The developers fill the overworld map with icons marking chests, mini-games, side quests, main quests, etc., so that players can approach the game however they like. Completionists instantly see what they need, and crit-pathers know exactly where to go. When you play an Ubisoft game, you know what you’re going to get right off the bat.
For the most part, it works for them. Sometimes, though, players feel bogged down by the repetitive mini-games and side missions. I definitely felt that way with AC Valhalla. Immortals Fenyx Rising has successfully removed the monotony from, well, the monotony. All of the main missions have a unique schtick to them. Sometimes they require puzzle solving, sometimes they require killing monsters, and sometimes it’s a combo of the two. Sometimes you just have to roll a pearl down a mountain into the ocean. The only thing you can expect is unpredictability, albeit extremely fair unpredictability.
Fenyx has to traverse various Vaults of Tartarus to “rescue” Zeus’ lightning from Typhon’s clutches. In other words, she takes it for herself and turns it into extra stamina, which is the most un-AC feature in the entire game. Dashing takes stamina. Climbing takes stamina. God abilities take stamina. Gliding with Ikaros’ wings takes stamina. Basically, everything that is not simple walking and swinging a sword takes stamina. If Fenyx runs out of stamina, bad things can potentially happen. If it’s in the middle of a fight, she won’t be able to move quickly, thereby leaving her open to get squelched. While climbing, she’ll fall off the cliff. With gliding, she’ll plummet to her death. The stamina meter is almost more important than Fenyx’s health meter. That’s one reason why it’s rather important to crawl through these dungeons.
The neat thing about the Vaults of Tartarus, though, is that they’re far from your typical dungeons. Some require Fenyx to kill all the monsters, but the vast majority of them require solving puzzles. Like so many puzzle-solving games, none of the concepts of solving the puzzles are that difficult, but finding the correct solution can be a head scratcher. Like Portal, however, the solutions are relatively simple and they stare at you in the face. It just doesn’t mean it’s instantly clear what’s staring at you.
Most of the puzzles build on top of one another, but none of them are copycats. Sure, you might have to light all the torches in every room to open a door, but how to light those torches is never the same. In addition, if you come across a Vault that is not part of a main mission and you don’t have any idea how to solve it, it’s most likely because you haven’t upgraded that specific ability yet. Upon entering a region, Fenyx can go anywhere and do anything. However, she may not be equipped to tackle anything she wanders into.
The same goes for all of the puzzles found in the overworld as well. You may not be able to solve a constellation puzzle around a temple now, but after upgrading stamina/weapons/arrows/etc., you may be able to. And for the record, I’ve barely scratched the surface as to what all is available for Fenyx to do in the world.
Accompanying this wide variety of gameplay is some hilarious narration between Prometheus and Zeus. The two of them will argue about details in the story, including what “actually happened” in the Greek myths. Even the gaming tips on the load screen have side notes from Zeus. If they aren’t cracking jokes, then Hermes will, which I 100% expect out of the Messenger God.
If I had one complaint about Immortals Fenyx Rising, it’s that you can’t skip animations. For each thing Fenyx upgrades, there’s an accompanying animation to follow it. Many were humorous the first time, but I don’t want to watch them every single time I upgrade Fenyx. I’ve pressed every button during an animation to try to skip it, and nothing works. I can only hope that Ubisoft patches that in later.
Immortals Fenyx Rising probably has more playstyle customizations than any other Ubisoft game. As mentioned before, it’s easy for completionists, crit-pathers, and everyone in between to do what they want. The game also has five different difficulty levels, ranging from Story to Nightmare, that players can switch at any time. That’s in addition to the typical customizations you can find, including button re-mapping, horizontal and vertical axes, vibration, color blindness mode, etc. Ubisoft Quebec clearly wants every one to enjoy their game, no matter how hardcore or casual the player is. With the wide variety of gameplay, entertaining narration, gorgeous artwork, and a Homeric epic of a story, the only reason to not like this game is if open world action-adventure games aren’t your cup of lotus. If the developers wrote the dialogue in classic hexameter, then the game would be perfect.
Immortals Fenyx Rising will come to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Google Stadia on December 3, 2020.