For the most part, Ubisoft games undeniably pull from a certain blueprint, one the company has been continually iterating on since the good ol’ days of Assassin’s Creed 2 and Far Cry 3. It’s not often that its games draw heavy comparisons to outside sources but Immortals Fenyx Rising changes that with its obvious parallels to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A few solid puzzles and a color-soaked art direction don’t propel this game to Olympian heights as it is weighed down by its repetitive nature, relentlessly corny sense of humor, and hand-holdy design.
A Trojan Horse for a checklist-type of RPG
The Breath of the Wild comparisons are impossible to ignore given the multiple aspects Immortals lifts almost directly from the coveted Switch launch title. And while that list of borrowed aspects is very, very long, manifesting in everything from puzzle rooms separate from the hub world to the stamina-focused gliding, Immortals takes a big swing and goes after the most essential building block of BOTW: its focus on open-ended exploration.
However, Immortals pantomimes that mindset as it cuts out the part where players actually have to explore. Climbing up tall structures to get a better lay of the land is still part of the general flow and can be quite awe-inspiring as each of the game’s six vibrant biomes pop up over the horizon. But this game marks chests and side missions on the map after the player tediously hovers the cursor over them. Instead of the player manually eyeing and placing a beacon on a peculiar-looking building or particularly striking statue, the game tells them exactly what each glowing dot is once they focus on it.
Automating this small process instantly turns the game into a mindless, run-of-the-mill checklist type of experience that’s all too common. Almost everything with an icon taped to it is worth going to and everything else is filler and not a potential secret waiting to be uncovered. The world is too straightforward for any sense of awe or mystery. This also applies to the food as each regenerative consumable is blatantly color-coded and impossible to experiment with. Sanding off the edges and spelling almost everything out may welcome some, but it ends up being a less engaging and unique experience.
Puzzles can be similarly narrow and also suffer because of the nature of the Ubisoft formula it is derived from. Some of them require some critical thinking or combine the mechanics in interesting ways and tease a bit of the game’s potential. Sitting and thinking on its cleverest contraptions is where Immortals is at its most god-like, but the game’s size and limited toolset are the Achilles’ heel to its multitude of brain teasers.
Covering the map with icons almost ensures that they begin to lose their luster and get stale. Moving boxes, hitting switches, and shooting arrows all become fairly routine as solutions often take a similar combination of the same moves. The exact motions differ, but the actions are, nevertheless, the same and grow extremely repetitive after the opening hours. Instead of fewer, harder puzzles, it goes for more, less complicated ones for the sake of content.
That problem is exacerbated by its limited ability set. More moves would naturally allow for a healthier amount of puzzle variety yet this game tends to lean on the same handful of powers and, in turn, has the same handful of challenge types. Most of them tend to revolve around arrows, fire, and blocks because that’s about all it can handle. Immortals would benefit from either a bigger pool of moves or fewer puzzles.
A vast portion of them tend to have only one solution, too, except when they don’t, which can be game-breaking in a cheap, anticlimactic way. Some parts of the skill tree grant Fenyx powers that allow players to skip parts of some areas. Dashing through deadly lasers, spawning a block out of thin air, and being able to carry heavy objects can deflate a few of the vaults, making them an unfulfilling exercise in futility over a thoughtful one. It’s bewildering why these game-breaking powers were included as the satisfaction in puzzle solving is, well, solving the puzzle, not bulldozing through it.
Hacky hack-and-slash combat and comedy
Combat is not as prone to breaking but it can be similarly numbing as it takes almost the exact cues from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Odyssey’s swordplay often devolved into button mashing as it didn’t have much defensive play to balance out the relentless offense it was so heavily focused on. Melee fights play out in about the same way as it can be easy to zone out while pounding the attack buttons and spamming special moves. Such a chaotic spectacle is visually appealing, but at the cost of being consistently mechanically engaging, especially considering the zoomed out camera and unreliable dodge move.
Unreliability is one of Zeus’ key traits, which is fitting as he serves as one of the game’s unreliable narrators along with the tortured titan, Prometheus. The Princess Bride-esque presentation is a novel concept, one that works with the goofier take on Ancient Greek mythology the game is going for. Although it’s not as charming in practice because of its clumsy writing. Mediocre, cringeworthy dad jokes sit between the barrage of Wikipedia entries on the Greek pantheon, resulting in dialogue that’s annoying to sit through for both its density and weak attempts at humor. The game does make a decent attempt to paint arcs for some of its main characters and depict their flaws, but the aforementioned grating comedy bits drive an arrow into those attempts.
Immortals Fenyx Rising Review | The final verdict
It is not an unforgivable sin that Immortals Fenyx Rising does not live up to Breath of the Wild, a tall task that its upcoming sequel might not even be capable of doing. But it is quite disappointing that it only plays dress up with the hero’s tunic and misses what that green garment stands for. Puzzles sometimes have inventive solutions yet the good ones are drowned out by how often they repeat and how few tools Fenyx has. And the game’s colorful world isn’t a sandbox that needs exploring, but is more akin to a typical open-world map littered with repeatable, obviously marked activities. These shortcomings make it less of Ubisoft’s take on Breath of the Wild and more of a Ubisoft-branded “Breath of the Mild” that could have been so much more.
Game Revolution reviewed Immortals Fenyx Rising on PS5 and PS4. Code provided by the publisher.