Immortals: Fenyx Rising Hands-on Preview Shows How the Game Is Inspired by Zelda: Breath of the Wild
We finally had a chance to try Ubisoft's upcoming fantasy game Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Here are our hands-on impressions!
In October, Den of Geek got four hours of hands-on playtime with Ubisoft’s upcoming action-adventure fantasy title Immortals: Fenyx Rising. In the online demo, which was guided by a Ubisoft demoist, we got to see a bit of the game’s open-world setting, the Golden Isle, which is heavily inspired by the milieu of Greek mythology. The game is vast, epic-looking, and from what I’ve played so far, has engaging combat and gameplay loops that should fill out its open world nicely.
The story revolves around a dark titan named Typhon, who was banished to the underworld of Tartaros by Zeus and the rest of the gods and has returned, thirsty for revenge. He’s imprisoned most of the gods save for Zeus (who’s been stripped of his powers) and the titan Prometheus, who makes a bet with the king of the gods that a lowly human would be the one to save all of their asses.
You play as said human, a warrior named Fenyx who has washed up on the shores of the Golden Isle after an epic sea battle caused her ship to crash. In a fun play on a storybook or Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Prometheus proceeds to narrate your adventure, bantering back and forth with big-headed pessimist Zeus as you set out to free the gods from Typhon’s grasp and restore the island to its former, gilded glory.
What struck me immediately about Immortals was its art style and comedic tone, which reminded me (in a good way) of the ’90s games and cartoons I grew up playing and watching. For example, SNES city-building classic ActRaiser came to mind, a game I still have a lot of affection for. The characters and environments pop with color, and the dialogue between Zeus and Prometheus is funny and irreverent, giving this epic adventure a unique tone. The game’s presentation is cohesive, from the Greek-inspired fonts to the angular and exaggerated features of the characters’ faces, and while some may dismiss the art as kiddy or cartoonish, the game looks pretty incredible at times, especially when you’re looking out on the Isle from a great height. The game’s draw distance is, pardon the pun, ungodly.
Following the game’s narrative initial cinematics, you’re brought to a character creation menu where you can decide what your Fenyx looks and sounds like via a modest set of customization options. From the moment you assume control of Fenyx, the entire Golden Isle is open for you to explore.
It’s hard to ignore that the game is derivative of a few games in the same genre, particularly Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The former’s influence can mostly be found in the way the open world is arranged and curated. That said, comparisons to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are shallow at best–that game was NOT the first to use Greek Mythology as a backdrop.
But the resemblance to Breath of the Wild is pretty uncanny. You can climb any object in the environment, limited only by your stamina bar. There are puzzle/dexterity-based underground vaults to complete, and the game’s overall aesthetic, combined with the strikingly similar traversal mechanics, makes Immortals look unquestionably similar to Nintendo’s modern classic.
Despite the clear comparisons one could draw between the two games, the terms “rip-off” and “copy” are far from appropriate here, especially once you delve into the world and story Ubisoft has crafted. Immortals has a voice of its own, and more importantly than that, from what I’ve played so far, the gameplay is absolutely on par with the game’s it’s derived many of its designs from.
Exploring the Golden Isle was my favorite thing I did during my demo time for several reasons. For one, traversal is super easy and a lot of fun, especially once you unlock the Wings of Daedalus, which allow you to glide freely over the grassy fields and winding beaches that stretch out before you. Climbing feels just as good as it does in Breath of the Wild, and there are various beasts scattered about the map that you can sneak up on, tame, and enlist as your mount. My Ubisoft demoist directed me to a field where I found a unicorn, who was quite difficult to tame but made up for it once I hopped on (mounts have stamina meters, too, and hers was sizeable, to say the least).
The Isle is divided into six zones, each inspired by one of the gods. Aphrodite’s portion of the island, for example, is a verdant painting-come-to-life, with rolling hills and blossoming gardens decorated with Ionic architecture. Hermes’ zone is a darker place, with dry, yellow fields contrasting with burnt treelines, volcanic rock, and a deep purple, starry sky. Gargantuan statues of the gods are featured prominently in their respective zones, which highlight the steep verticality of the game’s environments, which is not only eye-catching but opens up myriad gameplay possibilities.
Combat is familiar action-adventure fare, with time-slowing dodges and parries being as crucial to victory as your light and heavy attacks. You’ll also find godly powers as you progress through the game, like Hephaestus’ hammer, a melee attack that deals massive damage over a large area, and Apollo’s arrows, which you can manually guide to your target. Much of the combat takes place in mid-air as well, with air combos playing a major part in almost every encounter. Overall, the combat is enjoyable, dynamic, and about as complex as it needs to be. I doubt anyone will be blown away by the action here, but it’s only one aspect of a much larger game, and in this context, it does its job.
Fenyx can brandish swords, axes, bows, headwear, and armor, and as you explore the Isle, you’ll find gear of varying levels of rarity and power. I love how the different items are represented cosmetically–so often in games all gear looks the same, but in Immortals, Fenyx can truly look like a different character depending on what armor you’re wearing.
Gear is customizable and upgradeable at the game’s central hub, the Hall of the Gods, where you can change your appearance, upgrade your stats and potions, take on quests, etc. Your character’s skill tree is also managed here, and I found that most of the abilities I saw seemed pretty viable in combat and worth exploring, regardless of playstyle. Ubisoft has really honed its skill tree game over the years, thanks to the Assassin’s Creed games, and the experience shows.
One aspect of the game that I wasn’t particularly impressed with were the vaults, which were challenging but didn’t capture the imagination like other areas of the game. The puzzles are multi-staged and clever, but they aren’t nearly as inspired as what you’d find in Breath of the Wild. And the art design in these sections falters too — a bunch of stone structures floating in space with a pretty galactic backdrop got old quick. But there are puzzles to be found above-ground on the Isle proper, and I enjoyed these a lot more. They’re simple, like sliding tile puzzles and scavenger hunts, but the gorgeous landscapes heighten the experience.
What made the game feel really promising to me was when I ventured to a small island off the coast that happened to be overrun with harpies. My demoist had given me ample resources to level up my Fenyx to my heart’s content, and yet when I faced the world boss (six in total) at the island’s apex, I got my ass handed to me REAL QUICK. What this told me was that you can’t simply rely on loot and grinding to finish the game–you’ve got to learn the combat system inside and out and hone your skills to succeed.
I came into Immortals: Fenyx Rising with essentially no expectations, and by the end of my time with it, I couldn’t wait to see and play more. I love the comical banter between Zeus and Prometheus, I can’t get enough of the pastoral environments, and the slick presentation looks to be substantiated by engaging gameplay.
Immortal: Fenyx Rising is out on Dec. 3 for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna.