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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/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Immortals Fenyx Rising'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 10, 2020 @ 12:45 p.m. PDT

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

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The game formerly known as Gods and Monsters is hitting consoles in a few short months, and I got a chance to go hands-on with a demo version of the game. Given the E3 logo tucked into one of the menus, I'm guessing that this was originally meant to be shown off earlier this year. Regardless of the timing, the demo is a big step up from what we saw in last year's Stadia leak, and it may be one of Ubisoft's most promising new franchises.

Loosely based on Greek mythology, Immortals Fenyx Rising tells the story of a demigod, Fenyx, who is trying to save the world (and the gods themselves) from Typhon, who is trying to take over everything. Only a small slice of the game was playable, so I didn't get a chance to dig into the story, but what I did get to see was the tone of the game, and it's a bit more irreverent than I had initially expected.

While the Assassin's Creed influence is obvious in both the engine and world design — I was having flashbacks to the Assassin's Creed Odyssey Fate of Atlantis DLC while playing — the story isn't told via interactions with NPCs. Instead, Fenyx's adventure is humorously narrated by Zeus and Prometheus, who both interject heavy doses of sarcasm. I never knew I wanted a game with two Greek gods sniping at each other, but I am here for it. They also don't hesitate to set the tone, as the opening narration pokes fun at both Ubisoft and "the French."

The demo didn't have access to the character customization option (Aphrodite's Beauty Chair), instead providing a default version of Fenyx. We were told that Fenyx's look is highly customizable, including changing her to a male character, selecting skin tone, and choosing from voice options.

Navigating the world is going to feel familiar to anyone who's played an Assassin's Creed game, with one big addition. Fenyx has wings that allow her to glide for a limited amount of time. You can find updrafts in certain parts of the world that help you gain height and access harder to reach areas, but you're still limited by stamina. Once that runs out, Fenyx starts falling. Stamina recharges quickly when you're resting, so it is used primarily as a way for the game to gate your special moves. You can add extra stamina bars with the right equipment, but doing so means a tradeoff with other bonuses.

The one place where stamina felt out of place was during climbing. Perhaps this is a bit of personal bias, but having played the majority of the Assassin's Creed games, I'm used to freedom of navigation in Ubisoft games. While stamina makes sense to limit flying and special attacks, having it limit standard mobility just felt like an annoying artificial hindrance that didn't need to be there.

I know I've mentioned Assassin's Creed more than once, partly because of the engine influences, but it's important to point out that Immortals Fenyx Rising isn't just an Assassin's Creed reskin. It is both more accessible than a standard Assassin's Creed game and more focused on combat. Yes, stealth attacks are an option in certain cases, though Fenyx is set up to be much more of a frontal assault type of character. She has a handful of easy-to-use special attacks that look good and cause solid damage when they correctly land. The challenge is in knowing when to use them rather than trying to make them happen. If you chain together enough damage, you can stun an enemy, which allows you to dish out some bonus punishment.

On top of her standard weapons, Fenyx also has an arrow that can be fired in three different ways: quick shot, charged shot, and a directed shot. The last one isn't as strong as the others, but it is very useful when solving puzzles. Need to get fire, but all of the sources are too high? Shoot a directed arrow and manually direct it through the fire and then into your target. It's easy to imagine how this mechanic can be integrated into multiple puzzles.

There were a handful of puzzles to be found in the overworld, but most of the challenges are found in the Vault of Tartaros. Each rift opens a path to a specific vault in the underworld. The vaults provide platforming challenges across three levels of difficulty. Completing one of these vaults grants Zeus's Lightning, which is a resource that can be used to improve Fenyx. Vaults can include optional treasure, but if it isn't found, the vault remains open for you to re-enter at any time.

Time also appears as though it may play a role in the game, as there is at least one type of treasure chest that can only be opened at night. If you run across a Night Chest during the day, it appears as a ghostly visage. Fenyx can sit and advance the time to night to make the chest solid. When I did that during the demo, I was surrounded by monsters as soon as I stood up. Vanquishing the creatures was required to unlock the treasure chest.

I did see a few ghosts scattered around the world during the demo, but I couldn't seem to interact with them. The Ubisoft rep who was watching my demo couldn't give me any details, other than to say that they'll play a role in the full game.

Immortals Fenyx Rising has its own visual style tending more toward a storybook look than ultra-realism, but that doesn't mean there is a lack of detail. While I was running around the world at an accelerated pace due to limited time, I kept wanting to simply catch my breath to stop and explore. Vibrant colors and contrasting palettes make characters and environments stand out. The demo didn't include a photo mode feature, but when I asked, the Ubisoft rep said that one is planned for the full game.

In a AAA market that sometimes feels like it is overwhelmed by sequels, it's gratifying to see a game that feels both fresh and accessible. It's difficult to say how well Feynx's full adventure will play out, but after hitting the end of my time with the demo, I realized I was anticipating Immortals Fenyx Rising more than Assassin's Creed Valhalla. That's one hell of a first impression.

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