I loved Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Well, for the first twenty hours. Then I realized that most of the locations, side quests, and rewards were practically all lazily copy-pasted with minimal effort. I eventually got so bored I had to quit. When it was revealed that Ubisoft Quebec was working on another open-world Greek-inspired game, this time focusing specifically on mythology, I was intrigued but wary. Specifically, I was worried that we’d have the same mess of copy-pasted elements on display again. Surprisingly, Immortals Fenyx Rising completely dodges this with a compelling narrative, a hand-crafted world filled with unique locations, and excellent gameplay that comes together to make for a delightful adventure.
Immortals Fenyx Rising begins with you choosing the sex of your character along with a small handful of cosmetic options, such as hair, skin color, and faces. The story begins with Zeus, harried from his and the other Greek gods’ defeat at the hands of the freshly-escaped Typhon, as he goes to Prometheus to seek prophetic guidance. Typhon has stolen the essences of Athena, Aphrodite, Ares, and Hephaistos, rendering them inert and putting Zeus’ reign in great jeopardy. But not all hope is lost, as Prometheus shares the tale of a shieldbearer who survived a shipwreck shortly after humanity was turned to stone. This shieldbearer, named Fenyx, is prophesied to free the Golden Isles from Typhon’s grasp.
The entire story features Zeus and Prometheus bantering with one another in the background. They’ve got something to say about a massive amount of the game’s world, puzzles, and lore. There’s a very obvious love for Greek mythology on display in Immortals Fenyx Rising that makes it a treat for anyone who enjoys these classic tales. The game is not only predominantly a comedy, but a genuinely funny one at that. The dialogue and cutscenes are hugely entertaining with sharp writing and terrific voice acting that made me look forward to each plot development. It all builds to a highly satisfying conclusion that made it well worth experiencing.
A fresh(ish) Breath
Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Immortals Fenyx Rising takes a lot of cues from Breath of the Wild. I haven’t played that game, though, so I’m not going to be mentioning it again. The body of the campaign sees Fenyx assisting the four weakened gods with the help of Hermes. These four storylines can be undertaken in any order and mostly don’t last longer than a few hours each. You do a few quest steps and then go into a dungeon to get their essences back. Once all four are completed, it’s on to the endgame. You can’t go straight to the last section at any time, however, as the story requirements are mandatory.
The world in Immortals Fenyx Rising is large, colorful, and full of unique sights and activities. Instead of being a giant swath of bland, repetitive space like Odyssey, everything is arranged more densely. You unlock the actual map section by surveying atop a statue of that region’s relevant god but doing so doesn’t highlight any of the side stuff. Instead, you need to go into first-person, look for prompts, and then reveal each one individually. There’s a wide variety of things to do, with chests, dozens of unique mini-dungeons, puzzles, and challenges to undertake. As all of the people are stone, there’s not much in the way of typical side questing, although Hermes offers you a set collection of tasks that grant some substantial rewards.
There are a handful of regular side quests, but you’ll generally just get one or two of these from a god after completing their main story. There are also some unrelated side quests, plus hidden ones in the field that you’ll only find by stumbling upon them. There’s a hell of a lot to do in Immortals Fenyx Rising, but it doesn’t feel needlessly bloated. If you don’t care about the side activities, I’d wager you could complete the story in twenty hours or less. I finished at about 48 and still had a fair amount of side stuff left to do. Once you beat the game, you can either reload your save from before you went into the final dungeon or start a new game plus, which comes with an additional difficulty level.
Spread your wings
Those side activities naturally wouldn’t be worth much if the gameplay wasn’t up to snuff. Immortals Fenyx Rising is clearly built on Assassin’s Creed‘s gameplay, but amplified to be more like a platformer or character action game. Fenyx can jump, air dash, glide, and use combat abilities to gain additional height and reach. All of the abilities and movement options are tied to a stamina meter that doesn’t deplete from normal dodges or attacks. There’s plenty of climbing involved still, but jumping and gliding are the focus. Interestingly, climbing also uses stamina, so you can’t just ascend the tallest things you see like you could in the AC games. Gliding is a blast, though, especially once you acquire the ability upgrade that allows Fenyx to boost.
Combat will be especially familiar to people that played Odyssey, but it’s more broad here. You still dodge and parry, but there’s a myriad of options. Launchers, air attacks that keep you suspended in place, and wider attack ranges which are suitable for crowd-fighting are just a few of the features. Fenyx fights with a sword, ax, and bow with a magically-regenerating quiver. Those are the only weapons available, but you can obtain many abilities. Furthermore, the action is so fast and flashy that I wasn’t bored even 50 hours in. There are also a lot of different enemy types, such as cerberuses (cerberi?), griffins, gorgons, cyclopses, harpies, demonic soldiers, and more. Ubisoft Quebec stretched the limits of Odyssey a fair amount for Immortals Fenyx Rising, which makes it a decidedly stronger game.
The world is also covered in puzzles and they’re astoundingly unique much of the time. You’ll often be moving blocks onto switches, shooting arrows at torches or targets, and rolling balls around environments, but the game constantly puts new spins on its puzzles. Each of the god dungeons have puzzle themes that come together again in the fifth dungeon and they’re all enjoyable. Even the mini-dungeons have strong, unique puzzles. And that’s without mentioning the constellation challenges, frescos, or various puzzles you’ll find tied to chests and other activities. The amount of effort that went into creating all of the content here is staggering.
A taste of ambrosia
The game does have a few shortcomings, however. The story does feel a bit shorter than it needs to be, with the four god storylines being comparable in length to the arcs in AC Valhalla. I also wish there were additional movement abilities that opened up as the game went on, as Fenyx gets access to most of the important abilities in the first couple of hours. It’s also a bit weird how the side activities are truly the main focus of the game.
Also, having all epic and guarded chests contain a unique piece of loot was a great idea, but the majority of these are palette swaps of armor or weapons you already have, which can make opening chests less rewarding. At least Immortals Fenyx Rising’s focus on customization is killer, as you can put the cosmetics of whatever gear you want on Fenyx without changing the gear you actually have equipped. everything has bonuses that can make substantial differences in your playstyle. Doing away with levels to focus purely on resource-based character upgrades was the right choice as well.
Ubisoft Quebec has accomplished something very impressive with Immortals Fenyx Rising. It’s remarkably enjoyable in most regards and I love that it does away with everything in Odyssey that didn’t work. I love exploring this world and am looking forward to the DLC too. What we’re left with is one of the best open-world games I’ve played in recent years and I will almost certainly end up attempting to 100% it.