Breath of the Wild meets Assassin’s Creed – it’s a recipe that amazingly we haven’t had until exactly this moment. But boy, does Immortals Fenyx Rising taste good.
Mixing in a bit of fourth-wall breaking Borderlands humour and plenty of mythology, this is a game that wears its influences on its sleeves. You enter every “shrine” knowing full well that you’re venturing into a Zelda-like environment, and that’s just fine. It’s prettier than Breath of the Wild and, arguably, offers up some major improvements over that fan favourite.
But without the name Zelda slapped on the front of the box, will Ubisoft be given the same benefits of the doubt? On the Series X and PS5, will its flaws be magnified by a thousand in yet another console war skirmish? That’s the real shame here – as a new IP Immortals Fenyx Rising probably won’t be given the fair shake it truly deserves.
Zeus and Chums
The Greek gods were a funny bunch, and that’s exactly how they’re presented here at Immortals Fenyx Rising. All their incesty, genital-splicing mayhem is boiled down to a family-friendly core, which works really well. The characters are modernised in a Genie-like way, giving them a sense that they’re out of step with their time. Again, this feels like a good decision, with the added advantage that your kids will be able to play it.
That, I think, is probably the thought process behind this game. It’s the “Assassin’s Creed babies”. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast, but it’s very PG-13. I suspect some will write it off just because of that, in a misguided attempt to feel grown up. Those people will be missing out, and I’m thrilled a younger generation will be able to experience something on this scale without more cautious parents blocking it off.
You’re dropped in a gigantic open world, given activities to complete, caves to plunder and quests to overcome. Firstly, it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as Assassin’s Creed. There aren’t a billion question marks on the map. Instead, this game borrows – again – from Breath of the Wild, giving you a landscape to explore.
The world is a character. Structures line the horizon. Statues and mountains can be climbed (so long as your Zelda brand stamina bar doesn’t run out). Gangs of enemies can be beaten. You go off the beaten path not because you want to clear up a question mark, but because it looks interesting.
And, granted, you might find a bit of loot on the way. The weapon system is interesting, in that for the most part you’re picking perks. You level up weaponry and armour as a whole, rather than individually, giving you further incentive to collect items needed for crafting.
Flight and Fright
This gives a real sense of control over your playstyle, which is useful because fighting can be a bit of a devil to get used to.
In all fairness, I played this off the back of Demon’s Souls, and the experience couldn’t have been more different. But even so, I think that just serves to highlight how convoluted this can sometimes feel. It can be a little overwhelming in big crowds.
The game is usually pretty fair, however. Controls out of combat are fluid and smooth, and this is one of my favourite things over Breath of the Wild. The ability to glide – and glide quickly – is introduced early. Getting around is faster. This is a game about Gods, and by heaven you’re going to get some of those powers. It feels brilliant.
Those powers will then be used to solve harder puzzles and reach ever-higher peaks. This is par for the course in this sort of adventure, but it feels so good here. Oh, and weapons don’t break.
Zelda fans rejoice.
A Second to Rest
You might have heard a few cliches about loading screens now being so short that you can’t even read the hints and tips. Welcome to Immortals Fenyx Rising.
Loading into an open world shouldn’t be this quick, but it is. We’re talking seconds. The future is here on Xbox Series X, and I can’t imagine it being any different on PlayStation.
Literally the only pauses in gameplay come during cutscenes, which is how it should be. And, as an added benefit, much of the story (and particularly the context around the story) comes delivered in voiceover, rather than specific videos. The narrative is mostly delivered as conversation between Zeus and Prometheus, as a kind of epic story following your exploits. The dialogue is funny, often in a way that makes you more than smile, which is unusual for a video game.
The story sees you take on Typhon, an entity locked up by the Gods but now escaped. You must track down the Gods and free them from their predicaments, gaining allies along the way. In true open world format, you do this by going to waymarkers, completely objectives and solving puzzles.
There are plenty of secondary objectives to get your teeth stuck into as well, mostly along the lines of climbing/platforming/battle. Chests can be unlocked by fighting nearby enemies, or perhaps you need to somehow make it to a specific point to pick up a collectable. It’s not as full-on as some other similar Ubisoft published games, and, as I mentioned before, the traversal seems to suit it much better.
Graphics and Sound
The giant open world looks gorgeous, in a stylised sort of way. It reminds me – unsurprisingly – of a 4K Breath of the Wild, which isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. If somebody had told me this was DLC, and at some point Link was going to bust out of a cave and start breaking pots and otherwise causing mischief, I’d probably believe them.
The way the characters move in cutscenes reminds me of Fortnite – potentially more evidence of this as a push for a younger audience.
60fps? – Easy, man
The game starts you off in performance mode, which prioritises a steady 60fps over resolution, and I’ve got to say it’s absolutely the right decision. I’ve gone between the two and the differences, visually, are minimal, but in terms of framerate, quality mode feels unplayable. It’s so great to be finally at a console generation that allows for 60fps when possible, and I just hope it doesn’t crash and burn when we get past the cross-gen phase. It makes a difference, and if you don’t believe me, play around with the modes in this game.
I’m really pleased with the graphics in this game. Stylised is also preferable over trying (and usually failing) to go for ultra-realism. AC: Valhalla is no slouch, but Immortals will still look gorgeous when Valhalla has started to show its age.
These versions of the game are way better both in terms of visuals and performance, unsurprisingly, than the Switch counterpart, so if you have a choice, pick next-gen.
The audio is great as well, although watch out for sounds borrowed from Assassin’s Creed. The music is suited to the environment, and the voice work is tremendous. A real treat.
Immortals Fenyx Rising – Conclusion
New IP are risky, so I see why so much of Fenyx Rising feels a tad… derivative. They’ve taken a unique exclusive, gave it its own tone and made it multiplatform, and I don’t blame them. It’s a faithful clone, with improvements. They haven’t out-Nintendoed Nintendo, but they’ve brought Breath of the Wild to a wider audience.
But they’ve done so much more than that as well. They’ve created a world that’s fun to explore, a narrative that’s enjoyable to experience. They’ve created a game that’s well worth your time, and that’s just as fun for your young teens too.
Play Immortals – give it the time it deserves. This is a stellar effort, and one that I hope gets the public attention it deserves.