Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview – Could Be A Late Contender For Game Of The Year
Ubisoft open-world games generally have one major source of inspiration: other Ubisoft open-world games. Immortals Fenyx Rising liberates itself from that camp, instead taking inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – and it’s all the better for it. “If you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best,” – Hi-Rez Studios (probably).
You could argue the case that Breath of the Wild borrowed from Ubisoft first with the Assassin’s Creed-style towers that you scale to survey the map, as well as the stamina bar for climbing, which previously featured in Ubisoft’s I Am Alive. Ubisoft did those things before Nintendo, but Nintendo did them better.
Breath of the Wild’s towers don’t just unlock more points of interest on the map, you see – you have to manually mark them once you’ve reached the peak. It engages you in the act. Likewise, the stamina-based climbing allows you to scale almost anything, which makes navigation more involved – can I take a shortcut over this cliff, or will I lose my grip before I reach the summit?
Immortals Fenyx Rising reclaims both of those things and implements Nintendo’s application of them. Viewpoints require you to scan the horizon and manually mark objects. You can climb any surface and swim across any body of water, as long as you have the stamina for it. Immortals even begins in a similar way to Breath of the Wild – by having you explore a tutorial area to learn the basics until you eventually get your Daidalos wings.
You start up high and the vivid, stylised world stretches out before you – an endless sea of grass, vibrant flora and towering landmarks scatter the landscape, begging you to dive in. And you do. You glide down into the main map in the same manner Link does in Breath of the Wild. It even has its own take on Zelda’s shrines, with a series of platforming and physics-based puzzles for you to complete, called Tartaros Vaults. But there’s one area where Immortals outdoes Zelda: the story and how it is delivered.
You play as Fenyx, a custom character who can be any gender. They’re shipwrecked in the land of the Greek gods, The Golden Isle, and every other human has been turned to stone. The gods have lost their powers to Typhon, a titan who was imprisoned by Zeus and has a bad case of the wah wahs about it. You, a random normie, are the only hope that’s left for the Greek pantheon.
The story is narrated by Zeus and Prometheus, who Zeus has chained to a freezing mountain. (Zeus likes imprisoning powerful beings, OK? We all need a hobby). Because the gods don’t perceive time as we do, the pair narrate the story as it’s happening, but also as if it already happened. The two storytellers are often at odds, due to the whole being chained to a mountain situation. Zeus, who has lived his life until now as an all-powerful being, is impatient. He often interjects Prometheus’s telling of the tale and adds his own flavour.
In one scene, I make it to the end of a puzzle and Zeus is bored by the lack of action. He decides I have a fight at this point, which causes a huge cyclops to appear from nowhere. Prometheus attempts to soften it by saying it’s adorable, which shrinks it down to the size of a baby, before Zeus makes it bigger once more and I’m forced to draw my (well, Achilles’) sword.
Immortals feels like Zelda with direction, where witty writing and excellent comedy performances pull you through. I’m a big fan of Breath of the Wild, but its lack of structure sometimes makes exploration feel aimless. Here you’re always doing something and you always have a reason for doing it, whether mechanically or for a story purpose.
The demo takes me to the land of Aphrodite, filled with flowers, pomegranate trees, lush, rolling fields, and gilded statues. The Goddess of Beauty has been turned into a tree, and I’m tasked with bringing her back to her true form by rolling a pearl into the ocean. The real story of Aphrodite says she was born from seafoam when Cronus cut off his dad’s cock and balls and threw them into the ocean – Zeus and Prometheus bicker over this origin story as you roll the giant pearl down a winding hill, past enemies, puzzles, and blockades, using the bracers of Herakles to telekinetically lift any obstructions (and occasionally launch them at a harpy’s face). Every quest I played in my three hours with the game was just as inventive as this, and all backed by entertaining god bantz.
Of course, none of this would matter if the action didn’t carry the moment-to-moment play. Luckily, this is the best-feeling combat Ubisoft has ever produced. There are no canned animations here – just instant, gratifying battles. R1 attacks with Achilles’ sword, R2 bangs out a heavy attack with the Axe of Atlanta, while L1 guards. Pressing attack and guard together parries enemies if timed right. Squeeze the left trigger to pull out your bow – which also has a remote control arrow option that lets you slow-motion fly an arrow directly into an enemy’s face – and fire off skills, jump, and dodge with the face buttons. A well-timed dodge slows time and allows you to get in a couple of extra hits or reposition yourself.
Using Herakles’ bracers, you can also launch rocks and other debris at enemies, and once upgraded, you can pull enemies towards you or pull yourself towards them. If an enemy is in the air, you can zip right up to them and go Dante on their mythological arses. Combat in the air feels just as good as it does on the ground, with stylised hit indicators, crunchy audio, and enemy reactions really selling each strike whether your feet are planted or not. It’s acrobatic and frenetic. In my personal favourite touch, every fight ends with you yeeting an enemy into the stratosphere. Screaming “Bye, bitch” is entirely optional.
There’s also a full levelling system where you can get more health, stamina, skills, and equipment by searching the world for resources – Adamantine, Coins of Charon, Ambrosia, Zeus’ Lightning, and more. Head up to your hub, the Hall of Heroes, to spend your goods and it triggers a training montage where Fenyx pounds a speed bag and does pushups with Hermes sitting on their back.
I’ve only seen a portion of what Immortals offers – peeking beyond the veil within the ethereal cosmos of Tartaros, milling around the tutorial area, and strolling the pastoral fields of Aphrodite’s lands – but I’m sold. I’m throwing all my money at Charon and asking him to put me on a boat until this brilliant game comes out and I can bask beneath its beautiful blue skies again. Playing it feels like a holiday, and Zeus knows we all need one.
Immortals Fenyx Rising releases on December 3 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Stadia.
Next: All The Immortals Fenyx Rising Special Editions And Preorder Bonuses
- Game Previews
- Nintendo Switch
- Xbox One
- Immortals: Fenyx Rising
Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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