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Immortals Fenyx Rising

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: Dec. 3, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Immortals Fenyx Rising'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 30, 2020 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

Immortals Fenyx Rising is an open-world, action-adventure game full of epic battles, quests, mythological monsters, tricky trials, treacherous dungeons, and heroic feats.

Buy Immortals: Fenyx Rising

Immortals: Fenyx Rising puts you in the shoes of the titular Fenyx, who awakens after a boat crash on the Golden Island, one of the premier locations in mythological Greece. All humans have been turned to stone by the evil Typhoon, who seeks to remake the world by capturing four gods and sealing them away. It's up to Fenyx to save the day, and all the while, she's being watched by the serious Prometheus and the snarky Zeus, who treat her adventure as an energetic TV show.

A good portion of the game feels like Assassin's Creed Odyssey: For Kids edition because Fenyx feels like Kassandra, and the Greek mythology setting only emphasizes that. Although it's far goofier and far more magical than Odyssey, I sometimes called the titular character "Kassandra" in my head (and when writing this review). What will make or break the game is its humor. This is not a game that lets up on the comedy, and every cut scene and wandering moment is filled with snark and irreverence. It has some genuinely funny lines and moments, but if you find any of the characters to be tedious (especially Zeus), you might get annoyed very quickly. This is the toughest aspect to judge objectively, so all I can do is recommend that you watch some gameplay footage and see if you enjoy the humor. I am sure kids will love it, but you have to enjoy a specific type of humor for the game to really hit.

I need to point out that while the game is entirely friendly for kids, it does skirt the line much of the time. Zeus is still a cruel philanderer who sleeps with anyone, and the game references that a lot, although it's never too overt. It's amusing to see as an adult, but if you're looking for a game for your younger ones to play (which Immortals largely is), be prepared for them to ask questions where the answer is, "castrated with a scythe." I don't think that it's bawdier than some animated movies, but it sometimes comes darn close.

Yes, Immortals is Ubisoft's Breath of the Wild. It wears the inspiration intensely on its sleeve. You begin on an isolated plateau and must find several gates with simple puzzles to obtain items so you can upgrade your stamina. Upon finishing the tutorial, you're gifted with a glider and allowed into the open world to approach it as you like. You get a magnetic power that lifts heavy objects using very familiar effects. You're in a postapocalyptic world where the big, evil guy has won, and you're the only hope to fix things by finding missing heroes. You're going to see a lot of comparisons because it's hard to avoid, even if it has its own flavor on almost all of them.

Immortals does a really good job of evoking the same feeling as Breath of the Wild where you can venture where you like, there are tons of things around every corner, and just reaching different places can be a puzzle. It has the same generally open world and game mechanic where you can climb anything but have a stamina bar. It has flaws and areas where it falls behind, so it's prevented from being quite as amazing as Breath of the Wild, but it's a valiant attempt. Some of the missing features, such as lack of weapon durability, are arguably a plus if you consider that those features sometimes dragged down Breath of the Wild.

However, combat is one area where Immortals can't be directly compared to Breath of the Wild. The combat can best be described as Assassin's Creed for Kids. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but its inspiration is very clear, especially coming fresh from Valhalla. You have access to a light attack and a heavy attack. The light attack restores stamina, while the heavy attack does extra damage to an enemy's stun bar. You have the same Perfect Dodge and Perfect Block mechanics that you can find in almost every game under the sun. Immortals is far more air-oriented than either Assassin's Creed or Breath of the Wild, with incredibly powerful air combos. It's not Devil May Cry, but it has enough variety to remain interesting.

You also have access to abilities that are special powers that require stamina. Unlike Assassin's Creed, you'll use the same set of abilities throughout the game and upgrade them. You can shoot (and remote control) an arrow, turn invisible, summon a phoenix to attack your enemies, create shields and hammers out of thin air, and so on. Each one feels appropriately powerful and useful, but I strongly recommend you go for the utility ones, like improved dashing and collecting all items in an area before you go for the big-ticket damage items.

Speaking of which, as is the case with any good Zelda clone, Immortals is full of puzzles. In addition to the aforementioned pseudo-shrines, which have self-contained puzzles, you'll also find a ton of puzzles in the overworld. The puzzles are usually rather basic and unlock a chest with new armor or valuable upgrading materials, but they're distinctive enough to be an interesting diversion. Sometimes, the solution is a little esoteric, but they're generally fun brainteasers that are challenging enough to take a few moments but not so challenging that you feel frustrated and helpless.

A neat thing about the puzzles is that, like Breath of the Wild, you can find alternate solutions to challenges. The physics system is more rigid than in Breath of the Wild, but some unintended solutions have worked. This could be anything from dragging a heavy boulder to a pressure plate instead of solving a puzzle to hitting the exact right series of jumps and glides to reach an area early. You can unlock the ability to dash through lasers, so anything that's blocked by a laser wall becomes far easier to reach.

Overall, the alternate solutions help the game feel less rigid. I like the sense of progression and power that the alternate solutions add to Zelda-style puzzles. Power-ups in this kind of game usually focus on combat, while finding new mobility and puzzle-solving options is something I would consider core to the Zelda experience. It's a great idea to be able to power up your puzzling and your fighting, but since you're not assured to have these things, the downside is that they can't be naturally integrated into the puzzle and sometimes feel like cheats rather than ingenuity.

Upgrading feels naturally integrated into the game flow. The systems in Immortals are streamlined, so any food you find can be used for health potions, any mushrooms for stamina options, every upgrade material is a colored gem that corresponds to a specific gear slot, and all items in that slot are upgraded at the same time. You get more items for solving puzzles and beating enemies, which lets you get more items. It means less complexity, but it also means that you don't have to collect all sorts of random items to create the best healing or stamina-restoring items.

Weapons and armor in Immortals are odd in that they all share the same stats. Each one has a perk (eventually multiple perks) that influence how it functions. For example, one piece of armor starts with an extra chunk of stamina and gradually upgrades to multiple stamina bars and reduced stamina use. Others can grant a bonus to your first strike in combat or power up specific moves. There's no punishment for swapping except time. One mildly disappointing part is that there are entire sets that share the same perk but are palette swaps or cosmetic differences. It's neat to be able to customize your character, but the thrill of opening a chest is dampened when you find the purple version of an armor that you already aren't using.

Immortal's biggest issue is that it wears its two biggest inspirations directly on its sleeve and begs constant comparison to both while often feeling weaker than both. It makes it difficult for the game to define its own identity when it doesn't quite seem to have one. I had quite a lot of fun exploring, solving puzzles, and hitting the same rough marks as Breath of the Wild, but the striking similarities also made it frustrating when Immortals underperformed in areas, which happens relatively often. If the similarities weren't so dead-on, it might not hurt so much, but there were times when I thought about how much more fun a similar sequence was in Breath of the Wild or Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. Hopefully, a sequel might try to do its own thing instead of living in the shadow of its inspirations.

Visually, Immortals is a mixed bag. It runs extremely well on the Switch, even in handheld mode. The only problem that I encountered was an occasional "hitching" as it loaded a new zone after I fast-traveled, and a few crashes were connected to that. I had to be careful about when I put the game into rest mode because if I did it too soon after fast-traveling or entering a newer section of the map, it was a gamble on a crash. The game looks perfectly fine, but it has the distinct features of reduced visuals that can leave it looking rather plain. I compared it to footage of the PS5 iteration, and it feels like the difference between playing a PC game on low settings and high settings. Everything feels diminished, and some visual effects are noticeably missing. The portability is a big plus in this case, especially since it runs well, but if you're playing on your TV and have a choice, you might want to look at the non-Switch versions instead.

I also need to mention that the in-game cut scenes are really rough. I am not sure if this is a result of the Switch version or if all versions are like that, but they resemble PS2-style cut scenes. You may defeat an epic boss and then its defeat cut scene consists of the boss awkwardly standing up and walking away. There are a lot of canned animations, and this part feels like the most budget-constrained segment of the game. The voice acting carries these scenes, but it's odd how they are also of a much lower quality in cut scenes than anything else in the game.

Overall, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a good game. It's a shameless clone, but it's fun, and it's clear that Ubisoft's take on the formula was done with enthusiasm. If you were disappointed that this year's Breath of the Wild game was a Dynasty Warriors title, then Immortals might scratch that itch. It's always going to live in the shadow of the games that inspired it, but sometimes, all you want to do is climb some cliffs and slay some monsters, and Immortals provides exactly what it promises.

Score: 8.0/10

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