Gods and Mons.. oops I mean Immortals Fenyx Rising, Ubisoft’s 3rd open-world game to be released within a span of 40 days had a lot riding on its shoulders. The extremely weird name change aside (apparently due to a lawsuit from Monster Energy) ever since its first gameplay reveal Fenyx Rising had been compared a lot to Breath of the Wild to the point where it came off as a straight-up clone and another example of Ubisoft being lazy and copying things instead of coming up with something unique for a new IP.
Before getting into this review, I would like to provide a disclaimer that I have not played Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. I have seen a lot of its gameplay however, to be able to successfully draw some comparisons between Breath of the Wild and Immortals Fenyx Rising. I have also spent a considerable amount of time playing Genshin Impact, another Breath of the Wild clone to be able to speak about this genre and style of open-world games.
From the very start Immortals Fenyx Rising is presented as an epic fantasy tale set in Greek mythology of a soldier, which happens to be your character, aptly named Fenyx, embarking on a quest to save their fellow soldiers from Typhon the Titan who has turned everyone to stone. You shipwreck on the Golden Isles, home of the Greek pantheon of gods, and find it to be ravaged by Typhon’s forces and the gods nowhere in sight to help.
Like every hero in the making, you take it upon yourself to liberate the Golden Isles from Typhon’s corruption, find and help the gods so they can, in turn, help you defeat Typhon and fix the stone curse that has taken over your fellow soldiers. On the way you are “aided” by Hermes to help you free four other gods; Ares, Athena, Aphrodite and Hephaistos, from their misfortune at the hands of Typhon.
It is a pretty standard “hero rising” story and presented in classic Ubisoft open-world fashion. Each region of the map represents a specific god and helping the god of that region sort of liberates that area. Your main objective is to return each of the gods to their original power for the fight against Typhon the Titan. The story won’t woo anyone as it isn’t something we haven’t seen numerous times before in different tales of Greek mythology such as Blood of Zeus, War/Clash of Titans, where mortals rise up to rescue the gods to show that humanity is capable of a lot of good.
However, just because it isn’t a new tale might also be one of the strongest points of the narrative for Immortals Fenyx Rising for a lot of people. Judging by the art style and trailers released pre-launch, people probably would have guessed already that this is a light-hearted game and that is very true. The entire game is presented as a story narration from Prometheus to Zeus about the legend of Fenyx and if you know your mythology you know that those two aren’t really the best of friends. The strongest thing about Fenyx Rising is that the game never takes itself too seriously (something that Watch Dogs Legion is guilty of especially after the light-hearted narrative of Watch Dogs 2).
Immortals Fenyx Rising is essentially a Borderlands game with a Greek mythology setting, but has all the similar trappings like crazy characters, juvenile jokes and a fun almost fourth-wall-breaking style approach to the main narrative. Throughout the game’s journey, you can hear the background narrators Zeus and Prometheus bickering over numerous things and making fun of child-like behavior of the gods, human’s dreams of grandeur and fantasies and numerous other things that will surely make you smile or chuckle if you are in the mood for some light-hearted storytelling. Who would have known that violets are a shade of blue because the flowers hold their breath waiting for Prometheus to end one of his long-winded stories.
The lighter tone of Immortals: Fenyx Rising however doesn’t mean the story is just silly jokes. It still goes serious where it needs to and presents some interesting messages and debates about self-acceptance, pride, duty, family and more. Some questionable voice acting from a few of the characters aside, the narrative side of Immortals Fenyx Rising is definitely worth getting into for a bit of a fun time-pass to relax from a long day and have a nice laugh.
Just like Hyrule from Breath of the Wild and Teyvat from Genshin Impact, the Golden Isles are filled with enemy encounters, loot chests, puzzles to solve and collectibles to find to strengthen Fenyx for their fight against Typhon. The game offers little in terms of side quests, mainly relying on players to explore every nook and cranny of the map for resources to upgrade their abilities and gear while also finding new ones to alter their playstyle.
You will also adventure through various Rifts or Vaults of Tartaros. These are basically Immortals’ version of dungeons and require players to solve puzzles to get to the end and claim their reward. Similar to the heart pieces from Zelda BotW, these Rifts or Vaults contain Zeus Lightning which is required to upgrade Fenyx’s stamina, the most precious resource in and out of combat.
The world itself is fairly diverse in its appearance with each region being themed around a different god. It is also quite beautiful to look at with a vibrant and detailed color pallette and visual design. Aphrodite the goddess of Love and Beauty ruled over a lush green region with plenty of wildlife whereas Ares’ region, themed around his god of war persona is a huge battlefield with death and destruction from countless battles in the past visible everywhere.
In your journey to aid each god, you will explore these lands, find new gear to shape your playstyle, farm for resources to craft potions, upgrade abilities, gear and your character. Every time you help one of the gods, they will provide you with a blessing, up to 3 from each god. These blessings act as passive bonuses to further enhance Fenyx in combat.
However, despite all regions being diverse in their appearance, they offer little variety when it comes to side content such as puzzles or even the enemy encounters. This brings us to probably the worst part of Immortals Fenyx Rising; the open-world gameplay and combat.
As mentioned before, players have to journey through Rifts or Vaults as part of the story and those offer some interesting and elaborate puzzles to solve. Sometimes those puzzles can be a bit too elaborate and take quite a while but thankfully, you have the option to leave the area at any checkpoint and return later to resume your progress. These puzzles can be quite fun and creative and never overly difficult so that all skill level players can take part in them.
However, when it comes to the optional Vaults of Tartaros, the game does stumble a bit. These are simple puzzle and platforming sections, often with a few enemies in them to deal with. Unfortunately, because of their simplicity and similar mechanics, these optional Vaults become a chore and come off as yet another one of the “checklist” activities Ubisoft is infamous for.
As the name implies, these vaults are optional but not really given how the game’s traversal and combat system revolves around Stamina. Completing these Rifts or Vaults is the only way to get your hands on Zeus’ Lightning which is the resource needed to upgrade your stamina bar to allow you to climb, sprint, glide or use abilities in and out of combat. Considering how necessary stamina is for every activity and just like Genshin Impact and Breath of the Wild, Immortals Fenyx Rising for some reason decides to give our characters such limited stamina that any actual soldier or hero would be ashamed of it.
This combined with farming crystal resources for other equipment upgrades ends up being an extremely menial and frustrating grinding task which comes off as only being shoved in the game to pad its length. This frustrating grindy system is something Ubisoft has been suffering with quite sometime with its open world approach to games and Immortals Fenyx Rising is no different.
To make matters worse, the only worthwhile sources of these resources are the aforementioned vaults or chests littered around the world which brings us back to the “checklist” gameplay style of Immortals Fenyx Rising. You are forced to go for these chests to upgrade your character and not because you want to as there is little else on offer besides defeating a few enemies or solving a puzzle only to get about 100 gems from a chest. Now 100 gems might seem like a huge number but when you look at the upgrade costs of your gear and how after just 1-2 upgrades, the cost goes up to 1000s you will realize that for the bulk of the game you are basically just farming for resources instead of perhaps collectibles to flesh out the world lore a bit more.
That resource farm mentioned previously itself would be ok if it made any significant progress to your gear. Unfortunately, the combat also falls quite short and ends up being little more than just button mashing without any meaningful combos or tactics to deal with. Since the game lacks severe variety in enemy design, you don’t do much besides smash your light attack button while spamming the dodge key thanks to poorly telegraphed animations from a number of enemies.
Speaking of combat, whoever designed the abilities system and the overall UI/UX clearly had a mobile game in mind instead of something releasing for PC or consoles. If you have played Dragon Age games with controllers you would be familiar with how you need to hold the trigger buttons to swap to different skills. Thankfully you at least still have 4 skills available on your main keys. That unfortunately is not the case with Fenyx Rising. You only have four skills to use in combat and even those require you to press and hold the trigger button to bring up the Abilities Widget and then press the corresponding key.
One would assume that at least the PC version lets you rebind keys to directly use those abilities but unfortunately it is the same case there. You have to first press and hold a key and then you can use an ability instead of directly binding an ability key to the numerous buttons on your keyboard.
This combined with the button-mashing style of combat makes the entire combat experience extremely frustrating especially on higher difficulties. The spongy nature of enemies with the frustrations of the combat make it quite a bit of a slog to the point where I found myself choosing to avoid combat encounters if I noticed a large number of enemies in an area.
While the combat does get a bit better and bearable as you unlock more upgrades and abilities, it never quite reaches the satisfaction and fluidity of what I had gotten used to in combat from Genshin Impact. Mixing and matching abilities and movement to produce some unique results in long fights isn’t a thing here because of the system’s reliance on the Stamina bar instead of individual cooldowns for each ability.
This also leads to a bit of a broken aspect of the abilities system as you can basically end up spamming some abilities not because they are overpowered but simply because it is better to use them to deal damage rather than deal it with your attacks considering how weak they are and risk getting hit by a random swipe from a minotaur that you didn’t see coming because of lack of a proper visual cue or weirdly placed hitboxes.
Priced at $60 for the base game, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a hard sell especially when it delivers so little to standout from the typical Ubisoft formula or other games like Zelda Breath of the Wild and Genshin Impact and the changes it does make aren’t necessarily for the better. A fun narrative aspect and creative, albeit somewhat long and slightly repetitive puzzles don’t make up for the overall emptiness of of the game world and average combat and enemy design.
Sure the Season Pass of the game does promise unique new gameplay changes and the Chinese pantheon of gods but right now it is all just a promise and the season pass priced at $40 might even infuriate people even more than the game price itself. Perhaps the best time to give Immortals Fenyx Rising a try would be on a sale once the DLC content has been released so the game world offers a lot more value and content for the price instead of padding it with resource grind.