Immortals Fenyx Rising Review – Breath of the Gods (PS5)
The comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are absolutely unavoidable with Immortals Fenyx Rising. It’s an enormous and gorgeous sandbox that lets you basically go anywhere and do anything. Its puzzles are reminiscent of the beloved Nintendo title. Its visuals seem to be inspired by a mix of Breath of the Wild and Disney Animation. There are even cheeky references in the game itself poking fun at BotW’s breakable weapons, so Immortals is clearly self-aware of its influences.
Immortal’s egregious and blatant borrowing of Breath of the Wild’s general blueprint is actually an immense strength. The elements just work together in harmony, fitting in with the themes of Greek mythology and the sense of freedom the developers wanted to convey. And it helps break Ubisoft free of this rigid ideal of what an open-world Ubisoft game is, a rut that the publisher fell into a few years ago and has struggled to break free from.
Immortals Fenyx Rising Review – It’s All Greek to Me
Immortals focuses on Greek mythology so deeply, that even those with decent knowledge of the hierarchy and legends of the gods (and monsters) will undoubtedly find new stories and elements scattered throughout the world. Fenyx is a mortal, the player character (with limited customization options) that is the sole hero who can save both the kingdom of the gods and the world of the mortals. Without her (or him), existence as we know it is doomed.
The whole game is a tale told by Prometheus to Zeus, narration that fits so wonderfully into every moment of the game that I couldn’t wait to hear more of their banter. Ubisoft has fumbled with narrative in the past when the element of linearity is removed (Far Cry 5 immediately springs to mind), but this storytelling and narration through Zeus and Prometheus is seamlessly slotted into everything you do, telling not only the story of Fenyx, but digging into some of the deeper darker corners of Greek mythology. It’s a brilliant setup as this mortal is suddenly thrust into this world once thought to be only legend.
Its adherence to Greek myths and legends is also helped along by traditional Greek spellings and pronunciations of people and places—Herakles instead of Hercules, Ikaros in place of Icarus, Olympos vs. Olympus, etc—and the narration even calls attention to this element of authenticity. At one point Zeus criticizes Prometheus for his pronunciation of “Herakles,” to which Prometheus points out that’s how it’s actually said.
Moments like this are what underlines the natural banter that makes up the comedy throughout Immortals. Rarely does it feel forced, instead being delivered natually with silly witty remarks within conversation. Immortals has no problem not taking itself too seriously—after all, the gods of Olympos don’t—but it doesn’t ever feel like it’s trying to be funny. Characters simply are who they are, and the interactions that play out between them are often humorous and lighthearted, despite the dark and twisted nature of much of Greek mythology.
Immortal Fenyx Rising Review – It’s Got Layers
Immortals begins with Fenyx washed up on the shore of a mysterious island, all other mortals turned to stone, and not a whole lot of direction on what you need to do. A brief tutorial segment grants Fenyx with some tools of the gods that improve their capabilities in combat and ability to traverse the environment. It also introduces you to this mythological land, the island of Deidalos, and provides you with some points of interest and a general goal. And then it sets you loose.
That immense sense of freedom is both intimidating and exhilarating. Immortals never really stops you from wandering into places you perhaps shouldn’t be, and if you can figure out how to overcome the challenges within, more power to you. I entered one Vault of Tartaros (similar to Breath of the Wild’s dungeons or temples), and despite a warning that I didn’t possess the right Godly Power to get the alternate chest, I managed to get everything in the Vault through clever use of the environment and the powers I did have at my disposal. I’m honestly not even sure which Godly Power it was that I would have needed. The puzzles are just so naturally integrated that if you solve it through “other” means, it never really feels like you did it “wrong.” You just did it.
Immortals doesn’t stick to a rigid structure, and in some ways almost encourages you to “break” the game and complete puzzles and encounters in ways that perhaps weren’t so directly intended. In one puzzle, I needed one more block to weigh down a pressure plate, but couldn’t for the life of me find it (I found out where it was later). Fed up, I instead wandered off, chopped down a tree, grabbed the log, and hauled it back to the puzzle area to weigh down the plate and finish the puzzle. Later on, I even unlocked the ability to create a stone copy of myself, something that can be used as a decoy in combat or as a weight for these plates.
The more I played through Immortals, the more I discovered, and the more I was able to do. One “aha” moment in one puzzle revealed a potential solution to another I had been struggling with elsewhere. Stumbling on certain quests unlocked specific abilities that changed multiple elements about the way I played. Maybe I get faster arrow regeneration that incentivizes using the bow more in combat. Perhaps I unlock aerial abilities that not only help me get around easier, but also take fights to the skies. Throughout Immortals, the game consistently evolved the way I engaged with it, which helped keep exploration and discovery fresh.
And yet, for all of its discoverability, there’s an ample level of guidance in Immortals as well. I personally bounced off of Breath of the Wild because it was too freeform at times, too ambiguous. Immortals, in a small bit of contrast, offers at least a framework for those who get intimidated by large open-world games. There’s a guiding system that will get you around the island and at least offer suggestions for what to approach next. And if you happen to get waylaid by a pillar of light in the distance highlighting a chest locked by a puzzle? Well, more power to ya. It ensures that no two people’s playthroughs will ever really be the same as you traipse around the island gaining the favor of the gods.
If there’s one (albeit minor) frustration I have, it’s that mobility feels just a tiny bit slow and cumbersome, even after acquiring other abilities that aid in traversal. Climbing walls is painfully slow, and even after gaining the ability to jump up the walls while climbing, the animation that plays still makes it feel burdened, to the extent that I avoid climbing if I can. The default run speed could also stand to be increased by even just a small amount. It’s a small nitpick, but with such a massive open world, I constantly wished that I could move through it just a little bit faster.
The PS5 version of Immortals takes advantage of the console’s unique features with the DualSense providing both haptic feedback and adaptive trigger functionality. It’s not as strong as something like Astro’s Playroom, but it’s one of the better third-party implementations of the new controller. It also has both a performance mode and fidelity mode, which I struggled between. A buttery smooth 60 fps is incredible, but the game world really just pops with the fidelity mode, with what appears to be improved lighting and texture details. Games like this show that this generation is going to ask some tough decisions if these are the kinds of differences we’re getting in these modes.
Overall, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a surprising break from the traditional Ubisoft open-world fare, perhaps hinting at some newfound creative freedoms that we’ll hopefully see play out in the future. Cribbing Breath of the Wild is a strength even as Immortals iterates and takes its own twist. And the deep dive into Greek mythology ends up being a fascinating foundation upon whose shoulders the entire premise rests. From the first magnificent glide onto the Golden Isle, Immortals Fenyx Rising is an unforgettable treat that surprised me more than I thought it would.
Immortals Fenyx Rising review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.