Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X / S, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Stadia
Immortals Fenyx Rising was a mistake. Literally – the idea for game originated after developers Ubisoft Montreal, then working on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, noticed a bug that placed cyclopes instead of humans on the player’s crew. Its roots show in the finished product – but this is an assassin of a different creed.
The most immediate difference is the art style, with gritty realism replaced by an animated approach to character design and a world that bursts with colour and imagination. This is Ubisoft’s chance to embrace the more fantastic side of Greek mythology, and it does so with gusto, delivering a world rich in fantasy. It’s all far more light-hearted than another murderous traipse through history too – the events are humorously narrated by Prometheus and Zeus (while Prometheus is still chained to a rock with eagles eating his liver, for the mythology geeks in the room) and with more than the occasional moment of fourth-wall breaking. We’re pretty sure there’s even a subtle RuPaul’s Drag Race reference in there, too.
Players embody Fenyx, survivor of a ship-wreck drawn into a battle against Typhon, a great beast warring with the Olympian pantheon. Although Fenyx can be customised as male or female, the cover art and default build is female – as close as Ubisoft seems to want to get to a definitive female lead of late. Unlike the assassins and templars who have populated the source series, Fenyx doesn’t just have natural skill and a hidden blade to rely on though – instead, she rapidly acquires the armaments and blessings of the Greek gods. Odysseus’ Bow allows you to fire magically guided arrows, Herakles’ bracers let you pick up and throw massive objects, and, most importantly, Ikaros’ wings enable you to boost-jump and glide around the world. These are bolstered by your core weapons of Atalanta’s axe and Achilles’ sword, plus a host of god powers gifting you fun ways to unleash them on enemies.
It makes for an experience that’s more combat-oriented and faster paced than its inspiration, and while traces of Assassin’s Creed’s mechanics remain, such as the ability to sneak up on enemies, this is more to deliver massively powerful sneak attacks, rather than stealthily navigating encampments to take out foes. Battles take on a sort of rhythm of heavy, light, and aerial attacks as you dodge animals, monsters, or soldiers corrupted by Typhon, building up their stagger gauge in order to unleash more powerful attacks. Even regular encounters require a bit of thought, which makes each fight satisfying.
Fenyx Rising is yet another open-world game from Ubisoft, but it pleasantly feels a lot more focused.
Out of combat, there’s no getting away from the fact that Fenyx Rising is yet another open-world game from Ubisoft – the developer’s bread and butter – but it pleasantly feels a lot more focused. The main plot ticks along at a good pace, and points you towards core objectives with a bit more emphasis, while still leaving you enough freedom to explore. It’s also nicely cerebral, with a lot of environmental puzzles that aren’t overly signposted, and might require you to notice clues spread a good distance apart – such as firing a guided arrow through a torch to light it, controlling its trajectory through a cave, and out the other side to light a distant torch to unlock a chest.
Where Immortals falls apart slightly is in the Tartarus Vaults, extra-dimensional puzzle spaces where Fenyx will have to put her godly powers to use to acquire an item or complete a challenge. For the most part, these are quite fun to solve, and the main objective will usually be fairly straightforward, but each vault also has a hidden chest to loot. For some, it’s just a matter of reaching it, overcoming some tricky navigation task. However, others seem to rely on random physics playing in your favour, such as having to blow a boulder across a void using wind vents, where it will hopefully land in a particular area to roll into a switch. There’s no skill here, no way to improve if you get it wrong, just minute after minute of activating that vent and praying to the god of in-game physics that the boulder reaches where you need it to.
Similarly, some puzzles in the overground abandon the clever environmental clues and just amount to ‘carry heavy thing here’, which frustrates not for its complexity or randomness, but for the fact that Fenyx herself moves like a snail when moving heavy objects. These puzzles do little but drag the game into frustration territory.
Ultimately, Fenyx Rising is essentially a less po-faced Assassin’s Creed, free to actively abandon the stealth that the main franchise is increasingly uninterested in itself – see the recent Valhalla, for instance – and to embrace fun, colour, and over-the-top encounters with gods and monsters. A strong new property for Ubisoft.