Immortals: Fenyx Rising was Ubisoft’s first release on the new PS5 and X-box Series X consoles. It’s a colourful, light-hearted action-adventure game – with some platforming and puzzles woven into the mix – set in Ancient Greece. The protagonist, Fenyx (which is pronounced “Fee-nix” by the way, instead of “Fen-ix” which is how it’s spelt *grumble grumble*) must seek the aid of the Ancient Greek Pantheon to save the world from the demons of the Underworld. Narratively, it’s not exactly ground-breaking, but the dialogue is witty, the gameplay is solid and it features some humorous retellings of Greek myths and legends given an edgy, modern twist.
In the end though, it seems Immortals went the same way as a lot of this new generations’ early releases (Cyberpunk, Godfall and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War come to mind). Hype for the new consoles was confused as hype for the games themselves, so when the dust settled and the consoles hit the shelves, people realised that the actual games weren’t quite as innovative and exciting as the shiny new toys they were playing them on.
Immortals certainly didn’t do badly – it got generally favourable reviews and plenty of praise for it’s graphics and dialogue – but the most common criticism of Immortals was that it lacked originality. A lot of players and critics alike felt like some of the core components of Immortals’ gameplay were ripped straight from other games making it feel more like an imitation than something new and unique in it’s own right.
Whilst I can’t disagree that Immortals lacks originality, I do disagree that this makes Immortals: Fenyx Rising a bad game.
Great manoeuvrability makes the world fun to explore
Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Immortals: Fenyx Rising does play very similarly to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when it comes to movement and exploration. Yes, the stamina system is almost identical. And yes, I suppose you could say that Fenyx’s wings are just a rip off of Link’s paraglider.
However, it worked great in Breath of the Wild, and it works great in Immortals too. Just as in Breath of the Wild, Immortals’ Golden Isle is fully accessible and primed for exploration – you can jump, climb, dive and glide your way to reach almost any point on the map. This fuels the player’s sense of adventure much more than being boxed in by invisible barriers and unclimbable cliff-faces. Truly, there is no obstacle that can’t be navigated with a little bit of parkour – words to live by.
As with a lot of games with strong emphasis on manoeuvrability and verticality, the problem isn’t getting Fenyx to grab onto things, the problem is getting her to let go. You stick to every surface like Spiderman which can make navigating enclosed spaces interesting especially if you’re in a rush.
The dialogue is genuinely entertaining
Usually, games set in the ancient era take themselves very seriously, so the fact that Immortals’ script couldn’t take itself less seriously if it tried, is honestly a breath of fresh air. The Pantheon act more like high schoolers than deities – petty, eccentric and arrogant (just like they were in the real Greek myths and legends) – particularly the interactions between Prometheus, the narrator, and Zeus, King of the Gods, that squabble and jibe like two old ladies.
Whilst Immortals’ dialogue is never crass or vulgar, but it’s absolutely full of sarcastic humour, sexual innuendo and edgy references to our modern society that would be jarring, given the game’s mythological setting, if they weren’t so amusing. Historically accurate, no; entertaining and relatable, yes.
There’s light puzzle-solving elements
In a way, Immortals is equal parts puzzle as it is action-adventure. Immortal’s puzzles often conform to the classic puzzle designs we’ve all seen before, such as using weighted blocks on pressure plates or clever manipulation of the physics engine etc – think classic Legend of Zelda dungeons, or the Portal games – but those features are classic for a reason. They’re still lots of fun to play through today.
One thing I did notice was that Immortals is the first game I’ve played that actively equips the player with the means to *ahem* get around (read: cheat) some of it’s puzzles. I choose to believe that this was intentional, as a reward to extra-resourceful players, as it’s better than calling myself a cheater.
In the difficulty of it’s puzzles, Immortals strikes the balance well. They aren’t so easy that you can afford to meader through them on autopilot, but they’re not so hard as to make you want to eat your own hands. I don’t think these puzzles will challenge more experience puzzle-game players, but a lot of people just don’t have the patience for puzzle games so overall I think they made the right call in letting the difficulty err on the easy side.
The usual Ubisoft busy-work
Once again, no Ubisoft game would be complete without hundreds upon hundreds of mini-objectives scattered across the map, with no reason to actually visit these objectives, unless you’re grinding resources, experience or currency.
There are so many chests to loot and myth challenges to complete that finishing them all would be a truly epic endeavour – yet you still feel compelled to complete them all, because otherwise they clutter up the world map and annoy the hell out of you.
Completing Vaults of Tartarus and collecting pieces of ambrosia are slightly different in that they award you health and stamina, and you can never have too much of those, right? Yet the problem remains that Immortals: Fenyx Rising is not a difficult game, so there is little need to become the indestructible badass mega-angel that you would inevitably become should you collect every single upgrade.
The game is unstable on PC
When it comes to issues of performance, I don’t like to speak for anyone but myself… but hot damn, this game is unstable on PC. I did everything I could to stabilise the performance – I updated my drivers, validated the game files, the whole nine yards, but I still rarely went more than an hour without a hard freeze or a crash that forced me to Ctrl-Alt-Del outta there. Other people online reported these issues so I’m fairly certain it’s not just my machine.
I think that Ubisoft knew that the game had these issues with stability as the autosave feature is very generous. It updates each time you complete a mini-objective or fast-travel anywhere which meant I rarely lost more than a couple of minutes of progress after a crash. The autosave function was the only reason I was able to make it through the whole game if I’m honest.
Videogames Make Me Happy concludes…
I am sure it won’t have escaped your attention that, for every feature of Immortals: Fenyx Rising I praised, I praised it in relation to how similar it was to something else: the exploration is good because it’s like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the puzzles are fun because they are like Portal, it features the same busywork that the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises do, etc.
That is to say that, the critics were right. Apart from it’s quirky dialogue and characters, Immortals doesn’t really add anything new to the market that players haven’t seen before. But that doesn’t change the fact that Immortals a fun game, with a whimsical aesthetic and amusing characters. After all, certain styles of gameplay or videogame tropes are popular usually because they are what players seem to find most enjoyable; if you’re a videogame developer trying to craft the best piece of interactive entertainment you can, why wouldn’t you adopt the methods that have been tried and tested, whilst mixing your own flavour into the recipe?
I’ve said it before in my Dragon Quest article, but videogames, like any form of art, do not exist solely to be reviewed and critiqued (though reviewing and critiquing is an important part of the creative process), but rather as instruments for leisure and entertainment; to blow off steam; to have fun. I certainly had fun playing Immortals: Fenyx Rising, and if you liked some of the franchises that Immortals has emulated, there’s no reason to believe you wouldn’t have fun too.