Immortals Fenyx Rising is not Breath of the Wild, but it is fun, charming, challenging, and clever, imitating Nintendo’s untouchable franchise more effectively than nearly all of those that attempted such lunacy before it
It all begins when the protagonist wakes up and comes to the realization that something serious has happened to the world. Setting out to explore the region, the hero not only learns more about what has transpired, but also gains access to a handful of useful abilities. Following a good deal of wandering, climbing, puzzle solving, and battling, the time to start the real meat of the quest comes. As it turns out, the initially accessible area is nothing but one minor slice of a much larger world. Walking to the edge of a cliff, the game’s star uses their most recently acquired ability to glide out of that introductory zone and into the greater surrounding overworld, where four main tasks must be accomplished in any order before the villain who is responsible for all the strife can be faced.
Anyone who has played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild ought to recognize that general description as the structural outline Nintendo used to considerably reinvent the franchise and, simultaneously, produce one of the greatest games of all time. Smartly knowing the value of learning from the best, Immortals Fenyx Rising uses that very same framework to give birth to its quest, essentially coming off as a Greek-themed version of Link’s 2017 classic.
In a way, given the astounding success of Breath of the Wild, it is somewhat surprising it took so long for a company to step in and produce a variation on its open-world structure. But, truth be told, on the other hand, it is perfectly understandable it did not happen for a while. The Legend of Zelda – with its reliance on clever puzzles, simple yet effective plots, meticulous world design, and intricate dungeons – is a difficult beast to imitate; it seems to require a creative spark of a kind that rarely flourishes outside of Nintendo’s walls. Because of that, differently from what has happened with the likes of Mario and Metroid, which basically spawned genres of their own, The Legend of Zelda installments have not generated many close peers; and when they have, as it was the case with Star Fox Adventures, these titles have lacked that magical luster that drives games over a merely enjoyable threshold.
Immortals Fenyx Rising, then, comes in with quite a good deal of courage. For starters, it is taking on the notably hard task of bringing gamers a The Legend of Zelda experience. To make matters more challenging, it opts to mimic what might as well be the most universally acclaimed entry of the franchise. And, to top it all off, rather than masking the imitation by throwing in a few major twists of its own, it actually goes hard on the borrowing, presenting numerous elements – both big and small – that work exactly like they did in Nintendo’s game. Fortunately, though, for the title, for Ubisoft, and – especially – for gamers who have been desperately craving to have another go at the Breath of the Wild formula, Immortals Fenyx Rising delivers despite occasional stumbles.
Rather than waking up from a slumber like Link did, the hero – who can be a boy or a girl according to players’ wishes – recovers consciousness after a shipwreck on the Golden Isle. Shocked, they discover that both their crewmates – other soldiers involved in an on-going war – and the inhabitants of the island where they find themselves have been turned to stone. Exploring the nearby region, they gain access to handy tools: the sword of Achilles, which deals weak but fast blows with the R button; the axe of Atalanta, which is slower but mightier, being assigned to the ZR button; the bow of Odysseus, which shoots both common arrows and ones that can be guided with the control stick; the Bracers of Herakles, which allow the hero to lift heavy objects; and the Wings of Daedalus, which support gliding as well as double jumps.
As the protagonist does all the gathering, they also chase a stranger running around the place in an apparent attempt to avoid contact. In the end, the mysterious figure is none other than Hermes: the herald of the gods. According to him, Typhon, a monstrous giant that had been imprisoned under a mountain by Zeus long ago, broke free, defeated the gods in battle, and proceeded to rob four of them of their essences to block any attempts at counterattacks. With all humans turned to stone, the glorious heroes of the past corrupted by evil, and the gods out of action, Typhon prepares to reshape the world as he sees fit and Fenyx emerges as the only remaining hope to stop him. Tasked with recovering the four affected gods to their former selves so they stand up to the villain, Fenyx uses the Wings of Daedalus to glide into the vast Golden Isle.
One of the most pronounced differences between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Immortals Fenyx Rising is that Ubisoft’s title puts more emphasis towards its storyline, even if it is far from being the main component of the game. In Breath of the Wild, the meat of the plot had to be chased in order to be discovered; here, it is handed to players via narration. The whole story of Fenyx is actually a bet between Prometheus and Zeus. The latter comes to the former in search for help against Typhon. Imprisoned by Zeus and sentenced to have his liver daily eaten by an eagle as punishment for giving fire to humanity, Prometheus makes the king of the gods promise him he will be set free if a human manages to beat Typhon. With a deal struck, he begins to spin the tale players go through.
Prometheus plays the role of the serious narrator: describing the biggest challenges Fenyx faces, going through the hero’s thoughts, setting up dramatic moments, and – to the delight of mythology freaks – sprinkling the events with comments on the Greek pantheon that reveal deep knowledge of the subject, as it is to be expected from someone who was part of the tales. Zeus, meanwhile, is the goofy wisecracking buffoon, complaining to Prometheus about his excessive pomp, alternating between doubting and encouraging Fenyx, occasionally throwing some surprisingly spicy innuendo into the mix, and joking every step of the way.
On one hand, it is a setup that works. Prometheus and Zeus have chemistry, and their exchanges add a layer of mythological knowledge that enriches the experience and that would have escaped some gamers who are not so informed on the topic. Moreover, and ranking as yet another factor that should make Immortals Fenyx Rising appealing to aficionados of the subject, it is praiseworthy how the game does not ignore the more brutal, eccentric, and even sexual aspects of Greek mythology. Even if these are properly toned down or alluded to in obscure terms in order to suit a younger audience, there are plenty of references to Zeus’ womanizing ways, his killing of innocents, and many nods to the gods’ very liberal lifestyle. The sole problem that emerges out of all the banter is that Zeus can be a little too much at times, as his habit of always cracking a joke after absolutely everything Prometheus says can get tiring, especially because the humor – though mostly decent and interesting due to content – is not always sharp.
As a game that emulates The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild nearly note by note, it goes without saying that Immortals Fenyx Rising takes the shape of an action-adventure game with light RPG elements. Consequently, the adventure it contains is centered around exploration (with a heavy dose of climbing), puzzle solving, battling, and collecting the necessary resources to make the protagonist stronger. Given it unfolds in an open-world setting, a big chunk of its quality is naturally determined by how good that fictional location is and how engaging the exploration of its vast landscape happens to be. In those regards, the game just about nails it.
For starters, Immortals Fenyx Rising does one amazing job populating the Golden Isle with enough tasks so that the whole landmass does not come off as empty. Broken into seven areas, including the introductory zone and a very large environment that is only unlocked in the final stretch of the quest after all four gods have been aided, it is sprinkled with multiple kinds of places of interest. The most significant ones are, by far, the vaults. They are essentially game’s equivalent to Breath of the Wild’s shrines, mostly containing brief puzzle sequences that take place in standalone areas and doubling as handy warp points evenly spread out across the map. But that is, of course, not all. As they walk through the Golden Isle, players will also encounter chests, special mighty bosses, a few notable collectibles, a handful of sidequests, and unique activities the game dubs Myth Challenges.
This last group is particularly varied, and – as a rule of thumb – each of the overworld’s areas tends to have at least one of each sort. In Navigation Challenges, the goal is to travel – in whatever way one chooses to – to a specified location before time runs out, working therefore like open-world parkour time trials. In Odysseus Challenges, the task is to guide an arrow through a series of targets before lighting up a torch. In Constellation Challenges, the hero needs to find orbs scattered around the nearby zone – usually locked behind puzzles or hidden in the environment – and arrange them properly in a board that resembles a peg solitaire game. In Lyre Challenges, it is necessary to find smaller versions of the instrument located in that specific overworld area, memorize the song they play, and then replicate those tunes at the bigger lyre of that zone. And Fresco Challenges are nothing but sliding block puzzles where four pieces need to be rearranged in order to form a picture relating to a specific Greek myth.
Alluringly, the rewards given by those optional slices of content work towards improving the abilities of the protagonist. At the end of every vault, Fenyx will collect one of Zeus’ lightning bolts, and these can then be exchanged for extra stamina, which is extremely useful to climb trickier structures and perform special moves in battle. Appearing inside vaults as well as out in the world, chests (whose rewards are directly proportional to how well-guarded they are) tend to contain either pieces of armor and helmets with unique effects or gems that are employed in upgrading the character’s equipment and weapons. The Myth Challenges give out Coins of Charon, which can be spent to unlock new abilities (useful in combat and exploration) or upgrade those already available. Finally, usually found in tall landmarks, there is the coveted ambrosia, which can be traded for additional health.
Thanks to that, like Breath of the Wild, Immortals Fenyx Rising strongly pushes the idea that it is up to players to extract from the environment that surrounds them the necessary tools to make their progress in the quest viable. Countless are the places that cannot be reached with the starting stamina. Enemies do not drop health-replenishing items, which means that gathering ingredients to concoct potions for that purpose is a must. Likewise, if one wants to get temporary boosts in stamina, offense, or defense substances made with natural ingredients are the only way to go. Finding a mount to travel faster is a matter of taming one of the many wild animals around the isle. Some optional puzzles and vaults can only be done if certain equally non-mandatory abilities are acquired or upgraded. And numerous foes are simply too hard to take on with the basic character setup.
Immortals Fenyx Rising, therefore, thrives in offering a load of extra content and showing to players that they are not getting very far if they do not go after it. In fact, when it comes to puzzles and enemies, it is – in a sense – more effective than Breath of the Wild in pushing that agenda. In relation to the first, Link’s quest never really locked any puzzles behind new abilities since the hero left the introductory segment with all tools he needed to tackle the entire game. Immortals Fenyx Rising, however, actually goes the other way. It is a design decision that is bound to cause mixed reactions, but it is important to note that even though there is some frustration in finding a riddle or entering a vault that cannot be cleared at the moment, the game is at least nice enough to display a message on the screen warning players of that fact.
As far as enemies go, the outcome of this extra focus on pushing the hero towards exploration is more purely positive. Sure, Breath of the Wild had a good amount of bad guys especially designed to beat players down, with some bordering on invincibility, but in Immortals Fenyx Rising they seem more prominent. If not enough exploration is done before trying to rescue any of the four gods, a few mandatory bosses are likely to send one in that direction. Moreover, there is no shortage of powerful foes (be them bosses or squads of regular enemies) guarding alluring goodies out in the Golden Isle, something that will certainly make many gamers motivated to get stronger and come back later to collect the treasure.
In spite of everything it does right in relation to putting an impressive world together, Immortals Fenyx Rising still presents a couple of stumbles in that regard. The first issue is that there could easily be more variety to the four main zones of the Golden Isle. Visually, the game is a delight, throwing a load of colorful cartoonish traces into Greek mythology and coming out with a combination that clicks, being simultaneously classic and fun. It is sort of disappointing, then, that the areas where most of the quest takes place (the ones in which the four main gods must be aided) are so similar, since two of them are lush and green, while the other couple are brownish and more desert-like, making it quite hard to differentiate each of the pairs. Fortunately, the other three areas of the map do not fall into those patterns, being able to give the world a deal of extra colors.
In addition, the optional tasks scattered around the map, as good as they may be, also present a few problems. Some vaults are basic battling arenas that are not all that interesting when compared to the puzzle-based mini-dungeons, an issue the game shares with Breath of the Wild; consequently, these feel like filler. The Lyre Challenges are more troublesome than they are fun, because memorizing a melody and having to head to another point on the map just to reproduce it is simply not all that interesting. Sidequests that are not given by the gods themselves tend to be too basic. At last, a minority of chests, be those located in the overworld or inside the vaults themselves, hold only visual variations of previously acquired armor, which come off as prizes that are not worth the effort.
The final overworld mechanic that could have used some extra implementation polish is actually one that, despite that problem, still manages to be a worthy and original addition. At any time, by pressing the right control stick, it is possible to enter a first-person view that allows players to take a look at their surroundings; the twist here is that, as the hero scans the area, the control will vibrate slightly when the cursor is over a point of interest. When that happens, by pressing A, it is possible to reveal the nature of the task that is there (a chest, a vault, ambrosia, a Myth Challenge, etc.) and have that automatically added to the map.
On the bright side, it is a great way to give gamers a helping hand in locating everything that is available around the Golden Isle, as it is an immensely helpful tool that does not degenerate into hand-holding thanks to how it requires some effort from players. Furthermore, it makes the many high vantage points scattered on the map (like statues, mountains, and other structures) extra valuable, since they are the best positions from which Fenyx can scan the horizon. Sadly, there is one sour note, and that is the fact that the first-person view requires perhaps a bit too much precision in order for the point of interest to be revealed; even if the control shakes, it is not a guarantee that pressing A will make the icon show up, and some additional adjustment is usually necessary. Because of that, the process of scanning can sometimes be frustrating and demand too many attempts and too much time.
Although the overworld and the optional tasks it contains are obviously the aspects of the game with which players will spend the biggest portion of their time in Immortals Fenyx Rising, they are naturally not as important as the main quest itself, which involves helping each of the four gods that have been stripped off their body and core personality traits by Typhon. These can be done in any order and at any time, and the nature of the objectives that must be accomplished in all four cases is quite similar, following (with one exception that shifts the order around) a pattern of: going to the statue of the god in question; scanning the surrounding region to try to spot where they may be; performing a series of tasks that will open the way to a dungeon; heading into said maze, clearing all its puzzles, and beating the mighty boss within; recovering the lost essence of the god; and finally restoring them to their former glory.
When inevitably compared to Breath of the Wild, Immortals Fenyx Rising seems to have a little more muscle in that regard, because although its world is by no means as immersive, big, alive, and varied as the one from Link’s adventure, the four legs that make up its core storyline involve more activities. In fact, fans of The Legend of Zelda will be happy to learn that the dungeons of Immortals Fenyx Rising feel more like the franchise’s traditional mazes than those of Breath of the Wild itself, even if they do not have keys and are not structurally complex enough to warrant the usage of a map. However, when it comes to sheer inventiveness and fun, it is undeniable that Ubisoft’s effort is clearly surpassed by Nintendo’s. That is not to say that Immortals Fenyx Rising is boring, the reality is far from it. But the game does not have that elusive The Legend of Zelda spark that generates pure awe.
Interestingly, and keeping with the game’s tendency to immerse itself in the Greek lore, the tasks involved with helping the four gods are intimately entwined with the myths that surround them. When dealing with Aphrodite’s woes, for instance, one of the objectives is rolling a pearl into the ocean, an event that is related to her birth. Meanwhile, in aiding Athena, the patron goddess of heroism, there are activities that nod to the stories surrounding the likes of Herakles and Achilles. In a way, such effort is completely commendable. However, that focus on matching gameplay with myths sometimes results in quests that are mechanically a bit dull, such as the previously mentioned ones. Fortunately, for every goal that lacks in excitement, there are plenty that are downright excellent, like exploring the forge of Hephaistos in order to reignite it and accessing the treasury of Ares by infiltrating his fort, two endeavors that involve solving a lot of riddles and beating down many bad guys.
Speaking of puzzles and battles, these aspects of the game follow the same pattern of being generally good and plentiful despite the presence of some caveats. In relation to the former, there is a very notable amount of riddles that are truly head-scratching, forcing players to think for a while and plan what they are going to do, and in many cases, they are paired with action-platforming sequences, transforming puzzles in challenges that involve not just reasoning, but also speed and precision. In addition, it is commendable how the four main dungeons of the game are, though sadly visually homogeneous like those of Breath of the Wild, different from one another thanks to how they are centered around puzzle concepts that are rather unique.
On the negative side, two problems arise. Firstly, puzzle variety could have been better, as there is too much pushing boulders around, placing blocks over pressure pads, and combining those with lasers, moving platforms, or bottomless pits. This problem becomes particularly notable if one is chasing full completion of the game, which ought to demand about seventy hours of gameplay. Secondly, various puzzles have a frustrating nature due to how failures – which cause blocks to break, boulders to fall into oblivion, doors to close, platforms to drop, and other accidents of the sort – force players to start the riddle from scratch.
On the matter of battles, these excel in how many tools players have at their disposal and in how the game makes them useful. On the surface, there is a simple hack and slash nature to the skirmishes of Immortals Fenyx Rising, as the main character can unleash a barrage of fast attacks. But quite soon, players ought to discover that playing offense is not sufficient and other strategic moves are necessary. All incoming blows can be dodged, and if the move is executed perfectly, action will slow down temporarily allowing the hero to land a few extra hits. Similarly, attacks that do not have the foe that produces them flashing red can be parried, which is yet another way to deliver additional blows or even reflect projectiles. And if that is not enough, Fenyx has a myriad of special skills (unlockable via the Coins of Charon) that consume stamina and are specially effective in certain situations, such as the lightning fast Athena’s Dash; the upwards kick of Ares’s Wrath; the helpful hits of her fiery-bird companion; and the mighty force of Hephaisto’s Hammer.
As with puzzles, battles have two issues. The first is also variety, since the game tends to use the same set of bad guys – in slightly stronger versions – over and over again as the quest advances. Even the optional overworld bosses, with the four notable exceptions being the corrupted heroes of the past, are usually larger takes on regular foes. The second shortcoming is related to quantity: it feels like battles happen a little too frequently for their own good. Maybe a larger cast of enemies would have worked towards diminishing that impression, but putting hordes of foes around every point of interest in the map was perhaps a bit exaggerated on the part of developers, as in many occasions optional puzzles or Myth Challenges can only be tackled once all enemies in the area have been defeated, which makes the whole process come off more like a chore than a fun task.
Despite ultimately being a more compact version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, problems like these indicate that Immortals Fenyx Rising is biting off more than it can chew. Or maybe, in the end, the shortcomings that punctuate it serve to show that a little bit of extra development time would have allowed plenty of opportunities for some of its ideas to mature into a more full-fledged state. Nonetheless, the game comes out of its daunting endeavor – the one of replicating the experience provided by one of the greatest adventures of all time – with pretty good results, overall unsurprisingly falling far below the quality threshold of its source of inspiration but at the same time being able to outdo it slightly in a couple of aspects.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is not Breath of the Wild, but it is fun, charming, challenging, and clever. It imitates Nintendo’s untouchable franchise more effectively than nearly all of those that attempted such lunacy before it, and due to that it is the perfect slice of The Legend of Zelda goodness for fans to endure the long winters that usually separate the main releases of the franchise. More than a side-dish, however, Ubisoft’s effort is simply a very good game on its own right, for even though it copies much more than it creates, its formula is just impossible to resist and its approach towards Greek mythology is undeniably quite well-done.