At the end of my preview of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, I noted that Ubisoft probably needed to take more swings with its properties. Immortals Fenyx Rising is a great example: instead of an open-world RPG like the modern AC games, Immortals is a lighter, more action-focused experience, closer to the colorful 3D platformers of old.
After starting in the middle of the game for my previous preview, in the Forgelands formerly controlled by the god Hephastus, this time I had a chance to start Immortals at the very beginning. The gods of Olympos have fallen, defeated by the titan Typhon. All that remains is Zeus, the cowardly and callous Father of the Gods. Well him, and Fenyx.
Fenyx is a mortal, a lowly foot soldier who finds themself shipwrecked on the Golden Isle. Fenyx awakens to find the remaining survivors turned to stone, including their brother. So they take up their brother's sword, a gif from Achilles himself, to try to save the rest. Their quest brings them into contact with Hermes and ties them to the fight against Typhon.
I say "they" because while the default character looks like a feminine version ofPit from Kid Icarus, you're freely able to define your own Fenyx. You can choose between different body types, faces, hair styles, skin tones, and voices, even some that don't seem quite right; I've never met a soldier with blue skin, for example. The voice is important because Fenyx is an actual character who will comment on the events of the game as they happen; this isn't a purely silent protagonist. I will note that while you can mix up a masculine body type or feminine voice, and vice versa, Zeus and the rest of the gods will refer to you as "he" and "she". I don't know if body type or voice is the determining factor here, but I figured some would like to know.
Immortal is a game for everyone, so right off the bat there are five difficulty options, which change everything from enemy difficulty, health and stamina regen, fall damage, challenge timers, and even whether the game offers any hints for those challenges.
Diving Into the Golden Isle
There have been comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and as with Genshin Impact, they're not entirely apt. You can absolutely see where the connections are being made though, as Immortals has a similar aesthetic in certain areas, including a stamina meter, gliding, and even a summonable mount. Even the Vaults of Tartaros, which sends Fenyx into a floating void to solve themed sets of puzzles, recalls the Shrines of the last Zelda game.
I can't say Ubisoft didn't look directly at Breath of the Wild, as the layout of the open-world is similar as well, with a host of mountain peaks and steep valleys allowing you to look at a further destination. The classic Ubisoft towers make a return here as Ascension Point:, giant statues of the local god that you must climb to clear the fog of war in a region. From atop a statue, you can use Far Sight to gaze at the surrounding area and reveal new locations and quests you can tackle.
Immortals is less about the wanderlust engendered by Nintendo's action-adventure. It's Indiana Jones, to Breath of the Wild's Lawrence of Arabia or The Motorcycle Diaries; one is about the cool thing you're doing in a location, the other is about the emotions engendered in getting there. Like the Twelve Labors of Hercules, Fenyx will have to undertake some weird moments of Greek myth, like rolling a giant pearl across the landscape to dump it into the ocean and recreate Aphrodite's birth.
Immortals tends to eschew exploration—you'll generally know where you're going, though you will occasionally stumble upon a hidden challenge or world boss. Instead, the vision leans more towards combat and puzzles: go here and fight a thing, go there and roll a boulder to open a door. It's far more immediate in regards to what's happening. It's not a mess of icons like some of the Assassin's Creed games, but there's always something to do within a few minutes of gliding.
The first hour or so of the game is all about learning the ropes of combat, traversal, and puzzles. Combat is entirely reminiscent of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, featuring the same button combinations for attacks, parrying, dodging, and ability use. What has changed is a focus on stunning enemies, similar to Odyssey's follow-up Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Heavy attacks and parries increase a stun meter below an enemy's health bar. Filling that up drops them into a downed state where your attacks do more damage, so that's generally where you want to keep them.
You're given your first series of items across a few different challenges. The Axe of Atalanta opens up heavy attacks; the Wings of Daidalos let you double jump and eventually glide slowly to the ground; the Bracers of Herakles allow you to lift heavy objects and throw them, and the Bow of Odysseus is a bow. Together, these form the bedrock of your gameplay interactions for much of Immortals. You'll unlock other abilities in the skill tree later on, but this is the core of Fenyx's quest to free the gods.
The gods themselves also lighten up the rather dire tone of events. Zeus and Prometheus narrate every single action you undertake in Immortals, with Zeus as the jokester and Prometheus as the straight man. But even characters like Hermes and the Oracle talk more in a modern style, like they hail from a Nickelodeon or Netflix cartoon and not Greek myth. This is one of the aspects that ties Immortals to 3D platformers like Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter, as opposed to Breath of the Wild, and I'm certain it'll bother some folks. I generally let it wash over me and moved on fairly quickly.
The End of the Story
Towards the latter part of my demo, Ubisoft threw some of the game's currency my way, allowing me to level up my Fenyx to endgame levels. All improvements to Fenyx are available at the Hall of the Gods, a hub area where the gods return to once you free them from Typhon. It's here that you can change your appearance, unlock new skills, improve your health and stamina, and take on daily challenges.
You unlock new skills by collecting Coins of Charon, separated in normal skills and Godly Powers. The former covers basic attacks, moves, and combos, while the latter are abilities like Hephaistos's Hammer, which slam the ground with a powerful shockwave. Upgrading your general stats like attack power, defense, or ammo capacity comes at the cost of Adamantine Shards, which you'll find in ready supply in chests and mineral deposits around the island. Basically, everything you find on the islands will eventually feed into something back at the hall of the Gods, improving Fenyx overall.
I spent the last bit of my demo with more skills and powers unlocked, taking on some of the top combat challenges available in Aphrodite's region of the Golden Isle, including the legendary harpy, Lieutenant Aello, the Storm Swift, and the legendary boar that slew Adonis. I also took on Achilles, one of the wraiths of Typhon. These are four corrupted heroes of Greek legend, whose souls have been twisted and made into the jailers of the gods. I ended up polishing off all three in short order, especially the boar that went down quick with a few well-timed parries and Hephaistos's Hammer.
I mentioned the difficulty levels before, and I think they're key here. I breezed through most of these harder challenges pretty easily, given the practice I've had hunting the toughest mercenaries and mythical beasts in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. I did the demo on Normal, but I definitely could've kicked it up to Hard or Nightmare levels, as the default challenge wasn't tuned for folks like me. If you're planning on picking it up, keep that in mind.
Immortals strikes me as the kind of game that would find a good home on Nintendo platforms. (In fact, it's one of Ubisoft's few holiday titles actually coming to the Switch.) It's an enjoyable, family-friendly romp through Greek mythology, one that doesn't vastly overstep its bounds. Ubisoft Quebec made it in two years and the ambitions for the title are clearly straightforward. Immortals is the foundation for something bigger in the future, I think, and what's here is at least enjoyable enough that I'm down for seeing where the series could go.
And hell, at least this'll be far shorter than the 100+ hour Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Let a brother live, Ubisoft. Immortals Fenyx Rising is coming to PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Google Stadia on December 3, 2020.