Friday, March 19, 2021

Immortals: Fenyx Rising (Multi) Review

We now turn from reviews of games featuring crazy taxis and late Halloween celebrations to a review of a game that is clearly modeled after one of the best open world games of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As they say, if you aim for the king, you best not miss. Fortunately for all parties involved, Ubisoft doesn't miss with Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Here is the SPC review.

Of Breath of the Wild inspirations and monsters

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild changed the perception of what an open world game could be, offering immense freedom and fun in how to take on its world. Like Ocarina of Time before it and how that game changed 3D action-adventure games, Breath of the Wild brought a bit of a revolution to the open world type of video game. It was only a matter of time before we started seeing games clearly inspired by Nintendo's handiwork, and one of these first games comes from Ubisoft, who has enjoyed success with crafting open world adventures in the past already with games like Assassin's Creed. Immortals: Fenyx Rising is the latest in Ubisoft's repertoire of open world games, bringing with it a Breath of the Wild-like flair to its world design. It's no simple clone, fortunately, as the end result is one of the better and most enjoyable open world titles on offer in a long time.

Ubisoft's adventure taking place in the world of Greek mythology is about a mortal named Fenyx, the last of their kind that for some reason or another hasn't been turned to stone like their fellow humans. With help from the messenger Hermes, Fenyx is tasked with heading to the four corners of the Golden Isle to bring back and deliver the Gods' essences in order to restore them to their former glory. This is all the while with the help of the Gods, making a plan to defeat the evil Typhon, a mischievous, sinister demon who has brought chaos and monsters alike from the depths of Tartaros. 

Immortals: Fenyx Rising's story is told by Prometheus, as he tells Fenyx's tale to Zeus, who is quite the arrogant jerk from the word "go". Well, I guess I would be too if I were omnipotent and had those gorgeous locks... At any rate, there's plenty of humor through both Prometheus' narration and Zeus' constant interruptions and interjections. Not all of it lands--in fact, most of it, whether dialogue or certain scenarios throughout he game--doesn't, but it's appreciated that the game isn't played overly seriously or straight.

Soaring through the skies with the Wings of Daedalus is a pleasant way to get around the Golden Isle.

The world of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is split up between various zones. The adventure begins at the Clashing Rocks, where Fenyx's boat capsized and our hero finds themselves discovering their mortal allies turned to stone and meeting Hermes. This is essentially Breath of the Wild's Great Plateau area of Immortals--that is, a relatively small, condensed, isolated area that serves as a nice tutorial for the game that follows. Upon moving on from the Clashing Rocks, the Golden Isle is pretty much open to fully explore, from the verdant and vibrant Valley of Eternal Spring, to the dusty and mountainous region known as the Forgelands. Each zone is distinct in appearance, geography, and things to do, and while you can venture into any of the four starting areas immediately, I found it best to journey in the Valley of Eternal Spring due to the enemies there being weaker than say, War's Den.

Fenyx surveys the Forgelands, which are on the northeast of the Golden Isle.

Exploring the world of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is helped by Fenyx's Farsight ability. At any point while adventuring with Fenyx's feet firmly planted to the ground, you can click the right stick and zoom in on distant areas. Here, you can mark points of interest that appear when you correctly hover over specific sections of the overworld. This is great for tracking down chests, challenges, and all manners of interesting sights, but you can also find these in a totally organic fashion by exploring the map at your leisure as well. 

Some inspirations from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are more obvious than others in Immortals: Fenyx Rising.

And it is a joy to uncover the multitude of chests and challenges that litter the land of the Golden Isle. Pretty much every stretch of the isle has something interesting to take in and accomplish, whether it be a treasure chest to open or a Myth challenge to complete. The latter of which comes in multiple varieties, such as Odysseus challenges, where you need to guide an arrow through a series of rings in an obstacle course, leading it to light a brazier at the end. Navigation challenges have you rushing from point A to point B before time runs out. Then, there are Constellation challenges where the goal is to find, pick up, transport, and take several blue orbs to a board where you must situate them in a specific pattern (a constellation) to solve the overall puzzle. Finally, there are Fresco Myth challenges, and these sort of outwear their welcome, requiring you to solve a simple sliding block puzzle. It's always four blocks you need to slide, and the strategy to solve them is always the same. It comes off as busy work in this occasion.

Chests, scattered around the Golden Isle, award a bounty of goods, whether they be shards of Adamantine, materials to concoct potions, or wholly new armor, weapons, and other equipment for Fenyx to don. Some chests are right out in the open, ready to be picked clean, but if you want the really good stuff, you'll have to either fight for it or solve some rather complex puzzles to get their wares. Not only are the rewards well worth it, with each weapon and piece of armor having its own specific buff so you can choose the one that fits your play style, but they're mostly enjoyable to seek out and collect as well. You can even customize Fenyx to equip armor on a purely visual level. This way if you have a buff you enjoy but dislike the look of the armor it's attached to, you can customize Fenyx's appearance so they wear whatever you want while not affecting any buffs.

Puzzles can occasionally become a bit repetitive, but overall, they're enjoyable affairs to take on and solve.

The Golden Isle is home to puzzles not just in the overworld, but also in the Vaults of Tartaros, which are clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Ancient Shrines. These vaults even borrow the same color scheme from Breath of the Wild's shrines in an either "homage" or straight up "ripoff". Either way, these are enjoyable for the most part to solve. They feature different takes on puzzles, and as each vault goes on, the main puzzle concept of the vault is iterated on to good measure. Generally, these involve moving boxes, rolling balls, hitting switches with arrows--that sort of thing. For completing these vaults, you earn bolts from Zeus's Lightning, used to upgrade Fenyx's overall stamina, also true to Breath of the Wild in its obvious influence. 

Vaults of Tartaros are to Immortals: Fenyx Rising
as Ancient Shrines are to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Fenyx has multiple ways to increase their strength and prowess. There are Ambrosia crystals sprinkled around the Golden Isles, which when turned in to the Hall of the Gods, increases Fenyx's overall health. There are Adamantine Crystals, dropped from defeated enemies and found in treasure chests, which give Fenyx the ability to increase their attack power and defense. Then, there are health, stamina, attack and defense potions that can be crafted from materials gathered throughout the Golden Isles, such as mushrooms and figs, for instance. Finally, Coins of Charon, found mostly from completing Myth challenges are spent to upgrade Fenyx's various skill trees, making our mortal hero an even more dangerous, deadly, and proficient fighter.

The bigger they are, the more bones they can break.

And Fenyx will need all of their strength to dish out damage to Typhon's dark forces, whether they be Gorgons, Minotaurs, Cyclops, Harpies, and wild animals like ferocious bears and lions. Fortunately, combat is full of maneuvers for Fenyx to dip into and utilize, from slicing foes with their sword for a light attack, to dealing damage via a stronger but slower axe attack. The latter of which builds up an enemy's stun gauge to leave them temporarily dazed for Fenyx to go hog wild and unleash heck onto them. Then, there are moves that summon a series of spikes to launch enemies into the air, charge into foes with a powerful shield, or grab onto faraway foes for Fenyx to pull themselves towards and strike down. There is certainly no shortage of attacks in Fenyx's arsenal, and this keeps combat from feeling too dull. 

Whether it be a Harpy or a land-based pest, Fenyx has the strength to take 'em down.

Of course, even on the easiest of difficulties, Fenyx can't just wildly assault enemies with their weapons and expect no retaliation. Enemies will strike back at their leisure, with some attacks from foes allowing Fenyx to parry them, while a red aura around an enemy means the incoming attack must be evaded instead. The greatest battles in Immortals are against legendary creatures, more difficult foes that are placed in out-of-the-way locations on the map. Difficult encounters, for sure, especially if Fenyx isn't well equipped for them, but well worth the rewards for taking them down.

Fenyx is ready to take this particular bull-like creature by the horns!

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a gorgeous game with a painting-like approach to its visuals. The colors are vibrant and visually stunning, and the game is often a great looker, even on the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, for example. Even the music thrills with memorable melodies and a combination of orchestral and choir pieces that accentuate with both the action and the more calmer moments of gameplay in Immortals' 40+ hour adventure. If there's any part of the presentation package of the game that I didn't strongly have great feelings for, that would be the voice acting. Some of it is delivered well, while other characters such as Hermes were obnoxious to me in their voicework. Though I do think part of that is due to the sometimes eyeroll-inducing dialogue on display in Immortals.

No matter the platform you play it on, Immortals: Fenyx Rising has one stunningly sensational art style.

In many ways, Immortals: Fenyx Rising outshines its inspiration of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was no easy task, for sure. Of course, having a blueprint to work with instead of coming up with a totally new approach like Nintendo had to do helps, but overall, Ubisoft definitely delivered an improved experience for the most part. While Immortals: Fenyx Rising does have an Achilles Heel or two, such as some of the Myth challenges around the Golden Isle bring with them plenty of tedium through repetition, some puzzles in the Vaults of Tartaros are very unfriendly due to occasionally wonky physics, and some of the humor in the game failed to bring me any laughs whatsoever (and usually it was an eyeroll instead), the game is a gift from the Gods as far as I'm concerned. Exploration is a dream, running and soaring across the Golden Isle is a blast, and combat and the better half of puzzles in the game are magnificently done. Fortunately, Immortals: Fenyx Rising rises to the occasion and makes for one super satisfying open world adventure.

[SPC Says: A-]