Immortals Fenyx Rising is an open world Action / Adventure game developed and published by Ubisoft. It was released in October 2020 as a cross-gen release on the PS4/PS5, Xbox One/Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. MSRB is $60. I played the Nintendo Switch version.
Let’s get this out of the way — yes, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a Breath of the Wild clone. Sort of. Well… it’s complicated.
In reality, Ubisoft hand-picked some of the best elements from Breath of the Wild and grafted them into their own tried-and-true open world formulas. On the surface, yes, you can climb anywhere, glide to points of interest, solve overworld puzzles, and enter shrines filled with head-scratching challenges. After that, though, the game veers off into its own territory, and it manages that space rather well.
You begin the game as the shipwrecked shield-barer, Fenyx. She (or he) finds themselves on the Golden Isle, home of the entire Greek pantheon of gods, demigods, and mythical creatures. Unfortunately, the titan Typhon has stolen the essences of the gods and turned all the mortals on the island to stone. It’s up to you to restore the gods, defeat the monsters scattered across the island, and defeat Typhon. You won’t be taking this journey alone, however. Zeus and Prometheus will intermittently chime in and give their two cents about your adventure. The entire game is, in fact, a story that Prometheus is telling to Zeus. Their voice-overs serve as a divine peanut gallery. Prometheus will often describe the new area or object that Fenyx finds, then Zeus will make a snarky comment, followed by Prometheus taking a jab of his own at Zeus. They bicker like an old couple. To my surprise, they even develop as characters. Not every joke lands, but they keep the mood light, and I appreciate that.
The rest of the NPC gods tried to keep that same gag reel going, but with mixed results. Without their essences, the gods turned into forms opposite of who they are — wise Athena was now a naive child, vain Aphrodite was now a selfless tree, and Ares was just a chicken. Literally. Some of these goofs worked, but at times they went over-the-top. Each section of the Golden Isle was dedicated to one of the gods, and as you explored the areas, you’d find anecdotes and quests related to the backstories of each god. I could tell that Ubisoft really did their homework; the myths were accurate and detailed. They even went beyond the ones we’ve all heard of like Narcissus and Perseus and went for the deeper cuts. It was educational on a level not usually present in video games. If you thought that Breath of the Wild needed a fleshed-out story, then I believe you’ll be happy with this Greek hero’s journey.
That commitment to Greek mythology translates into the world design as well. The Golden Isle is littered with temples, ruins, grottos, and statues. I felt like I had stepped into the Greek myths that I had frequently read about. It’s not the biggest open world out there, but it’s probably the most dense. Ares’ area is filled with giant arrows, fortresses, and fighting arenas; Athena’s area, on the other hand, boasts of several fields of grain and libraries. I paused when I stumbled across landmarks such as Jason’s golden fleece or a decrepit battlefield with a statue of Achilles in the middle. Each area felt cohesive and meticulously crafted. I loved the quiet, lonely aesthetic of Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule, but the Golden Isle rests on a higher level of defined, cohesive theming.
Besides having cool things to see, the Golden Isle also has miniature challenges to complete spread across the island. There are sliding fresco puzzles, minibosses, timed obstacle courses, and archery challenges. At a certain point Fenyx unlocks the ability to directly control an arrow, with time slowing down as it zooms towards its target. It’s useful both for puzzles and for combat. It’s my favorite ability in the entire game.
The combat is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. You have the standard fare of dodges, parries, and combos. There are several abilities and skill trees you can unlock for said abilities. They were fun to use, but I’ve seen each element of its combat done better by a different game. Action games such as Astral Chain have better combos, and RPGs such as Odin Sphere have more unique movesets. Sometimes Immortals lets you can use the environment to your advantage such as throwing rocks at enemies; however, Breath of the Wild’s interactive systems and Shiekah Runes blow it out of the water. If you have a problem with Zelda’s breakable weapons, then you’ll probably appreciate Immortals’ combat more than me. As for myself, said breakable weapons make Zelda’s combat satisfying and creative. Whenever I fight monsters in Immortals Fenyx Rising, I wish I was playing a different game.
It doesn’t help that the game requires you to find at least 7, if not 8, different kinds of collectibles. This was a problem I had with Starlink: Battle for Atlas as well. Ubisoft seems to love having multiple currencies, but it’s unnecessary. It’s too many systems to keep track of. I preferred Breath of the Wild‘s simplified vision of collecting materials, Korok seeds, and spirit orbs.
Every so often you will encounter a Vault of Tartaros, which is this game’s version of Zelda Shrines. Some are puzzle-based, some are obstacle-based, and some are combat-based. The puzzles felt satisfying to complete but, seeing as the game lacks Breath of the Wild‘s intricate physics, they relied a lot on pushing blocks, rolling balls, and avoiding lasers. There was just enough wiggle room, though, to come to your own solutions for some puzzles. Each god has their own larger Vault similar to Divine Beasts that give that “I conquered a full dungeon” feeling. The Vaults are set in this beautiful starry void, but after a while I got tired of seeing the same setting just as I did in Breath of the Wild.
If you wanted to, you could sit on a tall statue and pinpoint icons across the map. If you played this way, it would feel more like a traditional Ubisoft game of following waypoint after waypoint. However, you could also ignore this feature and explore the Golden Isle more organically. I commend Ubisoft for allowing the player decide how they want to explore, whether they want the convenience of knowing where to go, or the satisfaction of discovering locations for themselves.
As beautiful as some of the game’s visuals are, I could tell that the Switch version felt compromised. The cartoony artstyle helped, but I still saw constant texture pop-in, blurry images, and rough edges. The character models don’t look great. In docked mode it looked adequate, but handheld mode needed more work. The framerate held up well, though. Immortals Fenyx Rising wasn’t the best-looking game on the Switch; if you get touchy with graphics, then I’d recommend playing it on a different platform. For me, the game just met the bare minimum that I felt okay purchasing the Switch version.
In some ways Immortals Fenyx Rising excelled Breath of the Wild and fixed some of its issues. In other ways I felt adequately unimpressed by the game. Its faults never felt like egregious missteps, so in the end my experience oscillated from saying, “wow, this world is so mysterious and interesting,” to “okay, let’s see what’s next.” It definitely scratched that Breath of the Wild itch. I’d say it’s a sleeper hit. Ubisoft often puts its games on sales, and Immortals Fenyx Rising is an easy recommend for one of those sales, especially if you’re a geek for Greek mythology like me.