Assassins of The Wild
When juxtaposed with former titles from the same company, Ubisoft’s Immortals: Fenyx Rising feels like a solid change of direction in the best of ways. The game does not hesitate to deviate from the norm set by Ubisoft’s previous games. Instead, it throws you into a brand-new open world that stresses upon and rewards player discovery and exploration. The world itself has great scope and scale, and it feels as if every nook and cranny is littered with vibrant and entertaining surprises waiting to be discovered. The game tends not to take itself too seriously, but rather has a light, comedic touch to it. This works wonders and almost makes you feel like you are playing a fantasy picture book brought to life. There is a surprising amount of diversity and a feeling of vastness everywhere, from the locales throughout the game, to the flora and fauna. In a way, this game felt like playing a love letter to 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as Ubisoft cleverly incorporated their own traditional open world formula into the mix that gave this game its own unique charm.
Taking place in Greek mythology, Immortals starts off with Typhon, a monstrous demon, trapping all the Gods and turning every human to stone. That is, every human except the protagonist, Fenyx, whom is a lowly shield-bearer. The entire game is given form as a story being told by Prometheus (voiced by Elias Toufexis) to Zeus. The story is fairly light-hearted, and the dynamic of Prometheus and Zeus is impeccable. It is always a delight to listen to the constant playful interruptions while you are discovering new things. The goal here is simple: Take your time exploring and free the Gods one by one. The simplicity and the immersive world work in harmony to keep you engaged for hours.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising looks absolutely breathtaking in every sense of the word. It feels fascinating to roam around in a world abundant with Greek mythology brought to life with such a stunning level of detail. Every single area is different than the last and I could not help but stare in awe as Fenyx traversed the deserted ruins early-on in the game and eventually entered lush, green fields that bring about a sense of comfort. If not for the insatiable bloodlust of the hungry monsters out to kill you, I would have sat down and just enjoyed the atmosphere of these locales.
This is all coupled with a charming low-polygon aesthetic which makes the game not only stand out amongst a lot of next-gen AAA titles out there, but also just makes the game look really visually pleasant. Whilst photo-realistic visuals have their own place in the gaming medium, this art style has its own appeal as well. This aesthetic is being implemented in several games nowadays, notably being used in games like the new Genshin Impact, other anime-inspired action games like Code Vein and last year’s Astral Chain, and for good reason too. Sacrificing bizarre and hyper-detailed photo-realism for the sake of sticking to a unique and consistent style not only helps the game age well with the constant evolution of graphics inevitable with the rise of next-gen hardware, but also has it make use of significantly lesser resources than it typically would.
Although there are still some areas that make you feel like you have reverted to Ubisoft’s older engine, Immortals does a decent job of holding its own and contrasting itself from those older games. I also think it is a nice touch that the amount of the characters you interact with is noticeably lesser than other open world games. Doing so assures that quality and the level of detail is not being compromised when you do interact with said characters. The art or animation does not look peculiar and off-putting then. Most of the characters you interact with are the Gods, who all have their unique designs, from the God of wealth and profit, Hermes, to the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, to the all-powerful God of Lightning, Zeus and even the demonic Typhon. Every single one of them looks unique and has a defined sense of intricacy to their design. The animated aesthetic makes them get away with having more simplistic facial animations, although that’s not really bad and works in the game’s favor.
The gameplay of Immortal Fenyx Rising is divided into three core states. Most of your playtime will be centered around these three fundamental elements: exploration, combat, and puzzles. The game skillfully makes it so that these three states are intertwined and in turn, enhance each other’s impact by co-existing in an almost harmonic state.
- Exploration, Puzzles and Traversal:
Exploration is the largest factor contributing to the core gameplay and it is through exploration that you integrate yourself in the other two factors. One of the most pleasant highlights of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is simply how fun it is to run around and explore this engrossing vast world. The sheer satisfaction you get even at the slightest of discoveries is what makes the game a truly engaging and addictive experience.
Every discovery is rewarded in one way or another: a flashy new piece of armor to spice up your wardrobe, or perhaps a better weapon to bash the enemies’ heads in with, or maybe even a new upgrade, or the currencies to upgrade any of your various abilities. Moreover, you can unlock a new Breath of The Wild-like mini-dungeon every now and then, where you have to solve a gauntlet of puzzles. Your brave efforts are rewarded with a permanent upgrade in the end.
Furthermore, there are various small minigame-like puzzles one can enjoy including playing a magical lute, doing a sprint marathon on a timer while dodging all the obstacles thrown at you, and other great ones that I won’t spoil. The puzzles were overall very good, and I enjoyed having to actually think up the solutions to solve them and the rewards gained were always worth it.
In fact, doing anything in Immortals feels worthwhile, and it is made more impactful by the game’s simple, yet compelling loot system. While it may not be as deep as a lot of other loot-focused games out there, it feels impactful enough to the point where you are usually motivated to explore for new loot and equipment.
Another aspect that makes the exploration in this game indefinitely more enjoyable is the traversal. The controls feel very responsive and all the animations feel very fast and well-executed. The fact that the game lets you climb every single object in the world feels great and gives the word a very unique and fascinating layer of verticality.
There are times when this mechanic feels awkward as the game gets confused between what object you actually want to climb. However, it is still a very neat touch. This also serves as an actual part of the gameplay due to the stamina bar and how the player has to find various safe spots to stand on and recover stamina before continuing their trek up a large monument. Not to mention, the sheer satisfaction one feels after managing to complete a long climb up a tall tower or hill and witnessing the infinite expanse laid out before them is absolute bliss.
The combat in Immortals, while having largely the same base as the recent Assassin’s Creed games, is still decent. However, it is still not without its faults. It makes some changes of its own to differentiate itself from the AC games, considering the more “grounded” setting of those games and managing to not be nearly as spammy.
It is faster and the attacks tend to feel much snappier in comparison. This is largely assisted by the fact that you can cancel out of almost any attack animation during combat using a quick dodge. This gives Immortals’ gameplay a fresh pace since the game’s combat is more about weaving in and out of melee range between attacks rather than abusing the poor attack button.
Another thing that makes its return from Assassins Creed: Odyssey is a Witch Time-esque mechanic which grants the player a small window of invulnerability and slow motion to quickly rush in and land a few hits once they pull off a perfectly timed dodge. There is also a parry move that lets one counter various enemy attacks and it is usually very satisfying. Another plus point to this is that it heavily encourages the player to learn and master enemy patterns.
Enemies also have a stun gauge that you build up with a consistent amount of damage after which the enemy gets… well, stunned. Your attacks in that state tend to do a lot more damage.
You also have two types of basic attacks. Firstly, the light attacks, which the player does using their sword. These are quick attacks that do not do a lot of damage and do not bring about any significant buildup in the stun gauge. These light attacks are also unable to bypass shields.
Secondly, there are the slow, heavy attacks which the player performs with the axe. These do colossal damage to multiple enemies at once due to the axe’s wide swing arc. This also cuts through shields like butter and builds up the stun gauge a lot faster.
The players are also equipped with a bow that can be used for long-ranged combat, or even for solving a number of puzzles in the game. The players can target various enemy weak points while using the bow that do massive damage and significantly build up the stun gauge of larger enemies.
The combat also has a very sandbox feel to it. Especially how it lets the player use the environment around them as a playing field to win a fight. No fight is ever just a bland comparison of power. You can use your bracers to lift heavier objects during combat after distancing yourself from the enemy and throw it at them for a significant amount of damage. The enemies themselves encourage the player to use all of the mechanics at their disposal (what good sports, or maybe just masochists) as some of them can deal a huge chunk of damage while the player is busy being overtly aggressive. Therefore, a strong need to make use of everything in your toolkit is felt when faced with a tough enemy.
This is also coupled with some splendid feedback. While the hits in general feel good enough, they are nothing compared to the pure state of ecstasy the player is exposed to as they witness a formidable foe being shot up in the sky
While all this is truly fine and makes the combat seem quite fun, it does oversell it a bit. The combat in this game is certainly not perfect and does have its drawbacks: one of them being the lack of depth. The moment-to-moment combat, despite an apparent plethora of options, starts to feel stale and shallow.
It all feels largely basic, particularly so for the first few hours. Another one of my major qualms with the game is the camera, which just feels really awkward and unoptimized during combat. This will surely serve as a hindrance as you sometimes fail to see an incoming attack simply because of the dense amount of geometry getting in the way. It is truly an inconvenience.
The player is bound to enjoy it if they don’t consider the game’s combat to be the main draw, but if they go in hoping for something along the lines of, or on par with, games like the recent Final Fantasy 7 Remake, or fantastic action games like Devil May Cry 5 or Bayonetta, they are going to be sorely disappointed with Immortals’ rather shallow nature.
Another aspect that really brought life to this colorful world was the audio design. The humming of birds, the swaying of the trees and grass, and the natural-sounding gusts of wind all play their respective parts in making the player experience a sense of comforting solitude as they go about exploring their own way.
There is also the music and although it does not particularly stand out, it still adds to the sense of atmosphere and wonder to the world. In this case, it is in fact, the subtle nature of the soundtracks that allow you to stay engaged in this rich world.
Despite what is aforementioned, I do think that the feedback to landing your hits in combat feels somewhat lackluster and does not impact the scene as much as it ought to. This is particularly worse for the bow attacks. Sometimes, it felt as if the arrows just bounced off with force that is next to nonexistent.
Compared to the satisfying loud boom one hears when landing a finishing blow onto an enemy, the rest of the attacks sounded bland and anti-climactic.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a light-hearted tale set in Greek Mythology where you play as the lowly soldier, Fenyx, who slowly develops into a full-blown hero. You are burdened with the task of having to save the world from an evil demonic entity known by the name of Typhon and for that very purpose, Fenyx seeks out the assistance of the other Gods, whom he frees through the entirety of the game’s story.
The entire game is narrated by Prometheus as he tells the player’s story to Zeus, which accounts for a lot of the banter heard throughout the game. Although sufficiently enjoyable, I can definitely see that being irksome for quite a few players as the story is riddled with such banter. It is a simple setup done well that starts off a bit slow and eases the player into the fundamentals for about an hour or two before letting them step out into the bigger world, exploring and fighting to their heart’s content as they do so.
The easy-going and cheery nature of the story is a new look for Ubisoft, considering how their renowned Assassin’s Creed series is known to have underlying gritty elements and several twists and turns. This is a game that mostly wants you to explore without story heavy cutscenes getting in the way. So, the people that go in expecting a game that sates their need for a memorable and gripping story might be disappointed. On the contrary, players that wish to enjoy the gameplay and the beautiful world in peace will have a smooth time, as the game usually avoids interruptions after the initial tutorial hour.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising uses a low-polygon art-style, as aforementioned. This is a style that heavily cuts back on resource usage while still making the game look really stylized despite an overall lack of detail, so it comes off as pretty bizarre that the game runs as poorly as it does, especially on the PC.
Ubisoft games have never run well on PC to begin with, but Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a particularly bad case. It is downright embarrassing that such a huge game from such a huge publisher runs this badly and is this unstable.
The game is littered with back to back crashes, absurdly long boot up times, (the game would freeze in the menu from about 5 up to 10 minutes before actually loading up) ludicrously high amount of CPU and GPU usage and in my case, both of them being on 100% during the time I spent with the game.
I played it on a 6 GB GTX 1060 with a Core-i5 9400f and I could barely get 40, let alone 60 FPS on normal or even low settings. I tested out various other games to make sure it wasn’t an issue with my PC alone and everything ran perfectly except this particular game. Its baffling that it runs as poorly as it does, and I sincerely hope that at least some of this is fixed with the game’s promised Day One patch.
Immortals Fenyx: Rising is a solid open world action-adventure game that does not forget its place. This is paired with a fun story and some exciting combat that keeps one entertained throughout its runtime.
However, I would not say that it is, in any way, shape, or form, a spiritual successor to 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, mainly because while it does use its formula, it does not manage to make any significant improvements to said formula.
It has a solid core gameplay loop, beautiful visuals, a nice story, fun combat but when so much of the game makes you feel like you are playing a completely different game, you are often left wondering what is even the point, if not just to cash in on a popular concept and butcher it.
It lacks a lot of the aspects that makes Breath of The Wild such a special game; particularly its serene, beautiful feeling of solitude and an open world which reacts to almost every single action you do, from setting fire to grass, causing an updraft for you to fly over, to having your thunder arrows be turned into literal mini-nukes if you use them during the rain. While I generally had a good time playing Fenyx Rising, I was often left wondering if I could have just been playing Breath of The Wild instead, and having a largely similar, if not better experience.
In which case I think this game manages to succeed in its own way, offering a different blend of the same product while mixing in aspects of their own Assassins Creed franchise, to the point where I think some might have a different preference over what they would like to play more, and it is in that freedom of choice where the true joy of gaming lies.