Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview | ‘Channels Disney’s Hercules with humor and artstyle’

Gods and Monsters recently morphed into Immortals Fenyx Rising alongside a series of major reveals. The game, which previously was MIA after its announcement at E3 2019 and several delays, has emerged as one of Ubisoft’s (many) major titles for 2020, and in advance of its impending December release, I got a chance to preview it in a four and a half-hour demo.

Immortals offers a Ubisoft-flavored spin on the formula that made The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so popular. Its take on Greek mythology is in contrast to the real-world setting of Watch Dogs Legion and the historical fantasy of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. So, despite releasing so closely alongside those two, their potential audiences don’t necessarily overlap as much as one might think.

Our earlier preview from Michael Leri covered most of the basics of the game, and I recommend reading it as well. This preview will offer some of my feelings about the tone and direction of the game as opposed to mechanics.

Greek of the Wild

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Immortals Fenyx Rising unabashedly takes inspiration from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It features the same climbing mechanics, general gameplay, and sense of scale and exploration. The Golden Isle’s presentation is essentially Hyrule, but with Greek gods instead of Ganon.

The exploration is engaging if a bit contrived. Ubisoft has eased up on the tower climbing in recent years, but players are still encouraged to scale to high points and use Fenyx’s eagle vision to mark points of interest in the surrounding landscape. There’s chests, rifts (shrines) with puzzles to solve, and other distractions dotting each area.

I’m a big fan of exploration, and Fenyx’s gliding and climbing abilities make navigation satisfying and challenging. However, like many Ubisoft games, by default Immortals Fenyx Rising is very HUD heavy. The points of interest are also very close together, which makes exploration feel less like searching out that next big secret and more like connecting the dots on the way to your next main quest.

Stylized

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Unlike Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs, Immortals Fenyx Rising goes for a stylized approach to its world. This was a mixed bag for me. At the best of times, the game really channels Disney’s Hercules with a good mix of banter and humor between the gods. Sometimes, though, the look comes off as generic, with designs lacking qualities that make them feel unique. I found the weapons and armor to be very dull, with an aesthetic that seemed very World of Warcraft. That’s fine for an MMO with thousands of different items that don’t have the camera right on top of the character, but a single-player game with an emphasis on equipment really needs the items to be impressive.

I can’t help but think that this game would have been more impressive with a more realistic graphical style. Zelda: Breath of the Wild used cel-shading to significant effect due in part to the limitations of the Switch hardware. With Immortals releasing on multiple platforms, I would have liked to have seen more detailed character models. As it is, the game channels that generic, cartoony Fortnite look, which I can’t stand.

I will say that I played the game over Parsec on PC, which does introduce some compression into the mix. I’m holding my full judgment on the visuals until I have the game in front of me, maxed out at 4K.

Going the Distance

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Despite the issues I found with Immortals, I did have a lot of fun playing it. The game is excellently-paced, and quickly equips players with a multitude of abilities. Once Fenyx gets past the tutorial island, players can approach the game any way they desire, without a ton of artificial roadblocks. The voice acting is excellent, and I loved the light-hearted representation of the Greek Gods. I feel like mythology buffs will especially get a big kick out of Prometheus and Zeus’ narration of the game.

I think Immortals Fenyx Rising is a good move for Ubisoft. The company does some great work but rarely strays too far from its comfort zone. It’s great to see its taking criticism to heart and putting a lot of effort into a new IP. Immortals also has the advantage of being kid-friendly while not being overly simple, which is sure to be a hit with parents who may not want their children stabbing the English in AC: Valhalla or Watch Dogs Legion. I’m excited to play the full version of the game and get to know the rest of the Greek pantheon when Immortals Fenyx Rising releases on December 3, 2020.