Have you ever come across one of those profiles on LinkedIn that claim to be an entrepreneur, chef and a trapeze artist at the same time and wondered, “are they even going to be good at any one of these?”. Well, that’s the exact feeling that accurately describes our experience with Ubisoft’s latest open-world title, Immortals Fenyx Rising.
The game isn’t particularly bad, that’s not the case at all. The gameplay is pretty solid and there’s a lot to explore in this lore-rich world. However, the game doesn’t realize its true potential and its identity crisis is apparent throughout the duration, resulting in an entirely mediocre experience, just as the title indicates.
After escaping the shackles, Typhon emerged to confront the Greek gods that imprisoned them. He took revenge by stripping them off their powers and turning the remaining residents into stone. A terrified-but-too-stuck-up-to-admit-it Zeus runs to Prometheus for help, who sets forth a wager that if Typhon were to be beaten by a mortal, he should be released to liberty.
The mortal in question is none other than our protagonist Fenyx, who washes ashore after barely surviving a shipwreck only to find that the rest of their crew, including their brother has been turned to stone. Fenyx can be male or female and customized to your liking; although the character builder isn’t the most extensive, it gets the job done and enables you to create a distinct character of your own. You also have the option to completely flip the switch regarding your character’s appearance any time after the tutorial session. They won’t make any difference during your playthrough except the pronouns other characters refer to you by.
Fenyx embarks on this quest to free the four gods transformed by Typhon and eventually take him on, to bring his crewmates and brother back to life, and maybe save all of humanity in the process. From the offset, the game establishes a very light-hearted tone which would’ve landed well had the writing been any good. Disappointingly, the writing is terribly cringe-inducing and, the narration and constant interjections by Zeus and Prometheus are just simply annoying.
the writers have taken some creative risks in the representation of the iconic gods of the Greek pantheon: Aphrodite, Ares, Athena, Hephaistos and of course the ever-meddling Hermes that are a welcome and refreshing spin from their usual somber incarnations. On the contrary, the protagonist Fenyx lacks much character and feels more like an afterthought. He/she doesn’t evolve over the course of the game and after a while it’s natural to stop caring about their individualistic goals.
The gameplay combines elements of both hack-and-slash combat and puzzle solving. Fenyx can traverse and climb almost anything, swim, ride animals and glide with the help of Icarus’ wings; all this would deplete the stamina meter which requires a short resting period to regenerate.
The combat is responsive and satisfying, and you get to add more swift moves by upgrading your skills. The difficulty never ramps up, so we recommend beginning your playthrough on a high level.
The puzzle design on the other hand is so frustrating and outdated that it had us scratching our heads for all the wrong reasons. This works against the game’s favour considering that there are so many of them, and regrettably there are mandatory for story progression. Some puzzles are in the world itself, and others in the vault of Tartarus and of course those hour-long god vaults you’ve to complete before clearing off each area. We spent more time with these tedious puzzles than the actual action, which hurdled the pace of this journey severely. There aren’t any NPCs giving out side-quests that contribute to the overall story or unlock rare rewards upon completion, so don’t expect to find them anywhere in the map.
We wish there were less puzzles which were more interesting and well thought-out, a focus on quality over quantity. Fenyx’s godly powers allow you to lift and move objects, and this is an integral part of the gameplay, especially for the pressure-sensitive puzzles. This mechanic is extremely clunky and led to many frustrating encounters. Similarly, the crouch button doesn’t work half of the time. Hopefully these issues shall be tended to in the form of post-launch updates.
As someone who prefers realistic visuals, I’ve still got to admit that the visuals of Immortals look pretty great. Yes, they do tend to give off that Saturday morning cartoon look but, it is never lacking in details. Although its stylistic influences are well, let’s go with “generously borrowed”, the contrast between the vibrant and cheery visuals and the grim tales of Greek mythology lies a balance that’s quite ambitious.
The draw distances are long and the framerate remains stable throughout the game, we faced no inconsistencies with the visuals during our time testing it. Characters do look emotionless most of the time, and couple that with the sub-par voice acting and you’ll understandably feel that Ubisoft hasn’t put the same effort with this as they do with their other major IPs.
The one criticism we have is that not all the four worlds look very different from each other. For instance Aphrodite’s and Athena’s regions sort of blend in, while being clearly different from Ares and Hephaistos whose worlds also do the same. Hence, there are really only two different worlds and you start to get tired of the same environments after hours of playing in them.
Audio & Music
The music in Immortals is simply put, fantastic. Gareth Coker, who previously worked on Ori and the Will of the Wisps, composed the score for the game using ancient Greek instruments that are a treat to the ears. We also appreciate the neat little touches to the menu sounds that also stand out well, although the combat sounds did feel sort of familiar and out of place.
Immortals didn’t turn out to be the game that revives light-hearted games from a beloved era like many of us had hoped, it instead tries to do too many things and ends up not delivering greatly on any one of them. It is recommended for younger audiences that want more of a challenge and some clean good fun, without the stakes ever getting too high.
For more on gaming, check out our review of the Xbox Series X by clicking here.