Immortals Fenyx Rising (Switch) Review
Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Sony PlayStation 5, Microsoft Xbox One, Microsoft Xbox Series X and PC
If you were told in 2018, shortly after the release of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, that two years later Ubisoft Quebec would be releasing an open-world action game based around Greek Mythology, you’d naturally think that this second game would be some sort of follow-up. If not a direct sequel, there would be some kind of link. Turns out there was a Link involved, just not the sort we imagined, as it seems the devs over at the Quebec branch were really enamoured with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so let’s just talk about the elephant in the room.
After spending around 25 hours or so completing the main quest of Immortals Fenyx Rising, the elephant in the room might as well be waving a piece of the Triforce, shooting light arrows out of its trunk. Many people noted that when Immortals Fenyx Rising was revealed it looked a lot like 2017’s Breath of the Wild, but the influence extends beyond the aesthetic – not only does this not look like the sort of open-world that Ubisoft regularly produces, but it doesn’t feel like it either.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s certainly not the first time a studio has taken a lot of inspiration from another game. Throughout the 2010s many games tried to emulate the success of titles like Skyrim and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even Breath of the Wild took some elements from Assassin’s Creed titles. So, in some ways, Ubisoft is just returning the compliment and Immortals Fenyx Rising at its core is a hell of a lot of fun.
The story of the titular hero in this take on the Greek Gods is told through a conversation between Zeus and the titan Prometheus, with the latter trying to bargain his way out of eternal torment atop a mountain. These two are never quiet for long, popping in with little bits of exposition after completing a puzzle or some witty banter throughout your travels as you explore The Golden Isle - Zeus, in particular, is always on hand to offer his version of events, whenever a God you encounter mentions him in a not so pleasing light. The ruler of the gods and his imprisoned storyteller set the tone for the game early on, cracking jokes and never missing a chance to make fun of hero Fenyx.
That cheerful, cheeky and at times downright silly vibe is carried throughout the game, with Hermes and the Gods you will attempt to free from the control of the BBEG Typhon all have their own history with one another, with some of the interactions playing out like a soap opera. The voice acting is over the top at times but, even then, it’s in theme with the rest of the game and it seems a far cry away from the more serious worlds that Ubisoft is associated with. And yes, I am leaving that pun in.
Another thing that is stressed from the off is accessibility, with a fully customisable HUD and difficulty options giving more freedom to those who just want to experience the story. These difficulty options affect more than just enemy damage, making puzzles easier as well as other challenges and can be changed at any given time. You don’t have to play the game on the easiest mode with everything on the HUD visible, you can go straight to Hard mode and turn off a lot of the assistance, but the options are there for those who need or want them. Presenting players with these options at the start of the game and making them customisable at any time opens this experience up to everyone. Even though it’s becoming more of a standard in AAA games, credit to Ubisoft for focusing on that aspect early on.
That approach to customisation stretched to Fenyx, with the choices you make in your initial character creation easy to change once you complete the tutorial and unlock the Hall of the Gods, the de facto hub for Fenyx and their godly friends. Some of the more fantastical skin tones like the purple and green don’t hold up great on the Switch in cutscenes, which meant that I ended up going for a more human-looking adventurer. Fenyx has two voice options, with the female voice being the default option (and the one I chose).
The game starts you off in Hermes’ biome The Clashing Rocks, which serves as the introductory area to the island. After acquiring some legendary weapons - the Sword of Achillies, the Axe of Atalanta and Odysseus’ Bow – which stay with you throughout the game (because why would weapons keep breaking) and acquiring the Wings of Didalos, you’re ready to go tackle some foes.
The combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t difficult, it’s quite simple really: you keep attacking until you have to dodge or parry, then you continue. You can choose which of your three main weapons to use or just go all out with some of your godly powers – either way, you can be aggressive and really go at that Cyclops or fly towards those Harpies that are just out of reach of your ground attacks.
You’d think that such a simple system would get a bit boring and repetitive but, in truth, once I’d levelled up a few of my weapons, I found myself searching out enemies just for the fun of defeating them (which results in sending them flying Super Smash Bros. style). Traversing The Golden Isle with Fenyx feels less like an island filled with beasts and challenges to overcome and more like my own personal playground. Nothing seems out of reach to Fenyx and swooping down with your wings before landing on your horse (which you can summon from anywhere) and galloping off to your next destination feels exciting even as I approached the end of the story.
Once you’ve completed the introductory area, you’re free to explore any of the regions in whatever order you want. Aphrodite’s Valley of Eternal Spring is the standout area, the lush fields and waters look beautiful, even on the Nintendo Switch, and I yearned for more of this natural-looking environment to explore.
As fun as it is to roam around as Fenyx, the exploration aspect of this game is pretty much taken away from the player thanks to Far Sight, an ability which lets you basically zoom in on any area and tag anything that might be there and it instantly appears on your map. Instead of delving deep into that canyon or climbing to the top of that mountain and stumbling into something unexpected, you know exactly what you’re going there for. Instead of exploring a region, you end up just travelling from one marker to another, which ironically contradicts what I said about this feeling like a Ubisoft game – that feels very on-brand.
In a similar vein, coming across a puzzle among the trees that is referencing some Greek myth or another could be really exciting but instead falls flat. While it’s obvious that that development team really did their research into Greek mythology, their research into puzzles doesn’t seem to have gone past the games of the late nineties and early noughties. A large amount of the puzzles in this game revolve around moving around blocks like a polygonal Lara Croft or shooting a remotely controlled arrow through fire or some hoops.
Even the larger God Vaults, which see you complete a set of puzzles all centred around the same theme – be that ‘fiery blocks’, ‘windy blocks’ or ‘floaty blocks’ – are just longer versions of the same thing. I can jump off a cliff, swoop down, draw an arrow to slow down time and call forth spears from the ground to strike foes, and yet here I am, moving blocks onto switches. In these moments, I felt truly mortal in this game of immortal beings.
Thankfully, these moments don’t last long, as there’s always something else to go and do, or someone or something else to go and fight. Encountering the Wraith form of Achilles and suddenly I’m back on my toes, parrying and dodging before he escapes back to his lair, waiting for me to challenge him. The Wraith aspects were my favourite part of Fenyx, no puzzles, no travelling from A to B and following my map – just me swinging my huge axe and peppering lightning arrows at my foe.
There’s a lot to like about Immortals Fenyx Rising, from traversing your personal playground to the simple yet effective combat, not to mention the cast of characters that you’ll come across. Ubisoft don't quite stick the landing in some areas, with some odd game design decisions like the use of Far Sight, but much like Fenyx and her wings of Daedalus, they manage to make the flight one very enjoyable ride. A new IP is always a risk, even at a studio the size of Ubisoft’s, and I for one am looking forward to what’s to come with the planned DLC for this game, along with the successor to Fenyx, be that a spiritual one or a sequel.