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Immortals: Fenyx Rising (PlayStation 4) artwork

Immortals: Fenyx Rising (PlayStation 4) review

"Rising to the top of games I've played based on Greek legends!"

As a middle-aged gamer who fell out of love with all things Nintendo around when they started trying to be revolutionary with things like motion controls this and touchscreen that, I do have to admit I have regrets. Very few, but I do have them. Mainly that I won’t be enjoying all the newest entries in some of my all-time favorites.

So, with me not playing those newer titles in the Legend of Zelda franchise, such as Breath of the Wild, that created a nasty little void in my life, especially since the series took a new route with those games, moving away from “traditional Zelda” to a more open-world experience that I was hearing all sorts of good things about from people on social media.

Fortunately, Ubisoft came to the rescue of people like me when they created Immortals Fenyx Rising. This game has the same sort of graphical style as those new Zelda games and also contain elements of that series if it was transported to a land based on the legends of ancient Greece.

For example, scattered throughout the game’s world are many, many pieces of Ambrosia for you to collect. Every time you acquire five of them, you’ll be able to generate a new segment for your protagonist’s health bar. In order to obtain the vast majority of the game’s near-ubiquitous treasure chests, you’ll either have to fight the monsters guarding them or solve some sort of puzzle requiring you to do things like lift heavy objects or hit targets with arrows from your bow. Scattered throughout the land are a large number of vaults, which you can enter in order to gain more treasure as a reward for either fighting through waves of foes or running a gauntlet that may be puzzle-oriented or may necessitate quick reflexes.

All in all, this game easily surpassed my expectations. From the moment I started it, I was hooked and I remained completely into it nearly all the way until the end. While I might not have reached the 100 percent completion mark, I came a lot closer with Fenyx Rising than I normally do. A couple vaults proved to be more trouble than I was willing to endure and, due to how you find important locations on the map, I know I missed a few chests and other goods. Still, I had a great time.

Part of this came from my love for its subject matter combined with how this game handled it. This isn’t exactly the sort of grim and dark take on the mythos that God of War provided, but more a whimsical look at just how messed up the members of the Greek pantheon could be.

The game starts with Zeus venturing to the peak of the mountain where he imprisoned the titan Prometheus for the horrid crime of swiping a gift from the gods in order to help humanity. While Zeus probably had no desire to listen to the titan’s long-winded ramblings, he did need some advice due to the wicked Typhon breaking free of his captivity and waging a very successful one-creature war on all existence. In short, virtually all of mankind has been turned to stone, many of the world’s greatest heroes have been corrupted and several of Zeus’ divine children have been transformed into far more helpless forms.

Prometheus responds by making Zeus listen to the particularly long story of Fenyx, a mortal who avoided being turned to stone and was destined to save the gods. Cue the beginning of your adventure, as you create the appearance of Fenyx and then get dropped on Tutorial Island (not quite named that) to learn the basics before obtaining a set of wings that allow you to glide to the much larger island hosting four Greek Gods in order to rescue them.

While Prometheus and Zeus narrate your exploits, often in a way that results in the titan regularly criticizing Zeus’ skills at parenting, being a good husband or simply showing anything resembling consideration for anyone, you’ll traverse a large world. Maybe you’ll be doing plot-related stuff, which usually involves doing a handful of quests for various gods in your attempt to restore them to their former glory. Or maybe you’ll just be exploring and looking for treasure chests, vaults or other tests of your skills. And you’ll want to do as much as possible as virtually everything will have some sort of benefit. You’ll obtain different equipment, you’ll gain goods to improve that stuff, you’ll obtain more health and stamina, you’ll be able to hold more potions and make them more effective and so on.

Combat is pretty fun in this game, even if the bestiary could have been a bit larger. You’ll wield a sword for fast attacks, an axe for more powerful ones and a bow for ranged battle, while also gaining the services of a bird-like creature that you can call upon to dive-bomb foes. Depending on which weapons and armor you have equipped, you’ll be able to pick from a large number of passive bonuses. I was able to become near-immortal due to equipping stuff that could restore health for doing things like using the bird, hitting foes with attacks, dodging their attacks and inflicting head shots with bows. Really, the only time I found myself at risk of death after a certain point was when I was in vaults.

With the exception of the arena vaults, you’ll have very little combat in these places, but you will have to do things like quickly negotiate laser-filled courses and those things HURT if Fenyx collides with them. While a number of vaults are pretty easy to complete, others can be quite grueling tasks where your main saving grace is that they aren’t particularly long — typically containing a handful of challenges with checkpoints bestowed regularly. While I found a few of these places to be more difficult than fun, I enjoyed most of their wide variety of challenges. Hell, one of them even has Fenyx playing a pinball game of sorts!

Unfortunately, the most annoying vaults in this game could be the mandatory ones in which you recover each gods’ essence. Each of those focuses on a particular sort of challenge and lacks the brevity of the other vaults, meaning that if the stuff you’re doing doesn’t resonate with you as particularly enjoyable, you’re stuck with it and that’s that. I remember legitimately disliking Ares’ vault in particular, which meant I wasn’t having much fun for however long I was stuck manipulating blocks in it.

Another issue rose its head late in the game. After rescuing Zeus’ four children, you have to scale a massive mountain. Much like the other regions of the game, it’s a vast place littered with all sorts of treasures, vaults and challenges; however, this place also is full of very cold areas that quickly sap your stamina. Ending fatigue is a common pitfall with today’s games and their abundance of content. And, well, that pitfall is really easy to plummet into when a late-game region throws in an annoying gimmick that’s designed to make it more difficult to get where you’re trying to go.

Assuming you know where to go, that is. Much like what one expects from Ubisoft, you gradually open the map by scaling massive objects. Unlike that company’s other games, though, simply making it to the top only opens the map, but doesn’t show you anything in a particular region. For that, you have to enter a viewing mode and move a cursor around the screen and hit a button when you’re over a vault, chest or challenge for it to appear on your map. And some things, like various mounts to acquire or wandering boss-type foes, won’t register, so you’ll still have to painstakingly traverse every inch of the world in order to find all its secrets.

Those annoyances aside, I had a great time playing Immortals Fenyx Rising. This is one of those games that gives you a lot of freedom in how you do things. If you only do mandatory stuff, it’ll be a pretty quick play, but if you dive into all the optional stuff, you could spend dozens upon dozens of hours exploring its world. When it comes to puzzles where you have to place blocks on various pressure plates, you could jump through hoops to acquire those blocks…or simply chop down trees and use logs instead. You even gain a power that allows Fenyx to generate a statue of himself that serves the same purpose. After you get your wings and leave the tutorial item, you can tackle the four realms of Zeus’ children in any order. You can customize Fenyx in any number of ways by simply changing the weapons he wields and armor he wears. Add in its generally fun action and often-humorous dialogue and this game devoured my time for nearly 100 hours, with me enjoying the lion’s share of that time.

overdrive's avatar
Community review by overdrive (April 05, 2024)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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