Gut Check: Immortals: Fenyx Rising

When talking about Immortals: Fenyx Rising, it’s impossible not to bring up 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an excellent game that was bound to inspire other developers to build upon its success. Enter Immortals: Fenyx Rising, a game that’s so clearly inspired by Breath of the Wild that at times it feels like plagiarism. However, for better and worse, Ubisoft did not make a carbon copy of Breath of the Wild, because that would be an insult to one of the best Zelda games out there. What we have on our hands is a louder, less subtle, yet still solid facsimile of a modern classic.

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is an action-adventure game that is exactly what you would expect Breath of the Wild to look like if Ubisoft had made it. What I mean is that Immortals: Fenyx Rising tries to copy the sense of exploration and expansiveness that Breath of the Wild had, while pumping the game full of checklists and side activities. The outcome is a fundamentally solid game that seems so conflicted in what it’s trying to do that it ultimately feels exceptionally average in almost every way. It lacks the elegance and charm of its inspirator, which makes sense because Ubisoft made it.

One of the things that Immortals: Fenyx Rising gets right and also happens to be one of my favorite aspects of the game is the breadth and scope of the world. It’s this sizeable landmass that’s beautifully rendered in a lower detailed, watercolor graphical style that’s extremely reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. That classic, “If you see it, you can go to it,” design philosophy is well realized in Immortals: Fenyx Rising, and its art style, world design and the power it leverages from being on consoles other than the Nintendo Switch really make this world worth exploring. The world doesn’t appear to be overwhelmingly large, instead opting for a smaller and more handcrafted experience. While I’m still early on, the world seems to be taking a quality over quantity approach, something I’d take any day over a large, procedurally generated bland landmass… a blandmass if you will.

As you explore you’ll be collecting various resources for crafting potions, upgrading your armor and weapons, and so on and so forth. It sounds more daunting than it is though because resource management isn’t really a thing you have to worry about outside of carrying capacity for certain items. You’ll also come across all sorts of hidden puzzles, friendly animals and corrupted beasts, the latter of which makes Immortals: Fenyx Rising really feel like its own game.

I really enjoy the overall combat experience in Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but the best thing that it does, or specifically doesn’t do, is make you endure weapon degradation. That’s right, Immortals: Fenyx Rising fixed the worst part about Breath of the Wild and needs to be celebrated for that. Within the first hour of the game you’ll become familiar with light and heavy attacks, your bow, one magic ability that allows you to pick up rocks and stuff, a dodge, and a parry that I always forget about. Combat is fast is rewarding, and every last enemy you vanquish is hurled into space as they dissolve into ash which is a really satisfying touch. Immortals: Fenyx Rising also does the Breath of the Wild thing where if you parry or dodge at the right moment, everything slows down for you to get this flurry of blows in that deals extra damage. You’ll unlock additional abilities as you explore more of the world, collect more resources, and progress through the story, which might be the only nice thing I can say about the story.

The story in Immortals: Fenyx Rising is bad. Well, that’s not entirely fair, maybe the story is fine, but the way it’s presented is miserable. Evil dragon/god/demon-thing Typhon, who is basically the Ganondorf of this game, has corrupted the land and has turned 4 of the remaining heroes of the gods into his agents of chaos. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because this is almost the exact story in Breath of the Wild. That’s where you, Fenyx, come into play. A terrible shipwreck has you washed up on shore and you come to find that you’re basically the chosen one or whatever and only you can save the world. Sounds fine so far, right?

Immortals: Fenyx Rising is told through an active narration, wherein Prometheus is telling the story of the game to Zeus. This narration tries so desperately to be funny with both narrators cracking wise at each other, usually ending with a joke about how shitty Zeus was. It’s all so brutally unfunny and actively detracts from the good moments in Immortals: Fenyx Rising. And it isn’t just those two dopes that bring the experience down. Every single NPC I’ve met thus far is terrible and actively unfunny. From Hermes being this snark-filled kleptomaniac who is written to be this lovable scamp despite the fact that he isn’t, to an oracle who doesn’t know he’s an oracle because he’s sooooo highhhh, it’s all just so poorly executed.

It’s sad to say, but lately Ubisoft has been churning out nothing but bland and badly written games, and this is no exception. It’s like they saw Breath of the Wild and felt compelled to pump it full of classic open world bullshit. When I think back to Breath of the Wild, I remember a quiet game about exploration and discovery that didn’t hold your hand and was designed with a simple ethos of “the journey should be just as interesting as the destination.” And Immortals: Fenyx Rising is perfectly capable of providing those moments of quiet discovery, but it’s constantly undermined by the chattering old men who crow at you at random times, and the unnecessary amount of cut-scenes that you have to endure. There’s a point where you’re introduced to your hub area where you come to level up and craft and so on, and there are about 6 specific stations to learn about. Each one of them comes with a cut-scene where Hermes comes and snarkily explains these stations to you. Instead of just some text that didn’t have bad jokes in it, I had to listen to that dingus to learn how to upgrade my stuff.

Much like Watch Dogs: Legion and to a lesser extent, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Immortals: Fenyx Rising has it’s fair share of performance issues. I swear, each one of these titles has fucked up in a different way, that it’s starting to feel intentional at this point. Watch Dogs: Legion couldn’t maintain a framerate to save its life, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla loved to hang at loading screens, and Immortals: Fenyx Rising just will decide arbitrarily that you can no longer play the game. Every 15 to 30 minutes or so, Immortals: Fenyx Rising will just freeze up and hang there. I haven’t found any rhyme or reason to any of it, and it’s been the sole reason why my play sessions are cut short. Maybe it’s my PC, but the fact that all three of these Ubisoft titles have broken in three distinct and separate ways is wild.

The worst part about all of this is that if the game would let me, I’d sink a lot of time into Immortals: Fenyx Rising. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but there’s a lot to like about it. The combat, world design, and sense of exploration all seem great, but the story and performance issues really undercut the entire experience. I like Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but it just isn’t as refined or as cohesive of a package as Breath of the Wild was. I know it’s unfair to compare a flagship Nintendo title to a Ubisoft title that’s been pushed out in December as an afterthought, but when you wear your inspiration so blatantly on your sleeve like Immortals: Fenyx Rising does, you can’t help but point out its shortcomings.

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