The myths and monsters of Greek mythology are no stranger to the world of video games. Whether making passing appearances in RPG franchises like Final Fantasy, or serving as the foundation for an entire series like God of War, there are few established fantasy creatures and deities with a more recognizable pedigree in the interactive medium. They’re often portrayed as fearsome, imposing and dramatic, flexing their awe-inspiring power to present larger-than-life challenges to players, often with equally high-powered narratives backing the challenges wherein we encounter and face them.
But what about the other side of Greek myths and their iconic figures? What about the flawed, fallible and often ridiculous side of Olympus and its divine denizens, along with the fiends that they often directly contribute to the creation of? Immortals Fenyx Rising, the latest new video game IP from Ubisoft, asks this very question. Contrary to the majority of Greek mythology representation in the gaming medium, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a more light-hearted, dysfunctional take on the gods and monsters of Greek myths, presenting a sprawling open-world action-adventure game with a lovably comedic veneer. It’s a natural progression for developers, Ubisoft Quebec, who previously cut their teeth on the epic, yet vaguely cheeky Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and previously dabbled in Greek mythology inspiration with the DLC expansions for the latter.
It’s tough not to get a kick out of Immortals Fenyx Rising and its sheer charm as well. The game is well-paced, filled with fun activities and challenges, and unleashes players on a wild collection of regions across the Golden Isle, all with collectibles, puzzles, mini-dungeons and enemies spread across the vast wilderness. In fact, this kind of wild has already proven itself a landmark success among gamers, since Immortals Fenyx Rising is a pretty direct lift from the foundation of a certain other open-world action-adventure game you may have heard of; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Immortals Fenyx Rising definitely isn’t shy about its clear inspiration as well, being presented with a similar cel-shaded art style as Breath of the Wild, along with a method of progression that emphasizes the same directive of player freedom at the expense of needing to forage for all of one’s resources and equipment in the untamed landscape.
Now, in fairness, a video game blatantly stealing most of its mechanics from another video game doesn’t automatically make it bad. It’s not unlike good songs that sample other good songs for their melodies. Bayonetta, Darksiders and Nioh are all recent video game franchises that clearly ‘borrowed’ their gameplay ideas from another video game franchise, and all of them are celebrated and beloved by the gaming community. That said however, Immortals Fenyx Rising deliberately opening itself up to specific comparisons with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, easily one of the best Nintendo exclusives and action-adventure games ever designed, is a risky move, one that inevitably sees Ubisoft’s lovable odyssey failing to measure up.
I can’t really fault Immortals Fenyx Rising for failing at a virtually impossible task though. Even if it’s not as good as Breath of the Wild, the game is still fun in its own right, being a charming romp that will likely amuse fans of Greek mythology and/or open-world action-adventure games. Ubisoft’s had a very busy Fall this year, and indeed Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla appear to have turned more heads with the dawn of the new console generation, but Immortals Fenyx Rising still proves to be a good dessert to wind 2020 down with, if you’re looking to recapture some of that Breath of the Wild flavour.
Immortals Fenyx Rising marks Ubisoft’s third title to release for the newly-launched PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in just a few weeks! Unlike the more realistic-looking Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla however, Immortals Fenyx Rising presents a more colourful, cartoon-ish look, flexing another side of the next console generation’s capabilities. Even with its more animated look as well, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a pretty sharp-looking game, offering a vibrant world with nicely-designed character and creature models. The game’s environments are even more impressive, being surprisingly rich in detail and scope, allowing the world of the Golden Isle to leap to life in an impressive manner, something that’s essential in a game with such a heavy emphasis on navigating a sprawling outdoor environment.
Even if its next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X|S builds will no doubt be getting the most attention though, Immortals Fenyx Rising is available on literally every modern platform, including the last-gen PS4 and Xbox One, as well as streaming platforms like Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, and finally, of course, PC. Hell, even Nintendo Switch received its own port of Immortals Fenyx Rising, a rarity for recent triple-A Ubisoft releases, and it released day-and-date with the other versions of the game to boot! This naturally indicates a wide spectrum of visual presentation for Immortals Fenyx Rising, depending on which platform you’re playing it on. Fortunately, there don’t appear to be any truly bad options among the wide selection of ports, even if you haven’t yet upgraded to next-gen hardware. There is a lot to dissect between this game’s many versions though, so settle in for the rundown!
The PS5 and Xbox Series X builds of Immortals Fenyx Rising represent the higher end of the game’s visual potential. Both of these next-gen versions offer a ‘Quality Mode’ with 4K resolution at 30fps, or a ‘Performance Mode’ with 60fps performance at around 1080p resolution. Both look great overall, and the Xbox Series S version is comparably impressive to boot, though the Series S caps at 1440p upscaled resolution by default (at a native 1080p resolution in this case), and appears to present cutscenes at 30fps, much like the last-gen PS4 and Xbox One versions of Immortals Fenyx Rising. The base model PS4 and Xbox One consoles meanwhile render Immortals Fenyx Rising at a solid, if downgraded 1080p/30fps, which is still plenty functional, given that the cartoon-ish presentation suffers little with these limitations. While you can potentially scale up the resolution to 1440p on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X however, the framerate never seems to go above 30fps on last-gen consoles (even the premium ones), whereas it can at least get a boost to 60fps during gameplay on Xbox Series S.
That being said, there is another considerable caveat that Xbox gamers should be warned about in this case, and that’s the fact that Immortals Fenyx Rising is noticeably better optimized for PS5 than it is for Xbox Series X|S. This echoes a disappointing trend of inferior Xbox builds for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion, with Immortals Fenyx Rising being more likely to drop frames (albeit just a handful) during Performance Mode on Xbox Series X, while the 4K resolution of Quality Mode is also unreliable. The native 4K resolution of Quality Mode appears to be unflinching on PS5, but it sometimes drops several hundred pixels on Xbox Series X, seemingly for no reason. Xbox Series S meanwhile gets hit even harder with its dynamic resolution, sometimes even failing to meet its requisite native 1080p, and sinking as low as 720p. For a supposedly next-gen triple-A game released by a major publisher in 2020, that’s pretty bad, even for a budget console! There’s just no contest in this case; The PS5 version of Immortals Fenyx Rising is better, full stop.
Outside of the so-called ‘console wars’ however, you do have other options, all of which have their own advantages. The PC version of Immortals Fenyx Rising, available via the Ubisoft Store and the Epic Games Store, allows you to push the game to some astonishing heights, including a lovely 4K/60fps on its highest settings, complete with ray tracing capability! There is the odd framerate hiccup on PC though, regardless of your settings. The flexibility behind the PC build’s settings sometimes feels a bit limiting and could be better too, especially considering the astonishingly high system requirements to reliably hit Immortals Fenyx Rising’s highest presets. Still, if you have a solid gaming rig, Immortals Fenyx Rising is plenty stable and quite breathtaking on PC. Even a mid-range gaming computer can make it look and run pretty well on High settings without ray tracing to boot, if not the maxed-out, ray tracing-enabled Very High range.
On the specialty end, this just leaves the Nintendo Switch and Google Stadia editions of Immortals Fenyx Rising, which present more cut-and-shut experiences compared to the options between PlayStation, Xbox and PC at this point. The Stadia version was marketed quite heavily, even getting its own exclusive demo before release, and admittedly, it’s a beauty to be sure. Immortals Fenyx Rising easily runs at 4K for Stadia Pro members, and looks gorgeous throughout, with the big caveat here being that it’s locked at a 30fps clip on Google’s streaming platform. There’s currently no Performance Mode to boost the framerate either, nor a timeframe as to when one is coming, which feels genuinely baffling. Even if the Stadia build is one of the most attractive versions of Immortals Fenyx Rising, it’s unlikely that many gamers will be swayed by this, when a superior framerate is generally preferred for combat especially, and when Google is charging a premium membership fee to play in 4K in the first place.
Finally, on the low end of visuals, the Nintendo Switch version of Immortals Fenyx Rising brings up the rear, chugging along at 720p and 30fps, even when it’s docked. That sounds bad, but if I’m being honest, I actually found the Switch version to be more technically impressive than the Xbox builds, despite its lesser visuals. Immortals Fenyx Rising admittedly looks a bit washed-out and lacks flair when docked on a big screen TV, but in Handheld Mode, the 720p resolution becomes a non-issue. The 30fps performance also manages to hold pretty steady while both docked and undocked, even during busy combat sequences, which is very impressive! While the Switch version did seem to have a few random crashing issues that I didn’t encounter when playing other builds, they were relatively rare, and didn’t detract from the overall experience. You may not have as many visual bells and whistles on Switch, but as a portable option especially, Immortals Fenyx Rising’s Switch version is quite solid, and makes for a good complement to one’s copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Pound for pound, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers the best balance between features, performance and visual splendour on PS5, though the PC, Stadia and Switch versions also stand out for their own reasons. Seeing as my proper save file for Immortals Fenyx Rising was shared between PC and Switch, using Ubisoft Connect’s cloud saving service, I was effectively able to leap between both extremes of the visual spectrum with every session. even outside of the next-gen console arena. Some versions of Immortals Fenyx Rising may be more technically sound than others (again, the inexplicable Xbox Series X|S hiccups are a drag), but it should nonetheless be emphasized that you’re getting a vibrant, lush, charming adventure no matter what.
From an audio standpoint, Immortals Fenyx Rising is very polished and impressive. It’s put together with lots of authentic Greek instrumentation, including Ancient Greek favourites like the lyre (which even serves as a gameplay device during certain side missions), which bring a potent amount of credible atmosphere to what’s otherwise a very light-hearted game. The oppressive, ethereal echoes of the dungeon-like vaults, along with the contemplative menu themes, all blend perfectly with whimsical and carefree overworld compositions, creating an experience that feels high on both adventure and awe. The combat themes especially impress to boot, with overpowering Greek choir and orchestra that’s so remarkably mighty you’d swear it was ripped straight from a God of War game!
Similarly, sound effects have a surprisingly satisfying heft to them, whether it’s swinging your sword or axe in combat, summoning your preferred mount to sprint to a new destination, or even gliding through the air on your mechanical wings. Everything sounds remarkably good in Immortals Fenyx Rising, and its audio polish goes a long way towards making it seem like a grand, epic adventure. Of course, the lovably over-the-top voice acting also goes a long way toward balancing the tone, with each caricature-style personality being memorable and highly entertaining in their own right. Both the male and female voice presets for Fenyx sound great in particular, as do the voices of the various displaced Olympian gods. Arch-villain, Typhon also makes his own outstanding impression as an unstoppable force of pure corruption, regularly taunting the player with sudden, brash declarations of fury that are enough to make you jump if you’re really in the zone of adventuring.
Immortals Fenyx Rising may not take itself too seriously, but it definitely sounds the part of an ancient Greek epic. From the hilarious bickering between co-narrators, Zeus and Prometheus, to the Legend of Zelda-esque jingles that signal solved puzzles and unearthed treasures, players will quickly be taken in by the sense of heroic adventure, even while the characters can effortlessly tickle your funny bone.
Immortals Fenyx Rising casts players in the role of the eponymous Fenyx, a storyteller and shield bearer who wakes up after surviving a shipwreck. Going to shore on the Golden Isle, the game’s main setting, Fenyx is shocked to discover that everyone has turned to stone, eventually learning that the apparent culprit is an escaped titan called Typhon, the main antagonist. Now being tasked with restoring the Olympian gods from Typhon’s curses, and freeing the land from the titan’s corrupt influence, players set off across the Golden Isle, which is divided into seven distinct regions, all in turn littered with objectives both story-based and optional, as well as challenges, hazards and secrets. These gameplay events are also framed through a wager between head god, Zeus and another imprisoned god, Prometheus, who debate the odds of Fenyx’s success, while persistently commentating on Fenyx’s ongoing adventure.
After selecting the appearance and gender of Fenyx (which can be altered at any time from the ‘home base’ area, the Hall of the Gods), players are more or less unleashed on the open world at their leisure, a la The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Immortals Fenyx Rising’s entire freeform gameplay template is actually lifted almost unaltered from Nintendo’s 2017 blockbuster, complete with numerous mini-dungeons dotted around the overworld, known as ‘vaults’, along with a few hidden major vaults that contain the crucial essences of the cursed gods, which is the only way to save them from Typhon’s dark magic. Aside from vault hunting, players can also fast travel around key locations if they don’t feel like hoofing it, plus they can ‘scout’ the surrounding region from statues, which allow them to use ‘far sight’ (the first-person view triggered by holding down the right stick) to identify treasures, vaults and other resources through which to accumulate more items, gear and stat increases.
Again, if you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, then you know exactly what to expect with Immortals Fenyx Rising. At times, it can come off as a pale imitation, especially when Breath of the Wild had the advantage of being more novel and being part of one of the biggest established franchises in all of video games. Immortals Fenyx Rising does however tweak a few things from Breath of the Wild’s template, with the largest among these changes being that you can no longer challenge the final boss whenever you want to. Instead, in Immortals Fenyx Rising, the endgame remains inaccessible until you’ve rescued all four of the cursed gods. This might be frustrating to Breath of the Wild fans who crave that unprecedented degree of freedom, but at least there’s a decent amount of gameplay variation between the story and optional objectives, especially considering the Golden Isle’s often treacherous, unpredictable landscape.
It must also be stressed that developer, Ubisoft Quebec did wisely throw out a few of Breath of the Wild’s stubborn annoyances. Weapon degradation most notably is mercifully absent in Immortals Fenyx Rising, so you no longer have to worry about your weapons constantly shattering as you battle monsters, especially in vaults, where they’re most plentiful. Likewise, you can now tame mounts to traverse the land faster with a mere button press in this case, rather than having to painstakingly wrangle them through an increasingly tired minigame, plus this time they never get touchy with you, no matter how hard you push them. Finally, Breath of the Wild’s stubbornly limited inventory is not present in Immortals Fenyx Rising, allowing you to collect weapons, armour and items to your heart’s content, without ever being overencumbered and needing to drop things, nor seek out inventory upgrades to try and avoid said overencumbering.
This results in a more streamlined, less meticulous experience than what Breath of the Wild presented, which is great for people that don’t constantly want to be fretting over their resources while they play. The downside to this is that Immortals Fenyx Rising requires a lot less thought, and can sometimes feel less rewarding than Breath of the Wild did. The ability to swap your gear around is pretty much pointless, for starters, since the minor stat alterations behind available weapons and armour never really present real advantages or disadvantages to the player, even on higher difficulties. Likewise, you can often cheese your way through combat with the same simple combos, including boss battles. There’s less of a need to think on the fly compared to Breath of the Wild, and this can sometimes result in enemy encounters being tedious compared to the more rewarding exploration.
That said however, the fundamental combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising still feels pretty good. It’s responsive, comes with a variety of special techniques to unlock (even if you’ll probably pick one favourite and stick with it), and offers some pretty good enemy designs, even if there are very few truly distinct bosses. There are a handful of recurring monster varieties that each contain their own attack patterns throughout vaults and the overworld, making groups of monsters fairly fun to cut through with your sword and axe attacks, plus you do have plenty of options through which to indulge your preferred play style regardless. Even fighting in mid-air feels smooth and reliable, which is good, because airborne enemies are often the toughest to hit in this game. Depending on your preference with any enemy, Fenyx can dodge and strike from afar with a bow, get up close and personal with swift sword strikes or heavy axe strikes, or, as you spend Coins of Charon, rewarded for accomplishing optional challenges in the overworld, you can unlock crowd-controlling magic abilities to further lay the hurt on enemies, at the cost of your regenerating Stamina Meter. Even if it gets simplistic after a while, the inherent flexibility through which you can choose to approach combat encounters is still appreciated.
Again though, the exploration and environments present in Immortals Fenyx Rising are ultimately more enjoyable and fulfilling than the combat. There are some noteworthy little distractions throughout the Golden Isle that cater well to Immortals Fenyx Rising and its setting, and nudge it a bit further away from the more familiar ideas lifted from Breath of the Wild. You can steer manually-controlled Apollo’s Arrows through a series of axe heads in Odysseus’ Challenges, for example, or you can gather and lay out hidden blue spheres to assemble a constellation, in order to unlock chests and secure more Coins of Charon. There are also navigational challenges that take advantage of your ability to sprint and glide through the air on Daidalos’ Wings (which are effectively the surrogate to Link’s paraglider from Breath of the Wild), and of course, there are the many aforementioned small vaults littered throughout the landscape. These task you with solving puzzles, conquering platforming challenges and/or battling enemies to accrue more of Zeus’ Lightning, a collectible necessary to increase your maximum Stamina, in turn required for special moves, along with advanced world navigation like climbing and sprinting.
There’s a lot of fun to be had with Immortals Fenyx Rising’s story progression, which should take you around its four main regions and three sub-regions in about 25-30 hours if you’re fairly thorough, or 20 hours at a minimum, if you rush and skip most of the side content. If you intend to earn every achievement/trophy and clear every task though, you can easily stretch your playtime to 55-60 hours, especially if you’re playing on a higher difficulty (which can be altered at any time during gameplay, so long as you consent to a game reload). This pacing feels right, and avoids some of the stubborn bloat and padding from some of Ubisoft’s other high-profile open-world games. That’s definitely a good thing.
Unfortunately though, in exchange for eliminating some of the less desirable mechanics from Breath of the Wild, Immortals Fenyx Rising fails to eliminate some persistent issues that are common throughout Ubisoft’s own open-world game template. There does come a point where you’ve seen everything there is to see, particularly when you start a New Game+, and then accomplishing side tasks and chasing achievements/trophies (which isn’t even an option on platforms like Nintendo Switch or the Epic Games Store), just becomes typical Ubisoft open-world busywork. The Golden Isle is large and impressive, but since it’s spaced out and deserted, you don’t get that same rewarding density and sense of life that Breath of the Wild’s world offered.
Another unfortunate Ubisoft mainstay that’s made its way into Immortals Fenyx Rising is a microtransaction marketplace, something that this game absolutely doesn’t need. Now, it’s true that you don’t need to ever pay attention to this marketplace to proceed through the game, and complete both its mandatory and optional content in full. In fact, the microtransaction shop is even semi-hidden in the game’s character menu, and is only indicated with a small D-Pad prompt in the bottom of the screen, so some people may not ever know it’s there. The microtransaction shop sells skins and special designs for your weapons, armour and mounts, exchanging real money for credits that can be used for these graphical tweaks. All of these are purely cosmetic, and don’t affect gameplay, for what that’s worth. Ubisoft’s recent trend of ‘Time Savers’ also appears to be absent among Immortals Fenyx Rising’s microtransactions, which I can’t say I’m upset about. These microtransactions still leave a bad taste in the mouth, especially when Immortals Fenyx Rising is a single-player-only game that functions perfectly well without them, but I suppose it’s true that if the microtransactions offend you, or you simply have no interest in them, you can easily ignore them and forget they’re there.
Outside of those annoyances though, Immortals Fenyx Rising still presents a gameplay foundation with plenty of promise to keep expanding upon in likely future follow-ups, especially if this fledgling IP can keep carving out its own distinct identity, without simply chasing the success of Breath of the Wild. Fortunately, the exaggerated mythical stylings and sharp sense of humour help to elevate the gameplay even when it does start to get a little old. The world of the Golden Isle also remains very easy to get lost in for hours at a time, even then. Sure, the Golden Isle is certainly no Hyrule, and that’s a feeling that will sometimes pervade your gameplay experience to a fault, but Immortals Fenyx Rising’s delightful, droll personality nonetheless makes it easy to like, even during the times where you may be longing for a more novel gameplay experience.
The storytelling in Immortals Fenyx Rising operates on a fairly basic template. Its handful of twists are largely predictable (though there is some really amazing shock humour here and there!), and it’s not carrying a ton of depth beyond its fairly straightforward good-vs.-evil struggle. There is a refreshing focus on the flawed, self-absorbed duality behind the Greek gods, rather than just their awe-inspiring power, and that’s certainly nice, though every character’s personality also predictably hovers around their expected archetypes. Zeus may be the one exception in this case, being re-framed as a self-absorbed partier and deadbeat parent who is anything but majestic, contrary to his numerous other portrayals throughout most any other arm of modern pop culture.
To its credit, the narrative makes a valiant effort to present something different for Greek mythology-inspired tales, even if it’s only half-successful in the end. The comedy writing is the big standout in this case, especially when all of the semi-interesting story turns that aren’t simply played for laughs are saved for the final battle, and don’t show up anywhere else. Once again, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ultimately spins a better, more distinct tale than Immortals Fenyx Rising does, but Immortals Fenyx Rising does at least top it in the laugh department. Greek mythology buffs will especially love the ridiculous amount of references and winks to the weirdest, most controversial actions and histories of the ancient Greek gods, which Immortals Fenyx Rising wonderfully exploits for some truly side-splitting comedy. Lead writer, Jeffrey Yohalem and his team have clearly done a ton of research into this subject, and it’s paid off in spades!
Thus, Immortals Fenyx Rising won’t expand your mind, but it will make you laugh. That’s got to count for something after such a challenging year especially.
They say if you’re going to steal, steal from the best, and that’s advice that Immortals Fenyx Rising has proudly taken to heart. To their credit however, Ubisoft Quebec still managed to put their own charming stamp on the many borrowed mechanics from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, resulting in a promising new Ubisoft IP that may not be on Breath of the Wild’s level of heavyweight excellence, but still performs well as a congenial middleweight. Sure, a pessimist could justifiably say that Immortals Fenyx Rising is a knock-off, but at least it’s a pretty good knock-off, and I still had fun with its charming presentation and lovable, humourous characters.
Indeed. the real crown jewel of Immortals Fenyx Rising is its witty sense of humour and the cheeky charisma behind its storytelling and characters. Despite much of its gameplay being unoriginal and much of its story progression being predictable, the effort to present and satirize so much of the lighter side of Greek mythology is a resounding success. Even the most obscure, ridiculous details surrounding familiar Greek gods and monsters are layered into the jokes, storytelling and gameplay challenges, which Greek mythology enthusiasts in particular will relish in. Even then though, Immortals Fenyx Rising packs enough technical polish to be taken seriously as an interactive Greek epic, albeit one still layered around a tale that’s kind of played for laughs.
If you’re burned out on Ubisoft open worlds, well, this is another one, and it’s probably not for you. If you’re looking for the next Breath of the Wild-level experience, this isn’t quite it either. If you’re in the mood for something light, friendly and lovable to get you through the cold Winter months of an especially dark time for humanity though, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a solid option, especially if you’re looking to keep getting early mileage out of a new next-gen console.
This review is based on PC and Nintendo Switch copies of, “Immortals Fenyx Rising”, provided by publisher, Ubisoft.