Nintendo Nintendo Switch PC Gaming PlayStation PlayStation 4 PlayStation 5 Reviews Xbox Xbox One Xbox Series X

Immortals Fenyx Rising Is 2020's Sleeper Hit

All images courtesy of Ubisoft

Immortals: Fenyx Rising

Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: December 3, 2020
Available as: Digital and Physical

The Legend of Fenyx: Immortals Rising

Immortals Fenyx Rising, known prior as Gods and Monsters, is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft. More specifically, the Ubisoft Quebec subsidiary of the developer. The Quebec team is known for having their hand in developing several titles in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Syndicate and Odyssey respectively.

A lot of the groundwork and assets from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would ultimately serve as the blueprint for the development of Immortals. During the development of Odyssey, game director Scott Phillips referenced a bug in Odyssey that transformed NPCs into large cyclopes. This tiny software bug served as inspiration for the development team to consider exploring Greece’s rich mythology all the while basing an entire game off of the fantasy side of Greek mythology. Thanks to Odyssey’s success, Ubisoft greenlit the project and thus Gods and Monsters was born.

At least, until Ubisoft Quebec was forced to change their name to Immortals Fenyx Rising apparently due to a trademark dispute between Monster Energy of all companies. It makes you think. What if Monster Energy also threatened Pokemon because of the word being short for Pocket Monsters? Surely everyone knows what a Pokemon is over a can of Monster? I found the dispute pointless, but, regardless here we are with the current title.

As Immortals Fenyx Rising was born as a passion project from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a lot of its influence was borrowed from the latter. Both gendered voices of Fenyx voiced supporting characters in Odyssey. The voice of Athena voiced Kassandra, Odyssey’s protagonist. The other gods featured in Immortals also voiced characters in Odyssey. Almost all of the voiced cast in Immortals worked on Odyssey prior, so familiarity felt natural within each other.

The Team Behind Odyssey Wanted A Little More Greek

Set in Ancient Greece, Zeus goes to Prometheus as the titan, Typhon, threatens to destroy the world. As a last-ditch effort, Prometheus offers to trust in the aid of a mortal who would have the power to defeat Typhon. Zeus, being Zeus, refuses to hear Prometheus out until Prometheus wagers him a bet. If he can convince Zeus that the mortal, Fenyx, can defeat Typhon, then Prometheus must be pardoned.

It is at this point when you begin to customize Fenyx. While promotional material shows Fenyx as a woman, you can customize them to be any gender you wish. The customization is basic as it limits you to six choices from categories such as hair, face, and eyes. Other than that, the body types only determine whether you have a masculine or a feminine body. The only thing that determines your “gender” is the voice you select, when Zeus and Prometheus narrate Fenyx’s story using their pronouns. 

After you customize Fenyx as you see fit, the story then begins as you take control of them. A low-ranking soldier who has never held a blade in their life, Fenyx witnesses their comrades and their older brother turned into stone. Using their brother’s blade, they are set out on a journey to save their kin. 

While you control Fenyx, Prometheus is the one who narrates their story. Zeus, being Zeus, occasionally interjects. Whenever Prometheus starts talking with flowery language, Zeus is the one who responds with quips that negate whatever tone Prometheus is going for. This dynamic of reliable vs unreliable narration comes at an impasse several times but it’s all for comedic purposes. Zeus really wants the downfall of Fenyx, not due to any ill form of malice, but simply because once again, he’s Zeus.

Immortals Fenyx Rising Is A Fun Spin On Classic Mythology

Within the first hour of playing the game, I loved the portrayal of Zeus in Immortals. Prometheus calls him out on the various Zeus-like things he has done and Zeus responds in a manner that is modern, yet believable. Zeus, as told throughout various epic poems and stories of the past, is incredibly inconsistent. There are dire circumstances and events that take place simply if Zeus hadn’t done the wrong thing and did the right thing instead. Hence, my reasoning for saying “Zeus is being Zeus” throughout this review.

As one can expect, there are a lot of references to various forms of epic poetry. While the base material is from the likes of Iliad and Odyssey, Prometheus falls short of name-dropping Homer himself, citing that “he’s his favorite poet who wasn’t born yet.” 

Another example of references to Greek mythology outside of the game’s story is the exchange between Zeus and Prometheus involving Aphrodite’s birth. The goddess Aphrodite is turned into a tree and it’s up to Fenyx to help revert her to her original state. They propose this by re-enacting Aphrodite’s birth. However, Aphrodite’s birth process was vulgar, to say the least. 

So Zeus momentarily takes over and uses “pearls” as a euphemism for “something else.” Prometheus doesn’t even bother to protest this until it gets to the point where he has to, albeit subtly. The big reveal given to Zeus on how Aphrodite was born is never explicitly stated, but his reaction is hilarious.

The Game Plays Itself Like A Humorous Cartoon

The humor in this game is abundant and it never takes itself seriously. One of the tropes includes a bait-and-switch credits sequence that plays after a certain part of the story in the beginning. There are other bait-and-switch scenes, done deliberately by Zeus, as Prometheus desperately keeps the story from derailing. The inverse also happens from Prometheus to Zeus.

Fenyx is no stranger to comedic deliveries themselves. Far from the quiet protagonist a.k.a Link, yet nowhere near as chatty as Daxter, Fenyx is somewhere in the middle. Their comedy relies on how plucky they are as a protagonist. They are jovial, naive, and are unaware of their true potential. 

They also have a strong sense of justice that carries them through to their goals. Fenyx begins to show character development as their journey progresses, mastering the abilities of legendary heroes along the way. Over time, they begin to carry themselves with poise and grace, one step at a time. Fenyx begins to feel right at home with the gods and goddesses they save throughout the game.

Fenyx Is A “Foolish Hero” Who Strives For Greatness

Fenyx is a perfect caricature of the “foolish hero” archetype in epic poetry. Their story, as a mortal, is told through two bickering gods. In Homer’s epic poems, the gods tend to use mortals as their playthings and chess pieces. This translates well in Immortals Fenyx Rising as there are several instances where the player is reminded just how little control we have over them.

During one of the vaults of Tartaros, Prometheus highlights Fenyx’s progress as well as their impending encounter with Typhon. Zeus interrupts Prometheus and summons a giant cyclops in the middle of his story-telling, complete with out-of-character maniacal laughter from Fenyx. In retaliation, Prometheus turns the cyclops into a miniature figure of itself, diminishing its threatening aura. 

This is followed by more out-of-character personality shenanigans from Fenyx as they express joy over the cuteness of the now-deformed cyclops. This is all done to spite Zeus, who eventually yields, allowing Prometheus to finally set up the fight between Fenyx and the mid-boss cyclops. 

These scenes, while not exactly fourth-wall-breaking, helps break the monotony of the game itself. It reminds the player that we are playing a story told through two gods who are in a battle of wits with each other while a larger threat looms.

Throughout the game, you come across an adventurer who finds himself in a predicament. Captured by a flying beast, Fenyx chases after the beast in hopes to save the boy. Eventually, Fenyx catches up with the boy, who reveals that he’s a thief.

There’s A Lot Of Information For A Prologue

After several encounters, including the boy stealing Fenyx’s equipment, the primary antagonist, Typhon, finally reveals himself to Fenyx. Typhon and the thief quarrel and tell Fenyx what to do to hold Typhon back. After much confusion on who the boy is, the boy finally reveals that he’s Hermes, the messenger of the gods. Having a god revealed to them, Fenyx realizes that their role in how future events will pan out serves far greater than what they initially assumed.

That’s the prologue. Everything that happened up to this point was the prologue.

“That was the prologue!? That entire thing!? Odysseus had shorter walks to the store than that!” As the development studio and title drop flash on the screen, Zeus bemoans.

I can’t blame Zeus for his exclamation, for once. What happened up to that point was easily two hours’ worth of gameplay. Approximately three, if you’re someone like me who likes to explore every nook and cranny on the way to your destination. 

Unlike most adventure games, there is an illusion of exploration in the beginning. Everything is accessible, but they are either difficult to traverse in your current state with current abilities, or they are simply impossible to complete. The game teases all of the possible challenges and secrets you can find and you can very well attempt them, but the game encourages you to go through the story for a little while. Once you are well equipped with abilities, only then is the world open to you the way it was intended.

It’s the devs' way of easing the player into the game while at the same time encouraging them to explore the vast landscape that Immortals has to offer.

The World In Immortals Fenyx Rising Is Massive

The map of Immortals is small at first, as the only section of the map revealed to you is the starting area. Throughout the game, you are tasked to free four gods that reside in each corner of the map. The problem here is that unless you reveal the map, you won’t be able to pinpoint your exact location unless you rely on the in-game compass. This is where the scouting system comes into play.

Every new zone has a “vantage point” that Fenyx must scout to uncover the surrounding area on the map. You can then use Fenyx’s “Far Sight” ability to uncover hidden collectibles. Any collectibles found this way will not only show up on the map but also on the compass as you travel through the area on the map. The main gripe I have with this system is that for the six times you uncover the map this way, that’s six times you have to scan the area to look for objectives. 

Spending anywhere from five to ten minutes scanning the vast landscape waiting for your controller to vibrate to tell you to reveal a location in the distance got tiring quickly. Fortunately, unless you’re going for 100%, you don’t need to go for every single collectible. Unfortunately, if you wish to improve your character’s ability, you’d have to commit to a decent-sized chunk of the collectibles offered to you.

Prove Yourself As One Of The Gods

Shortly after the prologue, you gain access to the Hall Of The Gods. This serves as the base of operations for this game. From there, Fenyx is tasked with saving the four gods, Aphrodite, Ares, Hephaistos, and Athena. Once all four gods are recovered to their true selves, you take the battle to Typhon and save the world, as it were. 

There’s a bulletin board where you can accept weekly and daily challenges in which you can earn electrum by doing so. These coins are exchanged for cosmetic gear, mounts, and upgraded materials at a discount through Hermes’s shop. Aside from that, there are game challenges where upon completing a milestone, you are rewarded with various articles of gear, crafting items, and upgradable items.

The weekly vault challenges remind me of Diablo 3. There are weekly challenges where you have a preset gear and loadout. You’re expected to finish a vault with limitations specified in a certain amount of time. One challenge requires you to clear a vault while only using a bow.

The Hall Of The Gods is also where you can upgrade your weapons, armor, and the potency of your potions. It’s where you increase your health and stamina stocks. It’s also where you’re able to learn and improve your skills and abilities. 

All of these cost resources that you acquire via the collectibles and activities in the game. Increasing your health involves collecting a certain amount of ambrosia throughout the map. Your stamina increases as you collect Zeus’s lightning by completing Tartaros vaults. Increasing your potion potency as well as the capacity of potions depends on the number of ingredients, including pomegranates, mushrooms, and figs, you’ve collected in the overworld. 

Many Compare It To BotW But Fenyx Is A God Of Their Own

Lastly, learning new skills and abilities is based on the number of coins you acquired. You gain these coins by solving puzzles and doing activities. These activities range from solving sliding puzzles, completing challenges, and playing hymns on a giant harp located in each of the four main areas.

To upgrade your weapons and armor, for example, you need to acquire shards. You earn the basic form of shards by combating enemies. The rarer colored shards are from fighting unique enemies/bosses as well as opening a specific type of chest. As such, I had a plethora of shards to upgrade my weapons. I didn’t upgrade any of them to the maximum, but I was doing enough damage that it didn’t matter. 

The problem lied in my armor. I didn’t realize until late game that the only way to receive the secondary shards I needed to upgrade my armor was from obtaining them via epic chests. Epic chests differ from guarded chests, which bore a different type of shard altogether. After a certain point, I wasn’t obtaining the chests as I would have to uncover them via scouting. 

Unless it was through sheer dumb luck that I would come across a chest on my way to an objective. The issue was that there were too many different types of chests and I didn’t know I needed a specific one until the endgame. This meant that while I had a lot of health by the end, heavy attacks were dealing insane damage to me and I often found myself chugging potions if I was caught off guard. 

In Order To Become Strong, You Must Work For It

The game encourages you, although it’s not required, to go after every collectible you can find in this regard. If you feel your health is on the short side, then find and collect ambrosia. If you feel as if you want to learn more skills, then participate in activities. 

This borderlines game padding, however, as the campaign itself isn’t too excessively long. In most situations, you can go for collectibles and bonus content on your way to the main story destination without breaking a sweat. For the player who wishes to breeze through, however, these take note in mentioning.

The Tartaros vaults are the main form of game progression throughout Immortals. To escape from the vault with the prize, you must solve puzzles that are there to challenge you by thinking outside of the box. The optional vaults are encouraged to try at least once, as some of the mechanics used in these vaults will help greatly for the mandatory Tartaros vaults. 

As you free each god, they require you to ultimately enter their vault and retrieve their essence, thus making them whole again. Each vault is different according to each god and goddess.

Aphrodite requires you to traverse through toxic passageways to find the source of the toxicity. Destroying the source, usually with a flame-lit arrow, opens up more passageways throughout her vault until you reach the boss of the vault. As the toxic air fills, some areas become impassable. This means you have to find unique ways to navigate safely while solving the puzzles.

Each Puzzle Is Unique, Forcing You To Master What You Learned

Ares introduces cubes that levitate and defy the laws of gravity. They are pushed via your powers or through the power of the wind. It was more annoying dealing with the mechanics of the levitating cubes as you’d have to strike at them to deactivate and reactivate. Many times the wind pushed the cubes off-axis even while inactive, thus forcing me to redo specific parts of the puzzle many times. 

Hephaistos is a climbing dungeon where you scale from the base to the very top. You do so by taking advantage of the wind currents that you can change on command. You avoid the hazards along the way as you fly through the level. It’s honest platforming, though you’d have to master the changing currents of the winds to manipulate objects and switches.

Lastly, Athena’s vault introduces linked boxes where if one box is destroyed, the other box is also destroyed. Coupled with tight corridors and traps scattered throughout the dungeon and you’re given a vault where you have to be careful where you step.

The final mandatory Tartaros vault combines all four mechanics from the previous mandatory vaults into one giant finale. Combining Aphrodite’s toxic passageways with Hephaistos’ wind currents provided new twists on familiar circumstances for example.

The Vaults Are Easily ‘Immortals’ Bright Spot

Overall I’d say the puzzles take up the majority of gameplay for Immortals. You’d find more time completing puzzles whether in the vaults or in the overworld than you’d find yourself fighting. In many ways, rather than an action-adventure game, I’d dare call it a puzzle adventure game. When you fight enemies rather than solve puzzles, the fights are over quickly. Every piece of equipment has a primary effect as well as a secondary one and my loadout took advantage of an enemy’s weakness. I wasn’t doing raw damage, but my output relied on how quickly I could stun an enemy only to have free reign to use my strongest abilities.

The combat in this game is fluid. You have a dodge button that’s your main form of defense. If you dodge an enemy attack in the nick of time, you enter this slow-motion state similar to that of Bayonetta’s Witch Time. Perhaps the most important defensive skill, unlocked as you gain access to your ax, is parrying. If you time your parry at the exact time, you’ll achieve a perfect parry that increases the stun gauge of your opponent. If it’s a projectile-based enemy, you can reflect their projectiles right back at them.

The Combat In Immortals Fenyx Rising Is Satisfying And Rewarding

As the gauge reaches it’s maximum, your opponent will be briefly stunned. This is when you can do free damage to your opponent until they recover and you repeat the cycle over. Some attacks aren’t parryable, however, and this is indicated by the enemy covered in a reddish glow. Later on in the game, you’ll find enemies using less parryable attacks. This means you always have to be on the move and identify patterns where there’s a gap in your opponent’s offense.

Combat is ultimately trivialized as you progress through the story. As you do favors for the gods, you’ll receive their blessings that will help immensely in combat. Aphrodite’s blessings include granting you an extra life, saving you from death once every twenty minutes. Ares, being the god of war, grants you blessings that will help you the longer you engage in combat. Hephaistos, the god of the forge, grants you augments that help you in battle, turning your basic attacks into amplified threats. Lastly, Athena’s blessings increase your prowess with the bow. These range from increasing the refill time of your arrows to increasing the number of enemies struck by a single arrow.

This doesn’t make the combat bad. In later difficulties, where enemies can one-shot you if you’re not careful, it’s fun weaving through your opponent’s offense while countering with your own. On the easier difficulties, especially its default difficulty, however, there isn’t much of a challenge in combat. Thus, the puzzles are the star of the show here to me at least. They were my favorite parts of the game and they are in abundance. Come for the fluid combat, but stay for the intricate puzzles.

Immortals Can Be Too Ambitious On Previous Gen Hardware

Playing this on a slim PlayStation 4, the console starts to show its age while loading a massive world such as this game. You can travel to any section of the map once it’s loaded in without any load times. However, if you fast travel to any section of the map, you will have to endure some lengthy load times on occasion. This is also an issue when you’re entering to and from Tartaros vaults.

They aren’t the worst load times but don’t be surprised if you get up, grab a glass of water, and come back to the game nearing its completion of loading. I’m sure this is a non-issue for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Overall, running on previous generation hardware wasn’t detrimental to my experience while playing the game.

Like all Ubisoft games, there’s a universal currency system via Uplay Connect that allows players to get exclusive items through the service itself. Using currency from the achievements earned throughout various Ubisoft games, you’re able to unlock cosmetics that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to find in-game. 

There are also microtransactions within the game itself. No, they are not “pay to win” microtransactions, but, you can buy flashy and unique gear. The gears don’t provide any stats, they are simply aesthetics. Some of the things you can buy through Hermes’s shop as well as the cash shop are almost borderline gaudy in my opinion. Some people may like this look, but, unless it gave me godlike stats I wouldn’t care if I simply looked like a god. I wouldn’t recommend it, but the game does give you 300 free credits to start with.

Despite It’s Obvious Predictions, Fenyx’s Story Is Inoffensive

As the story reaches its climax, several plot bombs are revealed. I won’t spoil the rest of the story, ending included, but it does end on an expected “hero is more than they thought they were and everyone lives happily ever after” note. Looking back, the story as a whole was a cliche, even down to the obvious plot twist regarding Fenyx’s brother. 

I found the cliches inoffensive, however. As mentioned earlier, the story is a light-hearted spin-off of Greek mythology, while even providing some “what if’s?” for the genre-savvy fan of Greek mythology. Especially involving Fenyx’s fate and their lineage.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a love letter to the Greek mythos in the same vein that Okami was a love letter to Japanese mythology. Given that this was an extended project born from Odyssey, a game already well-received for its accuracy involving ancient Greece, this passion project proved one thing. 

Sure, it’s a flawed game. The story, as mentioned, plays like a Disney plot at times. The combat, especially once you find a play style that suits you, can get repetitive. Many of its inspirations came from Breath Of The Wild. I compared it to Okami in the past, a game that was cauterized for being a “Zelda” clone back in the game yet is now considered a cult classic. Even if its inspiration was a Zelda game, it’s not a copy-and-paste effort. 

Despite Flaws, Immortals Fenyx Rising Is A Marvel

Very few original IPs felt as fun and as fresh as this game did. Ubisoft Quebec didn’t care about taking any risks or gambles in making Immortals, they simply wanted to make a Greek fantasy game from the heart. From the puzzles to the dialogue, and even the minor quips and animations from Fenyx themselves. You can tell that they put their heart and soul into this project. 

At the end of the day, however, it is what it is. A project. Considering this is the season for many anticipated titles, Immortals Fenyx Rising is doomed to be swept away with the current. It is for that reason I say that this game has the makings to be a sleeper. An underrated gem that a YouTube content creator will stumble upon months, or maybe even a year, from now and praise it to Zeus above. This game is easily one of Ubisoft’s best offerings in a long time and it deserves a play-through at least once. 

Immortals Fenyx Rising is available on the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Stadia.

Leave a Reply