Immortals Fenyx Rising is what happens when Assassin's Creed Odyssey meets The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There are some ideas the latest IP from Ubisoft can claim as its own, but it's impossible to deny the comparisons between it and the two open-world juggernauts. As such, it feels like the French publisher has bundled together a collection of ideas, themes, and features already done better by past games. Not everything has to be a ground-breaking innovation, though, and Immortals Fenyx Rising settles for its lot with a tongue in cheek adventure through Greek mythology. While it's hardly the most ambitious PlayStation 5 game playable right now, it could act as a great stopgap between the launch line-up and more important titles arriving next year.
That's because it occupies a middle ground between the two aforementioned behemoths, not quite capitalising on what each did so well but providing more enough to keep you going. The game subscribes to the typical Ubisoft open world formula quite closely, but it's much smaller in scope with a campaign that can be beaten inside 20 hours and just a handful of regions to explore — welcome news for those exhausted by the length of an Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Combat is fairly enjoyable, if a little formulaic, while traversal can be considered the game's high point with a set of wings to propel yourself through the air. And yes, the mechanic plays a lot like the paraglider Link uses to explore The Great Plateau and beyond.
An upgradable stamina meter governs how far Fenyx (the customisable main character) can fly as well as climb, because you'll need to reach those great heights to take advantage of your wings in the first place. It quickly helps to create a loop of gliding and mountain scaling that feels good to partake in, putting the task of reaching an objective in your hands. Risking a dash up a rocky crevice could prove fruitful if you have the stamina to match, or it could spell your demise. Again, hardly the most original feature in the world, but it works for Immortals Fenyx Rising despite the overwhelming sense of familiarity.
The comparisons don't stop there, however. The title has its own version of Shrines, dubbed Vaults, that will test your puzzling and combat skills — they all even look rather similar, just like Breath of the Wild's trials. Then doubling back to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for a second, the game even lifts entire sound effects from the plight of either Kassandra or Alexios. You'd only ever pick up on this if a significant amount of your time had been invested into the title in question, but the audio cues of the map, arrow targeting, swimming, and horse riding are unmistakably the same.
So, what does Ubisoft's latest do differently? Rather than taking itself seriously, a very light-hearted tone seeps its way into the story and every facet of dialogue. It draws on Greek mythology to tell a tale hardly worthy of awards. Fenyx must rescue four ancient gods and return them to their natural form before taking on the monster who put them in that state in the first place. You know, the usual video game stuff.
What separates it from the rest are Zeus and Prometheus, who narrate over the entire thing in an attempt to crack as many jokes and puns as possible. Most lines are pretty cringey, warranting a shake of the head rather than a chuckle, but we did laugh at a couple of one-liners. It's the sort of comedy you know is deplorable yet you can't help but crack a smile. Dad jokes, if you will. The story would undoubtedly be worse without them though so their presence is welcomed.
If they're not commenting on your aerial efforts, combat provides just enough talking points to make it interesting for most of the journey. Light attacks deplete the health bars of mythical beasts, as do heavy attacks for their stagger meters. You can focus on either one in order to send them to Elysium, although a handful of abilities acquired through skill points speed up the process. The game doesn't have a whole lot to offer in that respect, with a couple of unlockable attacks which can deal damage across a wide area or devastate a stagger bar. It's still simple but satisfying fun, however.
While the game doesn't have deep skill trees or a long list of abilities to master, fights feel gratifying as speedy dodges and leaps into the air greatly expand your manoeuvrability. Timing your dash correctly slows down time, allowing you to get some free hits in and aerial combat comes with its own set of moves. Fights do start to get quite samey in the back half of the title, though, as the system runs out of ideas after revealing most of its mechanics in the first few hours. Still, there's enough here to consider it a highlight for the most part.
The same can be said for puzzles, except the downright infuriating ones. Most brain teasers are somewhat basic — control the direction of wind using your bow and arrow, transport boulders to specific places, and direct arrows through specific circles in the environment. However, it's the pressure plate puzzles that really got on our nerves. You need to match up objects of various weights with the designated pad on the ground, but the problem lies in that you don't always have direct access to them — a set of metal bars may be blocking your path. Fenyx's powers come into play here as you fling the object to the correct position, but the mechanic is so finicky that it may not land correctly and activate the plate, despite that being the correct solution. It turns the whole act into a case of frustrating trial and error where you're fighting the game rather than making any progress.
Speaking of which, the PS5 DualSense controller actually falls on the opposite end of the spectrum by providing less resistance than it probably should. The new adaptive triggers are utilised sparingly, with just the release of an arrow from a short bow activating any major implementation. Haptic feedback crops up here and there too, but it's nothing more than a pretty basic use case. PS5 also offers two different modes to choose from, with the performance-focused selection being the one to go with. 60 frames-per-second sees the title run smoothly with no noticeable dips.
It comes with a slight hit to the visuals, but the world will continue to look colourfully beautiful. Bright shades and tones paint the mythical universe to create an inviting universe just begging to be explored from top to bottom. The same goes for the animals inhabited by it, some acting as mounts to ride and others creatures to slay. When it wants to, Immortals Fenyx Rising looks really good. There's nothing quite like the beams of the sun creeping over the hillside to reveal another new environment to explore — complete with its own colour palette, ancient architecture, and impressive statues.
While Immortals Fenyx Rising may not have too many ideas to call its own, Ubisoft has created a successful amalgamation worth checking out. Simplistic but enjoyable combat provides the basis for a stunning world full of explorative opportunities and a humorous narrative that’ll have you chuckling once or twice. Just don’t let anyone know what the cause was. Puzzles are definitely a source of frustration, but if you can look past them, Immortals Fenyx Rising provides a formulaic but entertaining experience.