Immortals Fenyx Rising Hands-On Preview: A Massive Mythological World
Battling monstrous foes, unleashing the power of ancient Greek warriors, and rescuing deities from a terrible fate: all in a day's work for Fenyx, the titular hero of Ubisoft's upcoming Immortals Fenyx Rising. The massive and colorful world is a joy to explore, and the well-trodden gameplay elements are sure to delight fans of modern AAA titles.
We got a chance to sit down with an early build of the game to get a sense of what Immortals Fenyx Rising has to offer. Most elements of the game are well done, if extremely familiar, but presentation and story should help it stand out when it releases later this year. Here's what we thought of our limited time with the game.
Gods and Monsters
It seems unlikely that Immortals Fenyx Rising will wake anyone up to a brand new genre, but it does wrangle all of its elements together in an exciting way.
Immortals Fenyx Rising opens with a cataclysmic event, and it's up to you, a shipwrecked greenhorn named Fenyx, to harness the power of legendary Greek warriors to set everything straight.
In standard, big-budget fashion, you can probably guess how you'll go about doing this. After customizing your character, you'll find yourself stranded in a location called the Golden Isle. Different sections of the Golden Isle are the domains of different Greek gods, and you'll be able to explore these massive, open-world areas as you please.
You'll pick up several different items along the way that help you improve various stats. You'll unlock new combat abilities and magic spells. You'll tame mythological beasts and ride about the countryside. You'll climb to the top of various scouting points and locate all sorts of little icons on your map. You'll use your abilities in fluid, real-time combat against all sorts of monsters and bosses.
There are elements of Breath of the Wild, Assassin's Creed, Kingdom Hearts, and a whole lot more here. It seems unlikely that Immortals Fenyx Rising will wake anyone up to a brand new genre, but it does wrangle all of its elements together in an exciting way.
The opening sections of Immortals Fenyx Rising serve as an introduction to the various abilities that serve the core of the game. You wield a series of powerful weapons imbued with the powers of Greek heroes like Achilles and Odysseus, and you can earn new abilities and techniques as you progress through the game. This helps shape your character's playstyle as you see fit, and emphasize the areas that will give you the biggest advantages.
Your sword is quick and deadly, your hammer fills a stun bar on foes, your bow can take enemies down from a distance. Prioritizing the most dangerous enemies in a group you're facing is extremely important, especially on the higher difficulties. Your health can melt quickly if you stand in the middle and just swing away, so you'll want to master your abilities and upgrade them in order to progress.
There are some unique wrinkles here. One that stood out in my play session was a pair of bracers that allow you to pick up heavy objects. As you unlock more abilities for these bracers, you can use them to hook foes and bring them to you or, even better, hook foes and bring you to them. Using it against flying foes, zipping high above the battlefield to destroy air support, then gliding down to mop up slower foes felt really good.
Combat is very similar to many third-person games in this style, but the look and animations most reminded me of Kingdom Hearts. The generic foes don't have a ton of personality, but they are easy to identify and they fly away like popped balloons when defeated, which never ceased to make me smile.
Riddle of the Sphinx
If you can't get enough of the digital to-do lists of open-world games ... you're going to find a lot to like here.
Outside of combat, the other major element of Immortals Fenyx Rising is solving environmental puzzles. There are tons of them littered throughout the Golden Isle, and all offer enticing rewards should you solve them. There are gates that open into the underworld, opening platforming sections and testing how well you've mastered your abilities. You'll have to locate objects and place them correctly. Hermes even offers navigation challenges.
There is a ton to do in this game, and this sense of breadth came just at face value — I generally followed the icons on the map because of my limited playtime and didn't fully explore other options to the fullest.
Surely there will be even more intricate puzzles buried beneath the surface. If you can't get enough of the digital to-do lists of open-world games — sidequests, objects to collect, people to talk to, vistas to visit, etc. — you're going to find a lot to like here.
An Epic Story
This is all well and good, but not a lot of it makes Immortals Fenyx Rising stand out above a crowded crew of AAA titles. Luckily, that's where the story helps a lot. Greek mythology is such a wonderful place to mine stories and to subvert expectations, and the clever writing here stood out as my session moved forward.
It's a bit tough to explain, but the gameplay of Immortals Fenyx Rising is actually a story being told by Prometheus to Zeus. The two will argue over the narrative as you take actions on-screen, calling to mind the wonderful narration of indie darling Bastion. It isn't as in-depth as that, but the layers run pretty deep here.
Your character is also known as a storyteller in the game's lore, so there are plenty of ways for the writers to play with the narrative element throughout.
It's funny and cute, and it never felt like it was trying too hard. The characters you meet all have distinctive personalities, and hearing Zeus speak longingly of the Greek heroes of legend or meeting an Aphrodite who is nothing like she's usually depicted is fascinating for a big ol' mythology geek like me. Your character even tries Odysseus' "Nobody" trick when Typhon asks who you are, and Typhon calls them out for it!
See the World
It might look like a lot of other things out there, but I know that I'm excited to explore the entirety of Immortals Fenyx Rising ...
The giant, open-world of Immortals Fenyx Rising seems have a lot to offer and plenty of secrets to uncover. It certainly looks and animates well, and jumping off a massive statue and gliding around searching for treasure won't get old quickly.
It doesn't seem like Fenyx is breaking a ton of new ground, but the way it presents things is a welcome respite from how many major titles seem to think that "more gritty = more fun." It's obvious why the game is frequently compared to Breath of the Wild, but is that so bad?
For anyone who doesn't have a Nintendo Switch, this is a great imitation. For anyone who does, they've probably already beaten BotW, but is something else similar going to be a big problem?
As my play session came to an end, I was granted a massive power upgrade so I could try my hand at a couple of late-game areas. The moves you unlock towards the end of the skill trees are pretty darn powerful, but the foes you meet are as well.
It might look like a lot of other things out there, but I know that I'm excited to explore the entirety of Immortals Fenyx Rising when the game sees full release. If you're craving an open-world action game, you should have your eye on this one.
Immortals Fenyx Rising releases December 3 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and Stadia. Stay tuned for our full review as the release date approaches.