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access_time January 9, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by Daniel Ladiano

Review | Immortals Fenyx Rising

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When it comes to video games, different developers often “take inspiration” from successful titles. Granted, the moment you see how Ubisoft Quebec’s Immortals Fenyx Rising shares similarities with Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, comparisons are imminent. However, Ubisoft’s newest IP manages to stand on its own thanks to a mythological flavor and inviting open world.

The story depicts another squabble between Zeus and Prometheus, who have always been at odds with one another. As the evil Titan, Typhon threatens to destroy the land, Zeus is desperate after losing his powers. Prometheus believes a mortal would be able to succeed where the gods have failed, and offers a wager to Zeus. If the mortal succeeds, Prometheus will be free from his shackles. The chained Titan begins telling the story of the mortal in question, Fenyx. After losing their fleet, Fenyx must explore the desolate land, restore the power to the fallen gods, and defeat the almighty Typhon.

Despite the grandiose nature of mythology, the game opts for a more comedic approach to storytelling. The banter of Zeus and Prometheus involves the two hurling insults at one another constantly. It’s an endearing framing device as Prometheus narrates the story while Zeus often interrupts to add a snarky comment. Fenyx (who can be either male or female) is a spry adventurer that’s all too eager to save the world. Along the quest, they’ll meet a variety of mythological figures, some more helpful than others.

While in theory, I like the comedic twist of the storytelling, a lot of the humor doesn’t land. Sure there’s an occasional funny joke, but it’s marred by forced delivery and groan-inducing writing. For example, there’s a “fake credits” joke that comes out of left field. The lack of build up or proper timing made me feel rather puzzled than delighted. Humor is always subjective, and some might enjoy the corniness, but it’s definitely an acquired taste.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is an open world adventure game with a lot of stuff to do. While the prologue can be rather slow teaching the basics, once the title card is on screen, players have full agency to go everywhere. Despite the vastness of the area, there’s always something exciting to discover. From challenges that test combat skills or maneuverability, to finding a significant upgrade. Fenyx can survey the land for objectives from tall vantage points, much like Breath of the Wild or Assassin’s Creed. Even the act of of moving the cursor on the right spot to find a new activity feels unusually rewarding.

The most prominent activities in the game are the Vaults of Tartaros. These glowing red rifts definitely share DNA with the shrines from Breath of the Wild. The vaults send Fenyx to a room mixed with combat, puzzles and platforming challenges. Conquering the challenges is especially rewarding thanks to the promise of the coveted Zeus Bolt at the end.

The Zeus Bolt’s are one of the many items Fenyx will collect throughout the journey. The main hub of the game is the Hall of Heroes, in which Fenyx can use the items collected to upgrade their abilities. Bolts and Ambrosia can upgrade stamina and health respectively, fruits are components to potion brewery, and Charon’s coins can purchase combat upgrades. While all the collectibles can be overwhelming, they never feel a chore to find.

Stamina is especially vital since all of Fenyx’s actions drain it. Whether it’s sprinting, climbing or swimming, all may deplete the stamina bar upon constant use. Swimming in particular feels taxing, as players can lose stamina even while swimming at the surface. Fenyx also gets a pair of wings that not only grant a useful double jump, but gliding capabilities as well. Nothing is more breathtaking than gliding from a vantage point and flying above the vast land. Though, like the rest of the actions, gliding and double jumping also deplete the stamina bar.

Combat in the game starts off simple, but offers some neat nuances along the way. Fenyx can either use a kopis sword for fast attacks or an axe for slow and heavy attacks. Fenyx can also dodge incoming enemy attacks, or better yet parry the attack and counter immediately. Using the triggers to attack and parry does take a bit of time to get the hang of, but it becomes second nature quickly.

Fenyx can also use a bow and arrows, and thankfully those recharge automatically instead of being another collectable to worry about. In fact one of the most unique abilities in the game is Apollo’s Arrow. Fenyx can remote control any arrow whilst using stamina in order to guarantee a direct hit on an enemy or switch.

Various weapons and armor upgrades can be found in chests throughout the game. Fenyx can also use gems to further enhance the power of each item individually. The only problem is the improvement isn’t apparent. The game likes to use numbers to convey how strong an attack is, and turning combat into a math equation takes some of the immersion away. It isn’t intrusive that players need to pay attention, but it doesn’t add much either.

Thanks to Charon’s coins players can further upgrade Fenyx’s abilities. Those abilities heavily drain the stamina bar, but allow a variety of powerful attacks. Whether it’s summoning underground spears to handle a mob or dash with a sturdy shield, those abilities make combat a lot more kinetic and enjoyable, especially in the latter parts of the game.

One ability, however, doesn’t function nearly as well. Early on, Fenyx acquires Herakles’ Gauntlets that allows movement of heavy objects. This ability is often used outside of combat, as Fenyx must move objects to solve puzzles. Unfortunately, many of those puzzles involve using said object as a weight to trigger a switch, as the idea doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it can be. In addition, there are moments where players must toss an object across a gap and the camera doesn’t do a good job showing the landing spot. The overall implementation of the object puzzles is probably the clunkiest aspect of the game, but it doesn’t deter much from the overall package.

Another unfortunate aspect are the mythical adversaries Fenyx must face. The game doesn’t utilize its setting with its enemy variety, as a lot of the time players will face boars or bears. Moreover, enemy don’t provide much in the way of obstacles, especially once Fenyx becomes much stronger. There are legendary beasts that provide a worthwhile challenge, but they are few and far between.

There is no doubt that the game is visually striking; the game’s areas are lush and vibrant. As previous mentioned, gliding around the world and viewing the colorful vistas from above is a major highlight. The game opts for a more cartoony representation of its cast and it fits the comedic approach. It’s also especially nice to have 60fps on the PS5 or Xbox Series X, though going with 30fps on Switch is a viable option for those who seek portability.

As mentioned earlier there’s a lot to do in the game in terms of the huge myriad of collectibles. In addition, there are also daily and weekly challenges that grant credit coins. With those, players can buy premium items. Yes, that means there is a microtransaction system in the game where players can buy coins with real money. While it’s unfortunate to see, players can alternatively grind challenges and obtain items without spending a dime.

In the end, Immortals Fenyx Rising has a generic name applied to a familiar experience. It also happens to sport some derivative design choices. Nevertheless, thanks to its unique style, addicting exploration and enjoyable gameplay, it’s an easy game to recommend to everyone. There are some clunky moments and the humor often fumbles more than it lands, but its charm rises above those pitfalls. For those looking for a grand adventure, this is an odyssey worth embarking on.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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