This game was reviewed on Xbox Series X
A Hidden Gem
Immortals Fenyx Rising is the latest open-world title from publisher Ubisoft. Immortals was sent out with little fanfare at the same time as two other large open-world releases. After playing all the big open world releases at the end of 2020 I found Immortals to be the best of the bunch. It is by far their most successful balancing of story, combat, and exploration in quite some time. Never once did I feel that a cutscene was too long and the exploration is consistently rewarding. My only question for Ubisoft is, why did you send this incredible title seemingly out to die?
A Copycat of an Amalgamation
The first game most people will bring up when speaking of Immortals is Nintendo’s beloved game Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game shamelessly takes many of the best parts of that title to build its foundations. An emphasis on physics-based puzzles, having systems that inter-mingle in satisfying ways, and offering up a large world that demands you explore instead of handholding you with forced waypoints.
There are various upgrade trees for combat and traversal abilities. You can gain Ambrosia to earn more health chunks, Zeus’ Lightning to gain stamina slots, Charon’s coins to upgrade abilities and powers, and there is a potion crafting and upgrade tree as well. Each potion/consumable slot is tied to one of the directions on the d-pad and the system works well.
Personally, I feel that Breath of the Wild was not wildly original, it was simply Nintendo’s solid take on a lot of gameplay ideas that Ubisoft and other developers had used to varying degrees of success. In aping what made Breath of the Wild so special to many Ubisoft gives a more approachable take. One example that’s gone is weapon durability, a bane for me personally in my Breath of the Wild playthrough. In Immortals you unlock various weapon types and skins for them and you can change them out on the fly. The stamina meter is far more forgiving early on, and your character feels much more powerful with the fantastical Greek Gods setting.
Zeus and Prometheus: Live at the Apollo
That Golden Island setting is a huge selling point. I never really felt much attachment to the lore built up in Breath of the Wild, but this take on Ancient Greece really grew on me. The humor, which I feared would be off-putting at first, is well-written and legitimately funny in a way that games rarely are. The narrators Prometheus and Zeus weave a tale that varies from delightfully cheesy to occasionally hilarious. It is “one of those” where the more serious side (Prometheus) will bore the comedic relief (Zeus). The writing, in general, is of high enough quality that things didn’t delve into becoming a cringe-worthy mess. The main character is a goofball and that irreverent nature works itself into the enemies and allies in an appropriate way. Each of the Gods is well voiced and feels distinct in both tone and purpose.
Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Hot Lava
The main antagonist of the game is Typhon, who after eons of being imprisoned under a mountain by Zeus is able to break free and wreak utter havoc. This entails him severing 4 of the major gods from their Godly Essence. These are Aphrodite: The Goddess of Love, Ares: The God of War, Hephaistos: The God of Fire, and Athena: The Goddess of Wisdom (and War). The story has multiples twists and turns that are worth seeing, and it’s one of Ubisoft’s most tidy efforts in a while. It doesn’t drag on in the way I found Valhalla and Legion did.
As Beautiful as Aphrodite
Graphically the game takes great advantage of the next-gen hardware I played it on. Running at or near 4k it is also running at a seemingly locked at 60 frames per second in performance mode. There are graphical enhancements in the resolution mode but the hit to performance was not worth it for me. The game has an almost Pixar movie style of look to it. Rich colors, brilliant animations, and a fantastic art style make it one of my favorite looking games of 2020. It is not a technical marvel, but it performs well and the design is excellent.
To get around these scenic landscapes you can either glide with Ikaros’ wings or tame/buy one of the many mounts that are available. Holding down Y will summon them underneath you and they control well though any large fall will force them to magically poof out of existence.
Assassin Creed Odyssey’s Combat Perfected
Developer Ubisoft Quebec’s previous title was AC: Odyssey in 2018 (in conjunction with Ubisoft Montreal and others). The combat system in that game is the basis for a lot of what Fenyx can do and it feels fantastic. As you explore the world you will unlock a currency that allows you to unlock and power-up various Godly Powers. From Ares’ spears bursting through the ground to launch enemies in the air to a massive hammer that crushes your foes, there is a plethora of abilities and upgrades to be had. You start out life on the Golden Islands as a lowly shield maiden who has never seen combat. Within a few hours of progress, you are a finely honed demon killing machine. Typhon has stripped 4 of the major Greek Gods of their godly essence. Your goal is to restore them to their divine power so you can all team up and take Typhon down once and for all.
Doing this requires you to master a mix of the close-range sword, mid-ranged axe, and rather weak bow attacks. My only gripe with the combat is how darned weak the bow always felt in comparison to the rest of my arsenal even after gaining multiple upgrades for it. The sword helps to replenish your stamina meter, which is used for your Godly Powers. The Axe helps build up a stun meter which is vital to taking down tougher enemies as it gives you a solid 5 to 10 seconds of uninterrupted damage when it is full. Dodging does not drain the meter but is limited in how many times you can do it at the start. Thankfully upgrades for your dodge help empower you like a murder-ballerina in no time. Taken shamelessly from Breath of the Wild is the ability to pick up and throw objects, which is incredibly useful in combat as a large boulder hits good and hard on a Cyclops ugly face.
Enemy types are varied and you face far more difficult and engaging versions of earlier types as you progress throughout the world. Even on normal I felt routinely challenged and after bumping it up to hard after a few hours I got my head knocked in often. It never felt cheap thankfully, outside of a few times where the climbing mechanic would kick in at the wrong time and I would be left wide open for a huge enemy attack.
Music Worthy of the Gods
Famed composer of the Ori games Gareth Coker handles the soundtrack duties for Immortals, and his work is some of my favorite of all time. I am a huge Ori fan in large part due to his scores, and he raises the bar in this game. Pretty much every song is memorable and I found myself constantly humming along as I explored the beautiful landscapes.
My final conclusion. I think Immortals is more fun than Breath of the Wild. There I said it! No taking it back now. It is funny, a blast to play, beautiful, and has some of the best music in any video game. I do not understand why Ubisoft released it with so little fanfare and sandwiched it in between so many gigantic releases. If this game had come out either a few months earlier or later I think it would have been a huge hit. As it is routinely on sale and I can easily recommend it to anyone who has a pulse. The mix of puzzles, combat, and exploration is simply sublime and you would be doing yourself a disservice not giving it a try.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X