I am strolling over verdant hills on a chaotic, lush island — the place is lousy with animals, mythological monsters, and ancient artifacts.
I’m in search of a frail man with golden hair when I hear a frightening growl to my right. Creeping over a nearby ledge, I peer down and see an ancient courtyard, ruined by time. There's a massive minotaur in repose, seemingly praying at an altar that's presenting a locked treasure chest.
I execute a stealth attack on the minotaur, then dance around it, slashing away with my sword. I follow that up by hurling Dumpster-sized chunks of stone, and shooting a few arrows. I wonder if I can beat this thing.
Even though it took me several tries to defeat it, the spoils and the four battles leading to my eventual victory were worth it: A new piece of armor and some cash. Nice.
Much of Immortals Fenyx Rising, Ubisoft’s latest open-world adventure inspired by Greek mythology, plays out just like this. You’ll be working through the main story and notice something enticing. It will take about a half-hour. For me, the 30-minute detour was a welcome difference from games like Skyrim, where such diversions might consume hours.
Immortals streamlines open-world gameplay into a tighter gameplay experience. Like me, you might find it refreshing. While there’s nothing truly innovative here, there’s certainly room for a friendlier and more streamlined alternative to Ubisoft’s overly serious Assassin’s Creed games.
The minotaur battle was an enjoyable digression indicative of what works, and what doesn’t with Immortals Fenyx Rising, a beautiful and totally chill action-adventurer through Greek mythology that won’t ever truly challenge you. But it will make you feel powerful. It’ll even elicit a few chuckles along the way.
Sometimes, that’s all you need from a video game.
A lighthearted Greek adventure
In Immortals Fenyx Rising, you play as Fenyx, a customizable shieldbearer in the Greek army who we see regaling her fellow soldiers with stories of the gods. I played as a blue-skinned woman — who I liked the most; she just looks cool — but the game doesn’t lock you into any gender or appearance. After she’s washed ashore on the Golden Isle following a shipwreck, she learns about Typhon, a demonic-looking Titan who has escaped captivity after eons and turned most of the gods into silly little creatures — Ares becomes a chicken, for example. Typhon wants to destroy everything and remake the world. Your objective is to put Typhon behind bars again.
Immortals Fenyx Rising’s story is entertaining but predictably simple. The godly deliveryman Hermes is the aforementioned frail man with golden hair and Fenyx’s guide. He establishes a base of operations at the Hall of the Gods, and it’s from there that Fenyx must venture to different regions to restore the gods from their states as chickens and trees.
Even though the stakes are apocalyptic, the tone is as lighthearted as any Pixar adventure, with a generous sprinkling of mature humor. The game’s narrators are two bickering gods, Prometheus and Zeus, doing their best impressions of Statler and Waldorf of The Muppets. I’m a big fan of Zeus’ cheeky humor as he jokes about transforming his lovers into animals and heckles Prometheus throughout.
I played on the Xbox Series X where the visual quality is breathtaking, like romping through a painting. For me, comparisons to Disney movies kept leaping out. While I found the animation and textures in the game to be far better than what you might see in the Hercules movie, there is nevertheless a subtle Disneyfied vibe.
I enjoyed my casual exploration of the game and story, but a deeper approach toward this game would invariably expose its cracks. Younger players in particular will delight in exploring every nook and cranny, making Immortals Fenyx Rising a reliable option for a family-friendly holiday gift list.
A litany of inside jokes and Easter eggs await any fan of Greek mythology, and particularly for anyone who’s recently played Hades, there are radically different versions of familiar faces here. Much of the game is spent searching for Aphrodite, Athena, Ares, and Hephaistos. Each has been stripped of their power and transformed into something harmless, but after Fenyx restores them to their former glory, we see the true extent of their dramatic personalities. Comparing the portrayals of gods in Hades and Immortals Fenyx Rising makes for a fun mental exercise, even if the story and characters in Hades are more nuanced, beguiling even.
Combat doesn’t jibe with exploration
Combat is a stylish but dynamic affair, with an array of options and resources that border on baffling. Swapping weapons on the fly is easy, but as the game progresses, even the toughest of enemies become easy to defeat. And yet, defeating some of the biggest bosses become some of the most grueling challenges. Even wins feel mechanically frustrating; unfun and unfair even to the best players. This inconsistency — it doesn't feel like there’s a natural progression of difficulty from boss to boss — makes the play in Immortals Fenyx Rising more like a chore than a treat.
Aerial combat is particularly frustrating. You can’t just expect Fenyx to leap toward an enemy. You have to manually jump very close before auto-targeting comes into effect, which is weird when Fenyx can literally climb on anything. Games like Kingdom Hearts III or Final Fantasy VII Remake handle this mechanic far better.
Exploration in Immortals Fenyx Rising is a delight, thanks to the beautiful environment, but it’s a hollow kind of beauty. Its puzzles — the cognitive reward of any game — are bland. Optional enemies and puzzles are often easy, reinforcing that Immortals Fenyx Rising is great for casual gamers but potentially terrible for completionists, as in the people who aren't satisfied until they've explored 100 percent of the game."
If you love Breath of the Wild but hate the puzzles, Immortals Fenyx Rising keeps things refreshingly straightforward. Complexity increases over time, and there are occasionally ways you can cheese through puzzles — skipping them, essentially — with the right upgrades to your player’s skill tree.
Fenyx’s nerdy charm really carries the story. Her enthusiasm for mythology is infectious. But the game’s monotony lingers in the background, whether that’s through level design or combat encounters. Still, at a breezy runtime — story-focused playthroughs take about 30 hours — and with such stunning vistas, even Zeus, famous for his harsh judgment, would forgive the game’s developers. 7/10
Immortals Fenyx Rising is out now.
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