Title: Immortals Fenyx Rising Released On: December 3, 2020 Genre: Action-Adventure Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Google Stadia, Xbox One Developer: Ubisoft Quebec Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD
Greek mythology is filled with stories of ordinary people who find themselves unexpectedly thrust towards destiny by the will of a God, so it fits perfectly that when the Gods needed saving that a lone, shipwrecked individual would come to their aid. Immortals Fenyx Rising conceptually follows in this rich tradition of Homerian Greek epics, with our protagonist Fenyx taking on larger than life puzzles and battling fantastical beasts in his quest to save his brother and reunite the Greek pantheon. Offering a more organic progression system that entices players to engage more deeply with the game, Ubisoft Quebec has created a world that rewards players for exploration.
Narratively, Immortals Fenyx Rising takes all of its cues from the classical Comedies, and its delightful blend of action, exploration, and puzzle-solving seamlessly mesh together through a satirical tongue-in-cheek adventure highlighting the true drama of the Greek pantheon. With a very accessible combat system and a genuinely engaging and complex gauntlet of problem solving, Immortals has a little something for everyone and is sure to delight gamers across the spectrum. It’s not often that a developer striking out on a new path achieves success on the first try, but Ubisoft Quebec has used their development strengths as a foundation for a brand new epic.
I want to begin by saying that people would be remiss to simply think of Immortals as a Zelda-like game, as has oft been the comparison since we first saw gameplay revealed. While there are assuredly some similarities between the puzzle-solving action-adventure games, Immortals stands on its own as a worthwhile and unique addition to the genre, building from the lessons of the developer while taking influence from outside sources. There are not near enough open-world adventures that challenge the player to engage thoughtfully with logic puzzles, and Fenyx Rising has filled that gap superbly with a colourfully captivating world.
Immortals Fenyx Rising manages to expertly balance its combat and puzzling through an immersive and engaging world, one that draws the player in and entices them to explore every inch. Everything that you accomplish in Immortals has some sort of reward tied to it. Treasure chests and upgrade materials are locked behind environmental logic puzzles that make every accomplishment feel like you’ve really worked to earn it. While you could easily lose yourself in the amount of activities to engage with in the open-world, the gameplay is superbly tied together through one of Ubisoft’s most unique and compelling narratives to date.
Immortals Fenyx Rising recounts the story of Fenyx, a soldier shipwrecked into destiny alongside the greatest heroes of Greek myth. Unbeknownst to our protagonist, the story is narrated by Prometheus to Zeus, conveniently while he is still chained to the rock where the God of Lightning put him centuries earlier. The last remaining Titan, Typhon, has imprisoned the Gods and corrupted the greatest Heroes of antiquity, and their fate rests on the shoulders of our hapless would-be hero. It’s the quintessential unexpected hero trope, but one that’s rooted in the rich depth of Greek mythology, and then completely reimaged through a satirical lens.
The story is downright hilarious, almost as if it was written by one of the great Comedians themselves, and is one of the game’s strongest features. Immortals is very aware of the ridiculousness of many aspects of Greek mythology, and instead of leaning into the seriousness of classical myths, it goes to lengths to point out their foibles. Commentary on Zeus’ numerous affairs and countless children — in fact it was 54 — alongside comedic references surrounding each of the Gods’ many, many faults and constant squabbles. In addition to a story that is riddled with satirical takes on the actions of the Gods — including Zeus’ constant quips alongside Prometheus’ narration — Fenyx is a generally aloof and self-aware protagonist. He’s constantly questioning the logic, or lack thereof, of the actions of the Gods around him, and immediately embroils himself in the most whimsical of tasks without any prompting.
The world of Immortals Fenyx Rising is a massive one, separated into multiple regions where the Gods have been cursed and imprisoned by Typhon. Each sprawling region feels representative of the God that lives there; Aphrodite’s Valley is full of lush greenery and glistening streams, whereas Ares’ region is comprised of desolate rocky desert and crumbling towers. It’s an absolutely beautiful and captivating world to explore, and one made even more-so by the allure of treasure scattered about, and the ease afforded to Fenyx from his Wings. The colourful and watercolour painting-like art style works exceedingly well, providing a depth of detail while maintaining a cartoonish charm.
It’s also a world where discovery lies around every cliff-edge. You can scout your surroundings from any area using Fenyx’s Far Sight, which will vibrate and highlight points of interest on your map and compass. There are special Fresco and Constellation puzzles to complete, Epic Chests to unlock, Vaults to work your way through, and much more. Nothing in Immortals is “simply” a collectible; every single activity, icon or chest will bestow upon Fenyx a unique piece of equipment or a crafting material that is integral for improving the protagonist’s core stats or upgrading their abilities. It’s the type of system that is a completionist’s dream, because it not only entices the player with the wealth of icons to check off, but forces them to work through puzzles to achieve each goal.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is assuredly a puzzle-heavy game, but the environmental problem-solving feels very organic to the experience, and not forced. Many of the puzzles exist throughout the world simply to guard access to an Epic Chest or upgrade materials, whereas others are far more intricate layered problems which require the player to solve a successive number of shorter puzzles to complete a grand one. There are a number of different types of problems to solve, but the majority of the puzzles involve a combination of exploration and logic; finding the specific environmental cue and determining how it interacts with the overarching puzzle.
In addition to these open-world puzzles, there are a wealth of subterranean levels called Vaults of Tartarus that can be found in each region, which are essentially puzzle-dungeons. These Vaults range in difficulty level but have a core focus on environmental puzzle-solving, with many of them being comprised of a combination of traversal challenges alongside logic puzzles, making for an often complicated but thoughtful dungeon. They are the types of puzzles that require the player to step back and look at the whole picture, before having that “A-Ha!” moment where the answer makes itself clear.
One of my favorite aspects of Immortals Fenyx Rising has been Ubisoft Quebec’s willingness to shirk more traditional progression and upgrade systems that we find in open-world adventure games, in exchange for systems that actively promote exploration and organic gameplay. You don’t level up in Immortals, but rather you advance your character by completing any of the world activities, as they all reward Fenyx with different types of upgrade materials.
Coins of Charon from completing Constellations or Harp challenges — which are some of my favorite puzzles — are used to invest into your skill tree or buy new Godly Powers, whereas opening chests and defeating enemies rewards you with shards to upgrade your equipment. Lastly, Vaults of Tartarus and Ambrosia shards are used to upgrade your stamina and health respectively. Each world activity or puzzle ties directly in with the advancement of Fenyx, tying progression in through exploration in a way that I found to be both enticing and rewarding.
Gamers familiar to Ubisoft titles will assuredly find some of those characteristic elements in Immortals that help to entice the player to explore the entirety of the world. Climbing a tower to scout out new locations or treasures in a region, or the brief moment of slowed-down time when Fenyx executes a perfectly timed dodge. While there are certainly some of these Ubi-elements that permeate through the game, Immortals Fenyx Rising feels like a completely new experience, and new direction for the developer while still playing to their strengths.
While there is a logical way to work your way through each Region, progression in Immortals is largely left up to the player, affording them the ability to tackle any area and freely bounce between the core questline and the plethora of world activities and treasure chests that are scattered throughout the map. It’s a game where exploration is at the forefront, as some quests can’t be discovered through Far Sight, requiring the player to pass within proximity of them to cue their dialogue. There are barriers to this freedom in the form of enemies that will annihilate an underpowered Fenyx, or puzzles that you may not be able to solve without a firmer grasp of your powers, but you are still free to engage with them in any order you’d like. As you progress through the game these types of barriers become less restrictive as Fenyx becomes more powerful — and as your puzzle-solving prowess improves — but it created a welcome and less directed adventure.
Combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t exceptionally unique but is well executed and feels very smooth, with the relatively simple mechanics bolstered by a number of Godly Powers that Fenyx will gain throughout their adventure. Alternating between light and heavy attacks causes Fenyx to switch between his sword and axe — a neat stylistic and mechanical feature — in addition to a bow for ranged attacks. Focusing on these three weapon archetypes comprises the core combat system, supplemented with the handful of abilities you’ll gain that allow you to better crowd-control larger groups and deal out integral stun damage.
You’ll square off against a number of enemies from classical myth, which are handily colour-coded to signify their difficulty. Unlike the puzzles, there is no great strategy for combat so long as you pay attention to your stamina and make good use of heavy attacks and powers to stun your foes. Combat can be challenging at points, but enemies tended to have relatively straight-forward strategies to defeat them. While fights could feel a little repetitive the further you push into the game, at no point did it ever become tedious or tiresome. Smart use of Godly Powers like Herakles’ Strength and your trusty phoenix Phosphor become especially critical later on, but also helped to keep combat feeling fresh.
Both the puzzle-solving and the combat culminate in the Vaults of the Gods, which are like expanded Vaults of Tartarus that include difficult battles and take a good amount of problem-solving to overcome. While never tedious, they are assuredly the gauntlets of logic in Immortals Fenyx Rising. Moving through each Vault requires solving a multitude of environmental puzzles which all lead to a grand solution, and a hefty boss battle. In addition to being some of the most complex levels in the game, they also feature some of the more challenging fights.
Every single piece of armour or weaponry in Immortals in a unique and Legendary piece, which makes treasure-hunting that much more enticing. Ubisoft Quebec has opted for a completely different Gear system in Fenyx Rising, allowing players to focus on equipment that they want to wear, versus feeling like they need to equip the “best” items. If you really want to use a specific piece of equipment because of its perk, but you’re attached to a certain cosmetic, you can re-skin any item in the game to look like another that you’ve obtained.
Hunting down all of the weapon and armour chests in Immortals was easily one of my favorite things to do, not just because it afforded me an opportunity to delve deeper into the world and solve more environment puzzles, but because you knew that every item you got would be epic. There is a tense excitement every time Fenyx opens a chest, which is multiplied because the character has a number of excited chest-opening rituals, such as drumming on the top of giving it a celebratory elbow-drop. You will find re-skins of equipment that you already have the further you progress, but they were varied enough that I welcomed the new customization options.
In addition to offering a more nuanced progression system, Immortals has also shirked the more traditional upgrade systems in exchange for one that felt like it was meant to expand player freedom. Instead of upgrading each piece of equipment individually, the player can instead upgrade the class of weapon or armour that they wish to improve, which improves all items within that type. Immortals is an action-adventure game at its core, so players don’t have to worry about grinding out levels or focusing on upgrading a gear-set, but can organically work their way through the game swapping out pieces of equipment as they see fit. You’ll be upgrading both your equipment as well as unlocking new skills and Godly powers at the Hall of the Gods, your one-stop-Hermes-shop for everything that Fenyx needs to save the pantheon.
There are additionally two types of task-oriented quests that Hermes has posted in the Hall of the Gods which offer enticing rewards for players. There are Heroic Tasks which challenge you to complete world objectives and reward Fenyx with upgrade materials and new equipment, as well as timed Live Tasks which give the player an opportunity to earn Elektrum, a premium currency that can be used at Hermes’ shop of rotating premium Store stock. It’s the same type of system we’ve seen in previous Assassin’s Creed games, which affords players a way to earn premium items from the cosmetic Store without paying for them.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is assuredly a deeply engaging game that challenges players to take a more thoughtful approach to their dungeon-crawling. That being said, as you progress through the lengthy game and become comfortable with the types of puzzles that inhabit the world, they will lose some of the initial difficulty that they held, much in the same way that the combat will become much easier as you upgrade Fenyx’s overall strength and Godly Powers.
This did definitely mean that Immortals presented less of a challenge the further I pushed into the game, apart from the occasional spikes of difficulty found in Vault-puzzles or unique enemy fights, but I at no point found that the gameplay stagnated substantially. There is so much driving the player forward, both in terms of narrative and exploratory discovery, and its done with such charm that the enjoyment lasts well into 30+ hours of gameplay.
It’s the type of progression that will undoubtedly push many gamers like myself to go for a full 100% completion, because of how well each of the systems complement one another. The colourful and richly detailed world begs to be explored, leading the player towards chests requiring puzzle solutions and combat to unlock, with rewards that allow you to engage with new areas. It’s a gameplay loop that feels consistently engaging and never tiresome, since activities are both rewarding unto themselves, and part of a greater driving force.
While the this loop can become a little repetitive towards the end of the experience, Immortals Fenyx Rising works on every level. It’s an absolutely captivating world full of delightful characters that pushes the player forward on an adventure of discovery and triumph that feels consistently rewarding. Exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving all function in tandem, held together by Ubisoft’s funniest narrative to date. It’s a thoroughly entertaining game from beginning to end, and one that I would recommend wholly to people looking for a fun, thoughtful adventure.
Final Score: 9/10
Immortals Fenyx Rising works on every level, with a colourfully engaging world urging the player forward through an enticing progression and reward system.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.