Last year, during E3 2019, Ubisoft debuted a sneak peek at a mysterious game in development at Ubisoft Quebec, called, “Gods & Monsters.” Originally scheduled for a February 2020 release, the game would go on to miss this initial release date, as a result of corporate restructuring at Ubisoft, as well as a desire to port the game to the upcoming next-gen consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Considering how little we formerly knew about Gods & Monsters since its announcement anyway, which previously had just one cinematic trailer, a developer interview, and a handful of leaks to its name, it’s pretty unsurprising that the game didn’t ultimately launch when it was planned to. With the completion of the second Ubisoft Forward event now being achieved however, Gods & Monsters has been re-revealed to the world, complete with a re-branded title for its finalized release; Immortals Fenyx Rising!
Immortals Fenyx Rising spawned from a desire by Ubisoft Quebec, who formerly developed last year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, to take the Greek mythology-inspired ideas they brought to the table with Odyssey, and make an entire game around them. As with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey before it, as well as Ubisoft Quebec’s other major franchise title, 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Immortals Fenyx Rising aims to tell its story with a somewhat light-hearted feel, veering even further into colourful, cheeky territory this time. This is a far cry from something like Sony’s God of War franchise, Greek mythology’s biggest success in gaming so far, which spins a dark, violent and rage-fueled tragedy inspired by the many creatures of Greek myth. Immortals Fenyx Rising, by contrast, is instead an upbeat, semi-humourous take on Greek mythology, complete with lead Greek god, Zeus and imprisoned Greek titan, Prometheus squabbling like an old married couple over the narrative of your main character throughout your playthrough.
As for your actual player character, Fenyx, they can be customized quite extensively, according to Ubisoft, complete with players being able to alter their appearance, gender and other such traits at any time during their playthrough. I wasn’t able to sample this customization suite though, instead being given a pre-set female Fenyx model for Immortals Fenyx Rising’s demo build. This didn’t matter too much to me in the end however, especially when Fenyx rarely appeared to chime in with her own voice. Instead, Zeus and Prometheus fill in most of the gaps when it comes to Fenyx’s apparent personality and ordeals, with each presenting their own ideal perspective on what appears to drive Fenyx, as well as the villain she’s up against.
That villain is Typhon, a so-called ‘god destroyer’, who is out to take the world back from Mt. Olympus and its gods, which has resulted in the various dominions of the gods, i.e. Immortals Fenyx Rising’s game world, to become flooded with monsters. My demo session only gave me access to one of the god dominions that make up the game’s environment, the rough, rocky domain of Hephaistos, god of fire and smithing, but this region alone offered me plenty of insight into the kinds of hazards and challenges facing the player in Immortals Fenyx Rising. Naturally, what sets Hephaistos’ domain apart from the others is its temple-like rock formations, its mechanized enemies, and its frequent use of fire in environments and puzzles. Fortunately, even a treacherous, godless land like Hephaistos’ conquered dominion is able to be explored with ease, since Fenyx can navigate efficiently using a pair of wings, as well as tame wild horses that can be summoned almost anywhere with a quick button hold.
If you’re getting flashbacks to Nintendo’s blockbuster open-world action-adventure game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild after that latter point, then you’re very observant! Immortals Fenyx Rising, as several of its leaks suggested, takes a lot of inspiration from Breath of the Wild, presenting its open environments and enemies in a very similar fashion, as well as its objectives, secrets and its own platforming and puzzle-fueled versions of Breath of the Wild’s ‘Shrines’, which are now called ‘Vaults’. This is exciting for players who don’t own a Nintendo Switch (or, dare I say, a Wii U), since it means that, regardless of their platform of choice, they can finally sample a lot of the mechanics that made Breath of the Wild such a success on Nintendo platforms! I was given a hands-on with an early PC build of Immortals Fenyx Rising specifically, using an Xbox One controller to play (so I’ll be referencing those button prompts during this preview), but the game is coming to literally every current platform, including the Switch, and the controls are relatively straightforward, no doubt translating easily to virtually any control method.
Once I was finally given control, after the first of many Zeus/Prometheus arguments, I pressed in the right stick to use ‘Far Sight’, which immediately gave me a view of my surroundings, and allowed me to mark objectives. Immortals Fenyx Rising is more stylized and wholesome-looking than, say, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, resembling a Greek painting combined with a vibrant cel-shaded visual palette. Thus, while the game looks nice, and definitely well-presented, its technical elements appear to be flexible and easy to scale between platforms. Even though I was playing on PC, at a 1080p-based settings build that’s meant to mimic how Immortals Fenyx Rising would likely look on a base model PS4 or Xbox One, the game looks and plays like it would feel at home even on a Nintendo Switch in Handheld Mode, despite also effortlessly scaling up to accommodate high-end PC’s, and next-gen consoles. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to see Immortals Fenyx Rising running on true next-gen settings, but at least we’ll get that opportunity later this year, if you’re planning to invest in next-gen hardware, or already have a beefy gaming PC at the ready.
After identifying the first Vault of Tartaros for my demo, I leapt off the cliff Fenyx started on, and pushed the B Button to pull out a pair of armoured wings, which Fenyx can use to dive and glide around the open air, so long as she has Stamina. Yes, in another mechanic taken directly from Breath of the Wild, Fenyx can glide anywhere, climb even solid rock faces with ease, and run faster as needed, actions that all consume a limited supply of Stamina. Fortunately, I could use a quick tap of the directions on the D-Pad to instantly have Fenyx consume Potions, which are crucial to keeping her healthy and functional. Potions of all varieties can be brewed at Cauldrons of Circe, which are scattered in certain areas around the game map, using ingredients like wild mushrooms and pomegranates that players can pick up while exploring. Aside from immediate Stamina restoration, Potions can also be used to restore Fenyx’s health, or increase her offensive or defensive capabilities, so it’s always useful to have a supply of them at the ready, especially when taking on combat or exploration challenges! Don’t fret about Fenyx’s Stamina too much though, as it does refill automatically within seconds, if she simply stays idle.
Speaking of combat, it inevitably wasn’t long before I found myself in battle, specifically with a couple of undead soldiers that were guarding the way into the Vault I’d planned to explore! It’s no surprise that combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising takes some inspiration from the past few Assassin’s Creed games too, complete with Fenyx being able to wield both melee weapons and a bow and arrow for long-range strikes. Players can use Right Bumper and Right Trigger to alternate between quicker, weaker melee attacks and slower, stronger melee attacks, respectively, and players can also hold Left Trigger to nock and fire arrows from a distance, holding the trigger down to charge up their arrow strikes before releasing it to fire. Fenyx’s arrows appear to replenish automatically as well, returning to her quiver as long as you don’t fire them too frequently. Likewise, Fenyx’s melee weapons never appear to break in Immortals Fenyx Rising, which will be great news to players of Breath of the Wild that were frequently vexed by that game’s controversial weapon degradation mechanic!
I defeated the undead soldiers with ease, thankfully, even after being ambushed by a slightly tougher Medusa, and a much tougher Cyclops! The Medusa couldn’t even get near me before being destroyed by my arrows, but the Cyclops proved much more dangerous! I had to stay on my toes by holding Left Bumper and using the X Button to dash around, spending some Stamina to avoid the Cyclops’ damaging stomps and swings, and striking at him with my mighty Hephaistos’s Hammer special, which could be used by holding Left Bumper and Right Trigger, at the immediate cost of half my Stamina! Shooting the Cyclops in the eye with your arrows also does extra damage to him, helpfully displayed by damage numbers that fly around with every successful hit. Eventually, the Cyclops also got angry and started throwing stones at me, but I was able to pick them up and toss them back at him as well, using the Left Bumper and the Y Button to use Herakles’ Strength, which, frankly, feels a lot more like telekinesis. Regardless, I eventually finished the creature off with another special attack, holding Left Bumper and pressing the A Button, which causes a slew of spears to erupt from the ground, a handy technique for when you’re surrounded, or facing a larger monster that’s difficult to evade.
Combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising appears to be quite simple to grasp, even in this dominion that’s supposedly explored well into the game. Even playing on the default difficulty setting, getting a handle on fighting monsters is quick, and even less initiated players should grasp the fundamentals of defeating monsters before long. The game does promise higher difficulty settings in its final release though, in case you want to push your skills further. Likewise, special combat challenges are also available at certain points in the game world, and more on that later.
Once I felled all of the beasts, I jumped into the Vault’s passage, which brought me to a starry series of platforms and riddles. What appeared to be the displaced interior of a temple amid endless, star-filled night stretched out before me. The Vaults represent chunks of the Underworld that are accessible from the main game area, again functioning exactly like the Shrines from Breath of the Wild. Completing Vaults allows Fenyx to upgrade her stats and skills. This first Vault was also pretty simple, beginning with a block puzzle, some quick jumps (fortunately, you can also double jump with two taps of the A Button!), and some tests of my aptitude with Herakles’ Strength. Some periodic checkpoints also helped to spawn me further ahead if I fell into the bottomless pit surrounding the area, which, fortunately, didn’t happen in this case.
Where things got a little trickier is when I had to start using my bow. After hitting some easy arrow switches to start, I was eventually faced with a new obstacle, namely moving bow switches that were located far off in the distance. These weren’t too hard to hit with my arrows, but the last one forced me to make use of another unique mechanic; Apollo’s Arrow! This skill is used by holding Left Trigger and then holding Right Bumper, which allows players to manipulate and steer an arrow in mid-air! Using Apollo’s Arrow gradually drains your Stamina, so you only have a limited amount of time to move the arrow around, but this skill is nonetheless very useful when it comes to both spying on environments and upcoming challenges, as well as hitting arrow switches that aren’t otherwise in plain view. You can even move the left stick up or down to alter the movement rate of the arrow, if you require more speed or more precision. After looping around a stone platform, I was easily able to hit the final arrow switch, opening the way to another simple block puzzle, and eventually, to my ultimate prize; Some of Zeus’ stolen lightning!
Zeus’ Lightning supposedly powers up Fenyx, but I didn’t really get to see an effect in my demo, unfortunately. Still, there will be plenty of these Vaults to take on in the final game, and it seems that players will be well rewarded for besting them, especially when the Vaults inevitably get more dangerous and treacherous in the later sections of gameplay. With this first Vault conquered though, it was on to my next order of business; Re-lighting Hephaistos’ Forge! I could apparently do this via a fan or a series of furnaces located around the forge, so I decided to go for the furnaces. Like Breath of the Wild, players are able to approach locations and challenges however they choose, with no real linearity or restrictions to speak of. That’s great, since it means that there’s really no wrong way to play Immortals Fenyx Rising, something that’s especially useful in a game that’s clearly designed to accommodate less skilled or initiated players if they need it, not just hardcore players.
After taking this opportunity to wander around a bit and explore, complete with taming myself a new horse (this is done by sneaking near the horse and pressing the Y Button, in a more streamlined version of the horse taming from Breath of the Wild), I managed to make it to Hephaistos’ dormant forge, at which point I encountered another new enemy; Automatons! These mechanical monstrosities are predictable, appearing to intentionally operate on a string of simplistic, robot-like programming, but they compensate for their predictability by being powerful, durable and dangerous! I quickly found myself surrounded by the malevolent mechs as well, as my battles kept drawing in more enemies from around the area, complete with Automatons firing their fists as explosive projectiles, stomping around me, and even trying to lift me up and knock me through the air! Fortunately, this increasingly dangerous encounter also proved to be a good time to try out Fenyx’s surprisingly robust roster of airborne combat options, which allow Fenyx to use her attacks and skills quite effortlessly while she’s jumping or gliding through the air!
The Automatons just kept coming, and they took a long time to take down! They don’t feel quite as dangerous as the loathsome Guardians from Breath of the Wild, but they’re nonetheless not to be taken lightly! Eventually, two Cyclops even joined the fray to boot, which more or less convinced me that I was going to die, and be kicked back to a former safe haven. Thankfully, this didn’t ultimately happen, and after a lot of fleeing and some careful bottlenecking, I did manage to take down enough enemies so that I could proceed ahead. There was a lot of work to be done, after all. I would need to use Herakles’ Strength to toss coal into four strategically-placed furnaces throughout the area, before using Apollo’s Arrow to guide my arrow through a torch and set it alight so that it could ignite the furnace! All the while, another new threat, Harpies, attempted to attack me from above, necessitating some careful arrow shots in order to take them down. This is naturally the point when I started to become very skilled at using my bow, sometimes relying on it even more than my quick-attacking sword and my heavy-attacking axe!
Accomplishing my objective came with its share of spoils, including new Potions and Potion Ingredients, cutely accompanied by unpredictable, but always comical chest-opening animations for Fenyx. There were also some mild puzzles, such as throwing a lever to open a path for my coal within a time limit, but all in all, the quest to re-ignite Hephaistos’ forge wasn’t too complicated, especially with a handy in-game map to guide me using the View Button. I even got a new sword once I successfully lit all four furnaces, a fire-scorched blade that refills 10% of my Stamina when I successfully execute a sword combo. The final game has many different weapons and armour options like this, but even with the limited gear pool available in my demo, I was able to experiment with mixing and matching some equipment, allowing me to cater to whether I wanted to focus on attack power, defensiveness, speed, or keeping my Stamina healthy.
I would need to know the benefits of my equipment as well, since there was one last step before I could light the forge. Unfortunately, this final mechanism was being guarded by a miniboss, a gigantic version of the Automatons I’d faced before! This larger foe had several of the same attacks as its smaller brethren, but it also packed in some new ones, including sweeping lasers that I needed to jump carefully to avoid, and an earth-shattering double stomp attack! It took a long while to drain this monstrosity’s health bar, and it took a handful of Potions to avoid Fenyx meeting an untimely end as well. Eventually though, I bested the mechanical menace, which resulted in the successful revitalization of Hephaistos’ Workshop!… Just in time for Typhon to taunt me and create a dark, monster-filled vortex nearby! The vortex even spat fireballs at me as I dashed and rode around on my horse, but I merely had to survive its dark magic for a few minutes before it disappeared on its own. My success at the forge did however lead to periodic Typhon ambushes while I was exploring the world for the rest of my demo, which spontaneously spawned monsters and other such hazards in my path!
Now that the demo’s main story mission was nonetheless completed, I was free to spend the rest of my session pursuing optional objectives and challenges, of which there were many. I decided to first pursue a different Vault, which happened to be guarded by yet another new enemy variety, a Cerberus! This monster is fast and vicious, and can launch a series of fireballs to boot, but it’s nothing a few dodges and quick, careful sword strikes can’t handle. The subsequent Vault however was significantly more challenging than the first, now containing small platforms that periodically shot up spikes, statues that spat fireballs, and even armoured enemies that required heavy, relentless axe strikes to stagger and defeat! There were also some new puzzles, specifically one that forced me to use my Herakles’ Strength to re-assemble a broken pillar from pieces that had to be earned through combat with a dangerous Minotaur! This enemy was the fastest one I’d yet encountered, and had incredible, damaging strength, as well as the ability to quickly charge at me, giving me little time to react when it did! Fortunately, it also briefly tired after a charge, allowing me to eventually wear it down and defeat it by not getting greedy with my attacks, and waiting for the Minotaur to exhaust itself before unleashing mighty blows from Hephaistos’ Hammer.
For my efforts, I received another bolt of Zeus’ Lightning, and it was on to the next challenge. Even being able to fast travel some of the way, it was quite a ride on my horse to the next task, but eventually, I found a deep, deep pit, which contained a gigantic Cyclops called ‘Lieutenant Brontes’. Lieutenant Brontes was not a nice fellow. Despite being rather slow due to his massive height, Brontes managed to be the first enemy to successfully kill me during my demo, taking off almost half my health with just one blow! I definitely needed to be quick with the Potions here, especially since the game forces you to get right on Brontes’ level to fight him, or else the challenge resets. No cheesing Brontes with your bow from the sidelines, it seems! Brontes was extremely durable to boot, having a massive health bar that I could only drain after seven minutes of sustained fighting. He didn’t have any tricks that the other Cyclops enemies didn’t also have, but it took every bit of my fighting ability to finally prevail in this incredible endurance test. For my victory, I received a handful of Potion ingredients, and a new bow to equip, which increased my arrow damage after several sustained shots. Considering how much I’d come to rely on my bow in combat, this was a very useful new weapon indeed!
There were no more terrifying minibosses hiding in the game map during my demo, thankfully. The next challenge however would instead test my mind rather than my mettle. This challenge was met after another long ride on my horse, which Typhon also saw fit to interrupt with an enemy ambush, go figure. After clearing out more enemies, along with some ‘Corruption’, a physical manifestation of evil that you have to get rid of with melee attacks, I was then able to survey an area surrounded by rings. The challenge was seemingly simple; Fire an Apollo’s Arrow through all of the rings, controlling its speed and trajectory very carefully, and then guide the flaming arrow to activate a torch at the end, all before your Stamina runs out (and no, you can’t cheat with Stamina Potions!). The challenge was a little tricky, especially when I struggled to locate the torch at first, which just so happened to be hidden in the head of a nearby statue! Fortunately, after several failed attempts, I did eventually steer an arrow through every ring, and into the head of the statue, which rewarded me with two Coins of Charon, another resource that was useless in the demo, but is said to serve an important function in the final release.
At this point, I was out of optional objectives, and could more or less explore the open world of Immortals Fenyx Rising at my leisure, discovering things at my own pace. Even with the big challenges done, I still came across some pretty interesting stuff, such as a large puzzle that required me to try and track down a series of blue orbs to bring together and form a constellation (sadly, I didn’t have time to complete this), and a third Vault, which more or less presented a remixed version of the second Vault’s challenges. I also came across a hidden stash of Ambrosia, which did nothing in the demo, but is said to increase Fenyx’s maximum health in the final release. Lastly, I tried and failed to complete a navigational challenge, which involved Fenyx gliding and riding air currents to try and reach a faraway location within a time limit. The obstacles in this challenge were particularly tough, and even with a full supply of Stamina Potions, I found myself unsuccessful, which was a bummer. It was here that my time with Immortals Fenyx Rising was also up, and my play session ended.
There’s no question that Immortals Fenyx Rising is wholesale lifting most of its gameplay mechanics from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but even if it doesn’t feel all that original, it is genuinely fun to play. I also appreciate Ubisoft Quebec’s continued commitment to light-hearted, vaguely tongue-in-cheek dialogue and story material within an otherwise epic, Greek mythology-inspired adventure. Now being free of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, which has found its way back to original progenitor, Ubisoft Montreal for this November’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft Quebec is able to go all in on their own new IP, and the result is something quite charming and enjoyable, with a flexible suite of gameplay that feels both accessible and rewarding.
Better still is that Immortals Fenyx Rising, even if it is a blatant Breath of the Wild clone, also appears to strip out some of the more contested Breath of the Wild mechanics, most notably weapon degradation and breakage, and random weather conditions that arbitrarily impede your navigation. Even the way Fenyx moves is speedier and more satisfying than Link’s more deliberate and precise movement in Breath of the Wild, especially considering how efficiently Fenyx can strike and use special attacks from the air. The addition of some of the special abilities and gear management from the more recent Assassin’s Creed games, as well as the sharp platforming elements throughout the Vaults in particular, also do enough to make Immortals Fenyx Rising stand as its own distinct product, even if it’s built on a lot of recycled gameplay material.
In fact, in a strange way, Immortals Fenyx Rising reminded me a lot of the original Darksiders, another game that blatantly stole half of its mechanics from the Legend of Zelda franchise (and stole the other half from the God of War franchise), but managed to put them together around an entertaining storyline and cast of characters, as well as remixing them in a concoction that made each ‘borrowed’ mechanic feel even more entertaining when they were blended together. Had Darksiders released after Breath of the Wild came out, had it been themed around Greek mythology instead of Christian mythology, and had it been a comedy, it would probably be almost exactly what Immortals Fenyx Rising is shaping up as. Thus, I feel that Immortals Fenyx Rising is probably not going to blow anyone away when it releases towards the end of this year, but it does seem to be a fun re-packaging of gameplay ideas that many of us already love, all layered around fun personalities and plenty of rewards. Besides, if nothing else, Immortals Fenyx Rising stands as an enjoyable way to bring the many celebrated innovations of Breath of the Wild to other platforms outside of Nintendo, and that alone is an exciting prospect.
Immortals Fenyx Rising will release on December 3rd, 2020, for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia, and PC via uPlay and the Epic Games Store