Hands-on: Immortals Fenyx Rising is a well-honed combination of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Immortals Fenyx Rising, the Ubisoft game formally known as Gods & Monsters, feels in many ways like a love letter to Nintendo’s own Legend of Zelda franchise. Building off the positive reception of the Ancient Greece-themed Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Fenyx Rising takes the patented open-world formula which Ubisoft has honed over countless games (Assassin’s Creed and otherwise) and fuses it with a uniquely vibrant take on Ancient Greek Mythology.
During a recent hands-on demo session, I got to play two hours worth of Immortal Fenyx Rising and I found it to be a charmingly approachable and, at times, surprisingly challenging adventure/combat experience. There are admittedly a few rough spots to be sanded out, but even the unfinished and trimmed down build I played already felt like an experience that was crafted with care. Fenyx Rising distinguishes itself from the crowd by dropping players into a world that’s equally inviting and dangerous, and which cuts out a lot of the usual open-world baggage previous Ubisoft games have been saddled with.
Forging a Legend
The “Fenyx” in the game’s title refers to its titular protagonist, a bold female warrior who comes off as equal parts stoic, wide-eyed, and just a little mischievous. From what I could gather of the demo build’s in-game narration (provided by comic relief versions of Zeus and Prometheus who bicker and verbally spar like an old married couple), Fenyx is mortal, though she’s also clearly quite skilled.
Virtually all of the various weapons and tools at Fenyx’s disposal are directly attached to some mythological figure or another. She wields the Bow of Odysseus, the Sword of Achilles, the Bracers of Hercules, and the Axe of Atalanta. She can also unleash powerful special attacks themed around specific Greek gods such as Hephaestus, Ares, Athena, and Apollo. This diverse arsenal is essential since Fenyx must battle an array of different creatures and other foes like Cyclops, Minotaurs, Gorgons, Cerberus hounds, clockwork automatons, and more.
When exploring the world, Fenyx has two main options for conveyance. She can summon a trusty mount (and can even tame additional mounts if her current ride isn’t to the player’s liking), or she can take flight with what is perhaps her most distinct tool: the Wings of Daidalos (a respelling of Daedalus). Using the Wings, Fenyx can cover great distances by gliding from a high point, perform aerial dodges in mid-air, and even utilize a double-jump to reach otherwise inaccessible high points.
Leaning more into the Zelda-esque adventure game model, Immortals Fenyx Rising also includes stamina-based climbing, swimming, and underwater exploration systems. The climbing is a bit more versatile than in a typical Assassin’s Creed game. As long as she has the requisite stamina, Fenyx can climb virtually any vertical surface, allowing players to channel their inner free-climber.
Stamina is also drained while gliding with the Wings of Daidalos or performing special attacks in combat, but it can be recovered by chugging one of the four different potion types available to the player with the push of a button. To aid them in their exploration and combat efforts, players can craft health potions, stamina potions, defense potions, and attack potions. These potions are crafted using specific ingredients gathered out in the world, and in a pinch, those ingredients can be consumed in lieu of potions for a less potent version of their associated benefit.
While I didn’t get to try it out that much for myself during the hands-on demo, a pre-demo video presentation also showed how Fenyx can obtain new armor and weapon variants which both grant unique gameplay bonuses and diversify her cosmetic customization options. Fenyx’s basic combat and navigation repertoire may be the same for all players, but Ubisoft is making sure that players will also have a diverse range of armor and weapon cosmetics to choose from.
Gods Walk the Earth
The full Immortals Fenyx Rising game will be made up of several different regions, each themed after a different god or other mythological figures like Aphrodite or Daedalus. For the hands-on demo, though, I was dropped into Hephaestus’s Forgelands, an amber-hued realm filled with clockwork machines and crumbling ruins.
According to the video’s narration, the game’s central antagonist is Typhon, one of the Titans whom Zeus imprisoned in the dark underworld of Tartarus. Typhon has apparently broken free of his shackles, and now he seeks vengeance on the Olympian Gods who imprisoned him. As Fenyx, players must master the various challenges of each region and ultimately recruit the gods to fight back against Typhon and his minions.
The hands-on demo was just a small part of that much larger narrative picture. As part of the demo, I got to roam around the Forgelands and solve a variety of environmental puzzles. I also got to work through several main story quests that involved re-igniting Hephaestus’s forges and battling against a large clockwork boss enemy at the end. The main story quests helped me get acquainted with Fenyx Rising’s unique combat and navigations components, but they were far from the only thing on offer during the demo’s total runtime.
I also got to try my hand at several different ‘Vaults of Tartarus,’ instanced challenges which are accessed from specific points in the larger overworld. Each Vault of Tartarus encompasses a sort of linear gauntlet of combat and navigation-based puzzles, and each vault also has a distinct theme tying it all together. For example, one vault was a massive arena-style combat challenge while another had me playing a giant version of pinball using flaming balls of pitch and flammable crates.
I was initially impressed by Fenyx’s Rising’s tense yet approachable combat which felt very similar to the melee engagement in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but the game really won me over with its unique puzzle designs. By merely going out and exploring the world you’re bound to stumble across a small challenge or puzzle that leads to a treasure chest full of gear. Whether you’re navigating deadly laser beams using large crates, guiding an arrow through a series of rings, or memorizing musical patterns of harp notes, the diversity of the game’s puzzles is matched only by the satisfaction of successfully solving them.
I certainly enjoyed my time with Immortals Fenyx Rising for the most part, but I also noticed a few potential hiccups which, if left unchecked, might tarnish the final product. Some of the puzzles, while innovative, felt just a hair too difficult and obtuse in their presentation, making me wish for even a basic hint/waypoint system of some sort for when I got stuck.
I was also a little put off by the banter between Prometheus and Zeus. Overall their dialogue has excellent comedic timing, and it certainly got a laugh out of me more than once. However, said dialogue also attempts to make light of specific themes and moments from Greek Mythology such as Zeus’s rampant infidelity or, the more obvious one, how he keeps Prometheus chained up to a rock.
My worry is that Ubisoft’s attempts to poke fun at Greek Mythology’s more problematic elements through self-referencing humor might clash too much with Fenyx Rising’s kid-friendly motif. Ubisoft also doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to gender discrimination and representation both within its games and without, so maybe joking about cheating husbands isn’t the way to go.
I get that this is likely just Ubisoft’s way of gently bridging the gap between pop culture depictions of Greek Mythology and the more mature nature of the actual tales, and part of me wants to give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt. That being said, it didn’t make hearing Zeus and Prometheus joke about how one has permanently imprisoned the other against his will any less troubling.
Minor problems with comedic subject matter aside, I still enjoyed my time playing Immortals Fenyx Rising, and I’m confident the game will be a huge hit with Assassin’s Creed fans and Zelda fans alike. I’m still not sure how well it will work as a game marketed towards a younger audience, but if it can properly (and respectively) convey the wonders of Greek Mythology to the millennial generation, I can’t begrudge Ubisoft for making the attempt.