Ubisoft have had an incredible end to the game year of 2020 with two big titles releasing just in time for the new generation of consoles launches in Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, both being received incredibly well and two games I am still playing. The one title from Ubisoft that has been quietly building to its own release I can honestly said actually had more of my attention from the very first reveal trailer when it was originally called Gods and Monsters. Now called ‘Immortals: Fenyx Rising’, what we have is perhaps one of the most surprising titles of 2020 and one that manages to do something I was not expecting.
So as the development team behind Assassin’s Creed Origins went on to make the fantastic Valhalla, the team behind Assassin’s Creed Odyssey were clearly not quite done with the Ancient Greek vibe as they immediately continued but applied everything they knew into this game and what was not expected by me personally, was just how much Fenyx Rising would benefit and then learn from Odyssey. So much from Odyssey is instantly recognisable here from the combat system to the inventory management system, but how those features have been adapted for this game is the key to how they still work and rather than doubling down on how they worked in Odyssey, instead they have been refined and almost scaled back to a degree which is a strength in Fenyx Rising.
The narrative is told by a chained-up Prometheus talking to Zeus on a mountain top as they recall the story of how the evil Typhon managed to unseat the very Gods themselves and take over the Golden Isles, turning all the humans to stone. Our hero, Fenyx, wakes up on the Clashing Rocks, discovering their ship destroyed and crew gone including their brother. Fenyx is then called upon to help save the people, her brother and the very Gods themselves by taking the fight to Typhon and becoming a hero ready and able to defeat Typhon. Players get to create and customise their own Fenyx and can select a gender and physical appearance for their hero for the story, for myself, I chose a female Fenyx as per what was shown in the trailer but the voice acting for both genders is absolutely spot on but I did kind of fall in love with my own Fenyx just a little bit.
Now at this point you may have seen, read or heard a lot of comparisons being made to Breath of the Wild when it comes to Fenyx Rising and to a degree I would accept that but there is a danger not to give enough credit for just what has been accomplished with this game. Yes, visually the art style is a cell shaded animated look just like BoTW (Breath of the Wild) and the open world style can certainly be seen in both games and would not surprise me that BoTW has some influence here. But for me personally it is the first Darksiders game that I get the strongest vibes from when playing Fenyx Rising both in the combat and style of questing. I just found every element to this game so incredibly satisfying right across the board that it was easy to lose myself in this world of defeated Gods and mortals.
First, I do need to say that I truly love how completely self-aware this game is which is shown in the dialogue and writing for the game as Fenyx encounters each God and just in the conversation between Zeus and Prometheus alone, as the bantering between them is filled with humour that never becomes too corny but just self-deprecating enough to acknowledge what the player is thinking along the way. This game is very funny in a way I had not expected and the core of that comes from how wonderfully written the character of Fenyx is as well as the performance of both voice actors that bring her genders to life. Fenyx is a reluctant hero at first, one who sees her big brother as the real and true heroic warrior. She is brave and intelligent but also compassionate and caring and her humanity is what really stands out when you are messing with Gods and Monsters. Her journey will allow her to grow in confidence but always retaining her core values no matter how powerful she becomes and her interactions with the Gods is really the heart of the story in this game.
This is in part because the Gods themselves have been brought down to our levels really as Typhon has not only kicked their butts but in the case of Aphrodite, Athena, Ares and Hephaistos, Typhon has stolen their very essence and trapped them in lesser forms as punishment, locking them to a region of the Golden Isles. In order to take the fight back to Typhon, Fenyx must rescue and restore the Gods back to their Godliness forms. To do so, Fenyx must venture into the four main regions to find them, each with their own unique environmental and visual look from the beautiful Valley of Eternal Springs for Aphrodite to the baron war-torn wasteland of War’s Den. Each region is wonderfully drawn and brought to life as is the animation and design of all the monsters and enemies you will do battle with. This is quite frankly one stunning looking game which alongside its tremendous musical score will just have you smiling and happy in all the time to spend in this world.
Combat for me is the highlight of the game and where my comparison with Darksiders begins. The same RB for light attacks and RT for Heavy attacks from Odyssey continue here as does using both bumper buttons to parry attacks. It is a combat system that works very well here and I had no complaints with it in Odyssey so it just felt natural to continue to use it here. Light attacks use a sword whilst a battle axe is used for Heavy attacks and both will have their own combo finishers and can be chained together to fantastically satisfying effects. Ranged comes in the form of a bow but for me, this was never really a viable option in fights and is really there to help with some of the puzzles and challenges but will come to that a little further on.
As you progress through the game, Fenyx will collect different types of Sword and Axe which all have their own perks as does the armour and helmet sets you find, which not only look amazing but you can create your ow character builds around the strengths of the armour and helmets with some helping to boost a style of fighting you the player prefer. The upgrading system has thankfully been refined so that instead of trying to upgrade individual weapons and armour, instead now you simply upgrade the group, so by upgrading Swords for example, all the swords will benefit from the upgrade as does the armour so at any time you can switch to try out a new style or type. You will always feel that you are improving as you progress which keeps the player feeling rewarded for their hard work and in the later stages of the game, it will make you work to keep earning the higher levels to prepare for the end game.
There is also just so much to do in this game both when doing main questlines for freeing the Gods but also in the side content which believe me, there is more than enough of seeing how I spent over twenty hours just in the first area you arrive in after the prologue tutorial area alone. The regions are filled with dungeons in the form of Tartarus vaults to completing puzzle challenges that only get tougher the further into the game you go. The abundance of things to do never feels overwhelming but instead allows an added sense of freedom to play the game as you want. You are also free to explore and go to any of the regions though common sense will let you know if you venture into an area you are not quite ready to handle yet. There is just something joyous about exploring and just finding things to do as well whether you choose to traverse using the mounts you can tame in the game or gliding around using the Daedalus Wings, which clearly shows the developers were fans of the Arkham Games!
The gameplay is so well put together thanks to the skills and power upgrade trees that any skill level of player can get the most from this game depending on how deep you want to go into it. Come across a vault or enemy that is a bit of a challenge, simply improve the right skill or power in order to give yourself a fighting chance. Nothing really feels out of reach for very long but I do recommend focusing on one region at a time to get the most from it early on and to be prepared for the tougher challenges. Honestly, I just had so much fun with this game from the dialogue with characters and the story and the combat, puzzle solving and taking on the vaults that losing 60 hours on my first run through never felt like it was actually that long.
I did suffer some crashes to dashboard sadly on both Xbox One X and Xbox Series S and in the game itself some rewards for completing challenges and questlines failed to actually unlock for me but Ubisoft are aware and working on updates to address these but other than those minor things, overall, my time with Fenyx Rising quickly put this into my top five games of 2020 which says a lot with only a couple of weeks of the year actually left. This would make the perfect Christmas treat or a way to kick off the new 2021 gaming year because it is just a delight to play with more than enough content even before the season pass adds more to do in 2021.
Do not overlook this game and if you are a fan of big colourful worlds to explore with freedom to play as you like and a very satisfying experience, then just one more trip to Ubisoft’s Ancient Greece as Fenyx is definitely worth your time!