As the end of the year approaches, so does the most hallowed of annual traditions. The Ubisoft open-world game! With Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion already cramped into a close release window could newcomer Immortals Fenyx Rising be the one to shake their formula up?
Uh, yes and no? Unlike their other open-world efforts Immortals is more comfortable letting players off the leash to explore at their own pace. In fact, it’s best to get this out of the way early on: this title owes a startling amount to Breath of the Wild. The freedom to go to rescue four super-powered pals almost from the get-go? Hyrule’s champions. The unlockable superpowers such as levitating objects? The Sheikah Slate abilities. The puzzle-based Tartarus Pits? The Sage Shrines! Climbing any surface dictated by your stamina meter? Taming wild steed, gliding, cooking, a lavish cartoony art style? It’s all here.
Breath of the Mild
Yet this is not a total criticism. On its release Breath of the Wild was praised for its reinvention of the genre and tropes of the open-world game, so it’s only natural it should inspire others. Even recent Assassin’s Creed games have been much more flexible as a result. However Immortals Fenyx Rising never really adds any ideas of its own and some of the terrible modern gameplay mechanics it forces in actively work against it.
Not to say that Immortals Fenyx Rising is without its charms. The combat is delightfully snappy, perfect parries and throwing boulders feel especially terrific. As you progress in different regions the villainous Titan Typhos will direct his wrath towards you. Flaming debris and corrupted Greek heroes such as Achilles will hunt you, making for brilliantly tense fight or flight moments.
Greeks and Freaks
However, the games true Achilles heel (aside from the literal one) is in the narrative. The evil Typhon has escaped imprisonment and seeks revenge on Olympus. God-daddy Zeus consults the also imprisoned Prometheus for assistance. Prometheus insists that a mortal can save them all and wagers his imprisonment that he will be proven correct.
Prometheus and Zeus then partially narrate your adventure, a unique storytelling device in this medium. They may squabble over details or Zeus’ boredom may cause an unexpected enemy encounter for the player. This is a fantastic idea though it highlights a major problem with the narrative; the humour.
The jokes can work when they focus on pointing out the bizarre absurd aspect of Greek mythology but they’re usually on the level of obnoxious children’s cartoons. Greek gods dropping anachronistic references and turns of phrase wasn’t funny the first time let alone hours into the quest.
Hero to Zero
The titular and poorly spelt Fenyx is a classically generic “I can do this!” protagonist. Despite a wide array of customisation options always has the looks to match. In fact, all the cast share the same dull doll-like appearance, making them all too generic to get attached to.
The world is entertaining to explore with plenty to see but falls victim to the usual open-world dilemma quickly. Repeated, recycled things to see and do. You can look around the world in first-person to find points of interest but this quickly becomes tedious as you discover what an abundance of similar, dull objectives inhabit the isle. There’s only so many times you can discover a treasure chest before you just stop caring what’s inside.
The puzzles are the highlight here with a diverse range of brain-teasers to solve. One downside is that you can be stopped by not having progressed far enough into the story to solve them. Since Breath of the Wild gave you all these abilities within the first hour it’s almost absurd that they didn’t at least copy that aspect.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is no Greek tragedy but rarely reaches the heights of Olympus. It would be trite to make a comparison to the tale of Icarus but this is truly a showcase of the waxwings of open-world games. Though the undertaking was a Herculean effort, not even Atlas could hold up this attempt.