There are just some genres of game that speak to me more than others. As someone who’s been playing games since I was four years old, I’ve pretty much sampled everything on offer. And while there aren’t many, if any, genres I dislike, the action/adventure platformer is definitely my favourite.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is a modern take on this ‘old skool’ genre and is the logical evolution for titles like Banjo-Kazooie. Having played several hours of Immortals Fenyx Rising, from the beginning, it seems Ubisoft has taken a cue from Rare’s classic.
This may be a tale of Greek tragedy and woe but it’s packed with laughs and fourth wall breaks and cleverly, never takes anything seriously. A lighthearted romp through a gorgeously crafted Grecian island is exactly the escape I desperately need right now.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
As Immortals Fenyx Rising opens, we’re introduced to the big bad Typhon. He’s an enormous dragon with two serpents extending from his back (think The Darkness) and having escaped the mountain Zeus trapped him under, Typhon’s hellbent on revenge. Typhon speaks directly to the player, recognising them as a mortal and explaining why and how the Gods have doomed the mortals and why only he is able to set things right. The scene shifts to Prometheus, chained and bound atop a mountain, frozen and shouting to the heavens.
Zeus appears, seeking Prometheus’ assistance in putting a stop to Typhon’s rampage. Typhon has stolen Zeus’ lightning and imprisoned all other gods, so without help, Zeus is pretty much done for. However, Prometheus, always a champion of humanity, suggests Zeus look to the mortals for help. This is where Fenyx comes in.
From the get-go, the tone of Immortals Fenyx Rising is pitch-perfect. It’s fun and silly with the right amount of tongue in cheek. The Greek accents are also a wonderful touch. But it’s the duo of Zeus and Prometheus who (initially) steal the show. Their back and forth and constant bickering is like two rivalrous siblings, which makes perfect sense and helps to sell the idea that Fenyx is part of something much bigger than herself.
In fact, the game, as it plays out, is Prometheus regaling Zeus with the tale of Fenyx and both Gods narrate proceedings, fighting over details and trying to outdo one another with their flair for the dramatic. I honestly burst into fits of laughter multiple times thanks to the commentary by Zeus and Prometheus. Immortals Fenyx Rising may be Fenyx’s game but Zeus and Prometheus are the stars.
Once the story of Fenyx actually gets going, you’re able to choose whether you’ll be playing as a male or female version of the character, customise their look and get things going. I opted for the female Fenyx simply because having already seen her in promotional materials, the male counterpart felt like an imposter. Plus, I’m already a dude in real-life, escapism is a huge part of my love of video games, so being able to play as the opposite gender is an option I always take up when given the chance.
Shipwrecked and washed up on the shores of this idyllic island, Fenyx quickly discovers she’s alone. Every other mortal has been turned to stone, including her heroic brother. She retrieves his sword, gifted to him by Achilles, and sets out to the temple of the Oracle in search of answers. From here, the world starts to open up and in typical action/adventure fashion, Fenyx collects items and unlocks abilities which assist in progressing through the game.
I don’t want to say too much about the characters you meet and their various appearances in Immortals Fenyx Rising as so much of the joy of this game comes from discovery and the experience of it. Suffice to say, in the four hours I played, the tone is consistent and the humour rarely falters.
Having established the storytelling in Immortals Fenyx Rising is top-shelf stuff, I’m pleased to report that actually playing the game is just as good. Sure, as Adam Mathew wrote in his preview, it’s not anything we’ve never seen before but it’s still bloody good. Like the conglomerate of studios that developed it, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a mish-mash of a number of titles, smooshed together in a way that simply works.
There’s Assassin’s Creed in there in the way Fenyx opens up the map, ‘synchronises’ viewpoints and fights off enemies. There’s also more than a bit of Breath of the Wild and even some Prince of Persia (2008 not Sands of Time) in both the design and exploration of the game world. Overall, much of Immortals Fenyx Rising’s gameplay is simple, straightforward and solid. The actual playing of the game isn’t going to blow any minds, but it doesn’t need to. Exploring the island as Fenyx feels great, combat feels great and the pace of progression feels great.
One thing that did blow me away was the visuals. Not necessarily the quality of the graphics which are suitably stylised and cartoonish but rather the ability to climb up high and look out across the entire island, taking it all in. It’s damn impressive to be able to cram so much detail in and allow players to look into the distance and make their way there without any loading. This is what we were promised ‘next-gen’ would be before the Xbox One and PS4 launched and it feels like we’re only now starting to see it really come to fruition.
Given four hours with the game, I spent much of it following the main questline to get a feel for Fenyx, her abilities and to unlock the necessary gadgets and tools. After some time, my Ubisoft rep offered to boost my character. Taking them up on it, I was able to unlock a tonne of abilities and rolled around the countryside smashing up bad guys left and right. I was basically unstoppable at this point so shelved the campaign to dive into some side quests. And by god is there a lot to do.
In classic Ubisoft style, the landscape is littered with things to see and do. Thankfully, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, many of these diversions are more than simply collecting an object at a location. Most things are tied to a puzzle, environmental or otherwise. In once area, I had to solve a sliding block picture puzzle using Fenyx’s telekinetic power. Others required me to traverse difficult terrain while others still made use of both. It’s really refreshing to arrive at a location on the map and have more “game” to get through.
When simply traipsing across the map is the majority of gameplay, I quickly lose interest in exploring every nook and cranny for secrets and heading to every map marker. So it’s great to see Ubisoft adding additional challenges, puzzle-solving and platforming to each encounter.
Despite spending four hours with Immortals Fenyx Rising I feel as though I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what it has to offer. It’s a sprawling action/adventure littered with things to do and places to go and definitely feels like the next step forward for the 3D platformer genre.
Oozing with charm and wit and narrated wonderfully by Zeus and Prometheus, Immortals Fenyx Rising has leapt to the top of my most-wanted list. It’s the kind of game you’ll lose yourself in, look up from and realise an entire day has passed you by. At this moment in time, this is the exact experience I need. There’s enough drama, darkness, doom and gloom in real life, so I’ll take the silly escape to a sunny island inhabited by the insane Greek gods any day.
Immortals Fenyx Rising launches December 3, 2020.
Immortals Fenyx Rising was previewed on PC.