Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | ‘Like a fusion of BOTW and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Ubisoft has been cribbing its own open-world formula for the past decade or so. Hardly any of those games were outright bad but they were undeniably a bit predictable. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seemed like the anti-Ubisoft open-world game because of how it shifted the genre away from checklists and toward natural exploration and organic problem solving. Gods and Monsters Immortals Fenyx Rising is Ubisoft’s attempt to move into the lane that Nintendo paved and it seems to be the right lane to travel down.

Wild style

Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | 'Like a fusion of BOTW and Assassin's Creed Odyssey'

The comparisons to Breath of the Wild are not subtle in the slightest. Both have stylized art directions in open worlds focused on exploration. That exploration is often dictated by your stamina meter that you can upgrade and refill with food — and you’ll need to if you want to climb up mountains or glide around using your Wings of Daidalos. Mounts can expedite traversal, but have to be tamed first.

Higher areas serve as great vantage points that you can use to set markers on interesting structures. Many of these noteworthy areas are separate puzzle-filled zones that specifically revolve around using your abilities in unique ways. Of course, there are small puzzles and enemy encampments littered around the world that may open up a nearby chest if you kill said foes or solve said puzzle. There’s even an ability that lets you pick up and throw almost any nearby object, which is quite helpful (and not unlike Link’s Magnesis power).

Again, these aspects are unabashedly taken from Breath of the Wild, but instead of feeling like soulless idea stealing, it works because of how good those ideas are and how few games have tried to follow that seminal Switch launch title. It’s liberating to see a whole bunch of land and be guided by your explorer’s spirit and not a ton of arbitrary question marks, which is typically what guides players in Ubisoft games. Peppering the map with those question marks is not that engaging; finding those points yourself and exploring them is.

Rise and shrine

Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | 'Like a fusion of BOTW and Assassin's Creed Odyssey'

A few of the important areas are based around puzzle solving. There are celestial grids that task you with finding special orbs and act as a cluster of related puzzles. Vaults of Tartaros act more like Shrines from Breath of the Wild as they are separated from the hub area and throw unique problems at you that test your thinking skills over your reflexes. Random trials across the island also test your powers, too, be it your gliding or ability to aim a guided arrow.

While slightly different in presentation, all three types of gauntlets excelled because of how they stretched the game’s elements. For example, one of the Tartaros vaults centered around using wind and levers at the right time while another was essentially a giant pinball machine where the balls were a means to spread fire and break barriers. The celestial puzzles in the area were more about traditional problem solving and figuring out how to use the key-like orbs to open all of the doors.

Each was a welcome break from the other and had genuinely strokes of brilliance as some of the solutions were quite clever. It was refreshing to be able to sit and think in a Ubisoft game and not be railroaded to the next objective or enemy camp. Even though physics plays a big role, the game doesn’t appear to have as many variables and, thus, probably fewer ways to solve each puzzle. It doesn’t feel narrow, yet it also doesn’t seem like it will have YouTube compilations displaying its astonishing flexibility and open-ended solutions. Not reaching that astronomically high bar doesn’t spell out failure, but it is worth pointing out.

A similar sort of odyssey

Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | 'Like a fusion of BOTW and Assassin's Creed Odyssey'

Although it apes heavily from the last Zelda title, it’s still a Ubisoft game, which is where a lot of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey roots shine through, especially given its Greek setting and main developer, Ubisoft Quebec. But the comparisons go a lot deeper than its pantheon of gods as the combat borrows heavily from 2018’s action RPG.

Swordplay is quick and focuses on using abilities, parrying, and dodging out of the way. Even the button layout is almost exactly the same, ensuring a lot of your skills with Kassandra will transfer right over to Immortals. Flashier special attacks and aerial juggles make Immortals more of an arcadey hack-and-slash, which works because of the effects-heavy animations and responsive controls. It’s a little on the simple side, but hopefully the full game’s upgrade tree will have more in store to stave off repetition.

The game’s RPG mechanics also contain plenty of Odyssey’s DNA and give the game more of a traditional structure. Different collectibles littered throughout the map allow players to upgrade their health, stamina, weapons, armor, and potions. Equippable armor pieces yield different stat boosts. Skill trees give players new abilities and combat maneuvers.

These conventional role-playing staples look to provide more gameplay hooks without falling victim to restrictive or mindless leveling systems. Since arbitrary levels don’t dictate where you can go and what you can do, you’re free to collect as much as you want and not as much as you think is required.

It’s not just about chasing numbers and mindlessly stacking experience for the sake of it, but the title uses those principles in a more thoughtful way to create a sense of progression without holding the game hostage behind tedious level-gating. Given how this philosophy is core to the game, hopefully it doesn’t end up guiding players too heavily or force them to grind unnecessarily. Ubisoft even stated that the game is focused more on “gameplay than stats and numbers.”

A whole new open world

Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | 'Like a fusion of BOTW and Assassin's Creed Odyssey'

Even though Immortals is like a fusion of Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey doesn’t mean it lacks its own identity. While the humans in the game look rather rudimentary and uninspired, the world design holds plenty of promise. Each of the game’s seven regions is built around a specific god, which is reflected in its architecture and color palette. Hephaistos’ area was filled with robots, bricks, and furnaces with the matching orange, red, and brown hues that such a fire-and-brimstone area would have.

Centralizing each zone around a different god is a sound idea and allows for the game to continually change up its rhythm and style. According to Ubisoft, each region is specifically built to “support the mythology of that god.” The frozen robots in Hephaistos’ turf lend credence to that notion and it’s up to the full game to expand upon that.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a bad name that sounds like a fake video game, but it plays like a good game with real promise. Emphasizing exploration and loosening the leash is something Ubisoft games could truly benefit from, even if many of its ideas have clear origins elsewhere. Although it’s pretty bold to wear its inspirations so proudly, they’re solid enough mechanics to borrow in the first place and help make Immortals Fenyx Rising a potential exciting shift for a publisher that could use a bit of excitement.