It’s All Greek to Me
I went into Immortals: Fenyx Rising knowing the Ubisoft open-world games only by their reputation. The likes of Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs and Far Cry all represent gaps in my otherwise extensive gaming knowledge, and this dive into a bright and breezy imagining of ancient Greece is my first contact with Ubisoft’s house-style. It’s an outlier; a title that risked a visual style that doesn’t tick all the triple-A action game boxes. You could almost call it unique, but Nintendo would have something to say about that – there’s a certain breath of the wild about it that cannot be denied.
Before we get into all that, though, the first thing to note about Immortals: Fenyx Rising is how pretty it is. The art style is bright and abundant, with attractive, expressive characters, spectacular sky-boxes and lush vegetation. The content is similarly bright and breezy for the most part. Far from a stuffy retelling of the classics, Immortals treats Greek mythology like a Saturday morning cartoon, albeit a surprisingly accurate one. It’s far more rooted in the actual subject matter than Disney’s Hercules, for example, and even uses the less-popular Greek spellings of familiar names like Hephiastos and Herakles.
Many of the jokes rely on the player having a decent knowledge of the subject matter. If, like me, your knowledge of Greek mythology is somewhat limited, you may find that some of the quips go over your head. I remember enough to know that things can get messed up, though. Immortals leans into this in a humorous way, slyly referencing the murder, cannibalism and incest while keeping things family friendly, on the surface at least. Almost every scene is treated with a tongue-in-cheek approach, and the pantheon rarely receives the dignity it deserves. War god Ares, for example, is initially found in the body of a chicken, with all of his gusto and confidence drained away. He also has a bit of a thing for Aphrodite, but then, don’t we all.
The world of Immortals is beautiful, but artificial. Landmasses poke out of the sea at odd heights, suspended on sheer cliffs whose only purpose is to hinder exploration until the player earns stamina upgrades. Plateaus jut haphazardly, inhabited by token packs of boars or bears, vast temple complexes are built across areas where no regular human could easily reach them. Villages and ruins are situated and laid out in a way that serves the purpose of the nearby puzzle, but gives no indication of a living, breathing world. Immortals eschews any concept of world-building and immersion in favour of a game map that serves the gameplay only.
Said gameplay consists of exploration, combat and puzzle-solving. The exploration is satisfying, but would be more rewarding if the world was more alive. The combat is swift but fairly standard. Elite enemies can give players a hard time early on, but things get easier as more moves and abilities are earned. The puzzle-solving comes in a few different flavours, ranging from sliding fresco puzzles to lighting torches in the correct order to open a door. The world is dotted with Gates of Tartaros, portals to ruined structures suspended in an interstellar void. These areas contain some of the game’s most devious puzzles, and it’s most valuable treasures.
The Gates of Tartaros bear a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s shrines. Spread out across the map, containing challenges or arena battles, and walls that our hero can’t climb. They’re not the only similarity to Link’s most expansive adventure, either. Immortals’ player character Fenyx (customised by the player with a limited character creator), has many of the same skills and equipment as Link, or at least close equivalents. Expect to glide around the map once a certain item is acquired, shoot arrows, and lift heavy blocks using an ability not dissimilar to telekinesis. Luckily, though, Fenyx’s weapons don’t break.
It’s derivative of Breath of the Wild (and probably Ubisoft’s other games, I really wouldn’t know), the Gates of Tartaros challenges can slide into the frustratingly fiddly, and the world doesn’t quite feel authentic, but this is a fun and exceptionally nice-looking game. The act of traversing the world is satisfying, the voice acting is on point, and the dialogue should raise a few smirks (though not every gag is a home run). Immortals: Fenyx Rising’s myth probably won’t live on through the ages, and it’s no titan of the industry, but it’ll definitely keep you entertained for a week or so. I’d call that heroic, at the very least.
Played on PS4