Reviews

Clash of the Genres — Immortals: Fenyx Rising review

Greek mythology is really, really weird. Very long story short, in the beginning was Chaos, and from Chaos we get Gaia who birthed Uranus the Sky God. Gaia and Uranus (yeah, mother and son) got it on and cranked out the Titans — the 100-armed Hekatonkheires and the Cyclops, which is what happens when you have sexy time with the kids. The kids were hideous, so Uranus imprisoned them inside Gaia’s belly. They wanted out, so she asked the Titans to castrate Uranus. The Titan Cronos did the deed and cast his father’s junk into the sea. The resulting sea foam from his weenus hitting the sea caused the whole thing to foam up, releasing Aphrodite. Cronos, secure in his new castration side hustle becomes de facto leader of the Titans, marries his sister Rhea, who gives birth to the Greek Gods. What’s next for the ball-busting Cronos? He eats his kids. He manages to scarf all of them up until Rhea pulls a David Copperfield and replaces baby Zeus with a rock. As strange as all of this is, it merely sets the stage for the incestious bizarro-world chaos that is the Greek Pantheon of Gods. Naturally, that makes it the best setting ever for an adventure game, so let’s dive headfirst into Gods and Monsters…oops, I mean, Immortals: Fenyx Rising.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising tells the story of Fenyx, her brother Ligeryon, and their fellow Greeks who have been shipwrecked on the Golden Isle. Fenyx was knocked unconscious, but when she wakes up and catches up with her crew she finds them turned to stone. Now she must appeal to the Gods to try to turn them back, but the Gods aren’t answering. Time to find out why.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising - First 50 Minutes in 4K on PC [Gaming Trend]

The entirety of the story of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is told as a story between Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus was nice enough to give fire to mortals, so Zeus chained him to a rock for eternity, having an eagle peck out and eat his liver every day. Despite the liver-eating business, these two are the Statler and Waldorph (from the Muppets – I’m old, so what?) of the game, making constant comments on what Fenyx is accomplishing, as well as retelling stories from Greek mythology. They even cover Ixion impregnating a cloud to create the Centaurs, because of course that happened. The writing is absolutely fantastic, making my wife and I laugh out loud on more occasions than I can readily count. The Ubisoft team really knocked the story element out of the park.

The Golden Isle is split into six sections, the latter two being locked away until the last few hours of the game. Four Gods have come up missing, Athena, Hephaestus, Ares, and Aphrodite. The monstrous son of Gaea and Tartaros — a creature named Typhon, is responsible. Thankfully, you’ve got a little help on your side as well, but given how strong the storyline is, I wouldn’t want to ruin a single second of it.

Let’s address the 800 pound Minotaur in the room right out of the gate — there will be comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed franchise, and that’s appropriate because it borrows heavily from both. Over the course of the game, Fenyx will earn powers that have an uncanny resemblance to some we’ve seen. Lifting boxes from a distance and holding them overhead while she runs (you can choose Fenyx to be either sex, but I made my Fenyx female, so the rest of the review will have the appropriate pronouns), or leaping sideways while firing an arrow in slow motion at distant targets — it’s familiar territory. That said, there are plenty of brand new tricks at work here.

When Fenyx starts her adventure she manages to get her hands on the fabled sword of Achilles, but it’s not too long until she’s swinging around all manner of godly implements. Gear skews far more towards earlier Zelda games, however, with only a handful of damage-dealing implements coming to you over the course of the game. Thankfully there is no durability mechanic at play, but instead you’ll apply upgrades across a handful of categories and apply them globally — specifically swords, axes, armor, helmets, arrow count, and potion count. Still, given Ubisoft’s track record over the last dozen releases, it’ll be cosmetics, weapons you’ll outgrow in a matter of moments, and virtual fast-forward buttons for your upgrades.

Much like Breath of the Wild, stamina is life in this game. Everything you do costs stamina. Special attacks, running, lifting blocks, and climbing soaks your stamina like a sponge, and combining those things only serves to speed that up. To build more stamina, you’ll need a very special object that can only be found in the Vaults of Tartaros. These vaults are very similar to Shrines in Breath of the Wild, filled to bursting with awesome logic puzzles. Taking things to the next level, however, there are a ton of fresh mechanics in these vaults that can transform some of your attack powers into navigation elements. Players have been using glitches to solve puzzles in Breath of the Wild since launch, but here they are a natural course of progress. Using a power that raises a bunch of spears from the ground, launching you into the sky, is the best way to chase down pesky harpies, but it also works to make your way up to a higher platform in a pinch. There are a total of 69 Vaults of Tartaros in the game, and I have to say that some of them are downright sadistically difficult — I love it. They are almost all optional side fun, but they serve as a fantastic highlight in this game — don’t miss them.

Vaults Of Tartaros In 4k - Aphrodite's Bewilderment - Immortals Fenyx Rising - PS5 [Gaming Trend]

Upgrading your health comes from collecting Ambrosia — the mythical food of the Gods that confers long life and health to anyone who consumes it, so precisely the opposite of the fruit salad of the same name. These are scattered all around the world, usually in hard to reach places. Upgrading your weapons comes in the form of Electrum from defeating enemies and finding hidden chests. You’ll also need a secondary resource that’s a little harder to come by, including gems you get from chopping down specific trees, or crystals that again are tucked away in hard to reach places.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is amazingly balanced. In the beginning of the game you struggle with the weakest of foes, unable to even cross a simple river without almost drowning. By the end you are as inevitable as gravity, crushing foes under the combined weight of magical weapons and godly powers. When things got too tough in one area of the Golden Isle I simply left and worked on a separate area until I’d leveled up my gear enough to once again be effective. It encourages you to branch out beyond the story to build your arsenal a bit.

The arsenal in the game sticks into the categories I’ve mentioned before, but there are numerous secondary versions of those armor sets. These offer up small perks like additional damage or better stun percentages, as examples. There are also a metric ton of cosmetic skins for your equipment that the game lets you mix and match at will. No longer do you have to choose between looking cool and the best gear.

Speaking of hidden chests, there are a tremendous amount of puzzles out in the world. Sometimes it’s lighting a fire using a guided arrow, moving blocks around onto weighted platforms, or the awesome astrological puzzles that have you retrieving blue orbs to make familiar constellations. Still others have you creating mosaics by sliding tiles, firing your arrows through axe heads like in the Odyssey, strumming the strings on a giant lyre, taking down all manner of legendary monsters, killing scores of foes guarding chests, or a combination of any or all of them. There’s a shocking amount of variety in Immortals: Fenyx Rising, and it’s a pleasure to discover it all.

Talking with the team ahead of launch, they mentioned more than once that these types of puzzles were entirely new ground for them. What they’ve delivered works spectacularly. Given that Ubisoft likes to share knowledge between their teams, perhaps we’ll see this style of puzzle work in future titles. These are on par with the best puzzles we’ve seen in recent years.

The enemies you encounter in the game are essentially puzzles as well. Each enemy can be stunned if you can figure out how to counter them. Sometimes it’s an artful dodge at just the right time followed by a careful counter, and other times it’s blocking the impact of that oncoming attack. Learning weapon combinations and how to exploit them makes you feel like a death-dealing demigod.

You’ll note that I’ve not mentioned microtransactions. Yes, they are present – you can buy cosmetic items or I would imagine you can grab some sort of resource pack to jump you ahead in the power curve. I say “I imagine” as the store is not online at the time of writing. That said, I can say that I never once had to grind for resources. At the end of my run, 42 hours in all, I earned enough to unlock every single power, all of the health upgrades, and every stamina pip. I also managed to max out my sword, axe, and was one pip shy on everything else. Once you complete the game an option for New Game+ unlocks, so you’ve got options after the fact. There are also five difficulty levels from “Story” to “Nightmare” with their advantages and disadvantages spelled out plainly.

A Tour Of The Hall Of The Gods In 4K - Immortals Fenyx Rising - PS5 [Gaming Trend]

One of the things I appreciated most about Fenyx Rising is that there isn’t a lot of fat present in the game. Over the course of 40+ hours I didn’t feel like anything was padded to keep me busy. Each of the Gods you help have a myriad of quests to tackle, and you can jump on them in any order, so you can mix and match how you see fit. That normally makes the story somewhat generic, but it works here thanks to the strong foundation in weird Greek myths and monsters.

While this review tackles the PC version of the game, David checked out Immortals: Fenyx Rising for a spin on the PlayStation 5, while Elisha hit the Nintendo Switch to see how it performs on there. David’s thoughts on the PS5 version of the game are below.

First up, let’s take a look at the freshly-launched next-gen console from Sony and it’s largest differentiator — the DualSense controller. Immortals Fenyx Rising does in fact utilize haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller, although I’m sad to say it doesn’t do much with them. The haptics are better used, from little things like climbing a wall and feeling the stamina bleed from the meter, to the impact of being hit by a boulder thrown by a cyclops, but the triggers very rarely make an appearance, with the most prominent moment being firing an Apollo guided arrow. The adaptive triggers specifically seem like a missed opportunity, especially with the attacks mapped to them. Your right trigger swings your battle-axe/hammer, and feeling the weight of it or the heft of a swing would’ve added to the experience, even if it only popped up during one of your special moves. The tension of pulling a bowstring is absent, and just seems like this was forgotten when the concept appears with the Apollo arrows. In the end, it’s better than no utilization at all.

Aphrodite's Region - Immortals Fenyx Rising - PS5 [Gaming Trend]

Elisha tackled our Nintendo Switch portion of the game, and I’ve included his thoughts on that platform, as well as some video of the game in motion while docked. Let’s get one thing straight: this is probably the worst-looking version of the game. You most likely aren’t going to get this version if you plan on looking at the gorgeous visuals, but oddly enough, because of the stylistic approach to the graphics, you don’t lose too much in transition. While it’s not going to run at the smooth buttery 60 FPS of even the PS5 or Xbox Series X versions, much less the 4K/60+ on PC, the Switch version does hold up whether in docked or portable mode. You can check my first 25 minutes of the game, which impressively holds up even with a downgrade.

Immortals Fenyx Rising - First 26 Minutes on Nintendo Switch [Gaming Trend]

I was warned earlier that I would need a Pro Controller in order to immerse myself into the game, but I found that the portable mode controls are serviceable as is (which means even playing it on a Switch Lite would be fine). While undocked, the game runs a little worse than its docked counterpart, but again, it runs just fine considering I can go outside in a car with it. The same action experience is there, and it was pretty easy chaining attacks and dodging enemies while smiting them with the power of the gods.

While fiddling with quick items was a bit cumbersome (since I’d have to move my thumb from my analog stick to the D-Pad buttons), it was still impressive to be zipping around the world without being tethered to a television screen. There’s also a neat little feature tucked into the Switch version, since you can toggle gyro controls to help with aiming. This made shooting Apollo’s Arrows much more precise and fun, and while I didn’t use gyro aim all the time, it’s still a nifty feature.

In short, this isn’t the prettiest or smoothest iteration of Immortals Fenyx Rising; heck, the game even crashed on me when I was playing in portable mode. While I recommend any other version of the game if you’re looking for a graphics powerhouse, the portable value of the Switch makes for a great on-the-go experience if you want to spend a weekend hearing what Prometheus and Zeus are up to.

Heading back to the PC version, it’s not all Ambrosia and inappropriate sexy time stories here — Immortals has a few hiccups at launch. I’ve had two crashes to desktop on PC, costing me a little bit of time, one jump through the environment that cost me nearly an hour and a half on one of the final islands, and I ran into a design choice that made me reset an entire vault. I faced off against Ozomene the Hurricane (A boss-level harpy) who I simply did not have the right gear or leveling to beat, but I couldn’t find any way to leave. I was locked into a fight I couldn’t win with no obvious way out other than to reset the entire vault so I could exit, losing all of the progress I had made. There was a tooltip on how to not have to do this, but it went by too quickly and I couldn’t find any discernible way after the fact. Once I’d reset the vault and lost all my progress, then the “Leave vault” option reappeared. Incredibly frustrating to be sure.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising runs extraordinarily well on every card I could throw at it from a 1080Ti all the way up to the RTX 3080. I’ve benchmarked the 3080 at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K as you can see below. Whether this art style clicks with you or not is entirely subjective, of course, but all three of us agreed that Fenyx seemed to lack emotion in more than a few of her scenes. It doesn’t stop the comedy from coming through.

Immortals Fenyx Rising - 4k, 1440p, 1080p benchmarks on 3080 [Gaming Trend]

One thing you can’t argue is that Fenyx Rising has fantastic voice work. Every actor in the game delivers their lines with conviction, with Ares being my standout favorite. It’s also great to hear Elias Toufexis (he played Adam Jensen in Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Leonidias and Nikolaus in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, just to name a few from his expansive works) as Prometheus. Similarly, the audio design is top shelf, with some great screeches from monsters, and beautiful atmospheric songs to brace it all. I also particularly enjoyed all the different “voices” your bird Phosphos can make based on the skin you’ve selected for him.

I came away from Immortals: Fenyx Rising with an unfamiliar feeling — the desire to jump back in with New Game+ to finish off the Vaults where I might have missed a box. These platforming puzzles, logic brain teasers, or tough boss fights didn’t wear out their welcome after more than 40 hours, and I’m looking forward to forgetting them all so I can do it all over again. Bravo to the team at Ubisoft for taking a chance — Immortals Fenyx Rising is simply amazing and a wonderful surprise this holiday season.

90

Excellent

Immortals: Fenyx Rising

Review Guidelines

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is an excellent new adventure title for Ubisoft, full to bursting with genuine comedy, excellent gameplay, and devious puzzles. While there are a few technical hiccups, underutilized DualSense, and sub-30 fps Switch ports, the game is fantastic on all platforms. Come for the bizarre Greek mythology, stay for the stellar gameplay -- Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a fantastic holiday treat.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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