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Immortals Fenyx Rising Hands-On Preview: Four Hours With Ubisoft’s Upcoming Adventure

Ubisoft's latest open-world adventure is incredibly charming.

by Diego Perez

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I recently got the opportunity to go hands-on with Ubisoft’s upcoming mythological adventure Immortals Fenyx Rising (formerly known as Gods and Monsters), sitting down for a long four-hour session that let me experience the beginning of the game. It was a good time, sure, but while I was playing, there was one thought that wouldn’t leave my mind. The new name completely undersells this game. Immortals Fenyx Rising sounds generic and bland, like something you’d see on the App Store and forget about after an hour or two, which is the exact opposite of what this game is. Immortals Fenyx Rising is absolutely brimming with personality, filled with charming characters and colorful environments.

Unlike Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s (mostly) realistic and serious depiction of Greece, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a much sillier take on Greek mythology. Characters crack jokes, the environments are bright and colorful, and enemies cartoonishly blast off into the sky when you defeat them. On top of that, your entire journey is narrated by Prometheus and Zeus, who are both very vocal with their opinions of the story. The game does not attempt to play it straight in the slightest. Sure, the overarching story of Fenyx becoming a hero and saving the world has serious stakes, but Zeus and Prometheus’ constant stream of tangents and tirades keep things feeling lighthearted. It feels like the Odyssey team took all the ridiculous stuff they learned about Greek mythology while researching for Assassin’s Creed, like Zeus constantly transforming himself and others into animals or the story of Aphrodite’s birth, and just shoved them all into one game.

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My play session was restricted to two regions: Clashing Rocks, the starting area where Fenyx begins her quest, and the Valley of Eternal Spring, home to Goddess of Love Aphrodite. The starting area holds your hand and doles out your abilities at a steady pace, but you’re set free after the opening hour or so to explore the colorful and expansive world at your leisure.  You can ignore the main quest if you want and just do side content like completing challenges, clearing enemy encampments, or delving into Vaults (this game’s version of Shrines), but the main questline also has its fair share of interesting puzzles and challenging combat encounters.

The Clashing Rocks region initially had me very worried. For a game so heavily inspired by Breath of the Wild, it was holding my hand a bit tighter than I would have liked. The area is dim, dull, and dire; perfect for the beginning of an epic quest but not exactly begging to be explored. It’s here that the game gives you your primary abilities and introduces you to the basic mechanics in a similar fashion to Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau. While the Great Plateau functions as a perfect microcosm of what makes Breath of the Wild so great, Clashing Rocks plays out like a bog-standard tutorial section. After meeting Hermes and venturing forth into the next area, however, my opinion on Immortals quickly changed.

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Aphrodite’s Valley of Eternal Spring is vast, vibrant, and lush. The region’s verdant fields and turquoise streams have been featured in just about every piece of Fenyx Rising promotional material, and for good reason. You can’t help but feel compelled to explore every inch of the environment. There are landmarks and points of interest poking over the horizon just about everywhere you look, giving you plenty of places to check out. There’s also a central tower in the area that houses all your upgrade stations, so you can fast travel back here after gathering materials out in the world and then glide off to your next destination.

You can freely stumble upon challenges, enemies, and puzzles while exploring the open world, but I found myself adopting a different approach to exploration in Immortals than I did in Breath of the Wild. Rather than just picking a direction and heading out, Fenyx Rising encourages you to climb to a vantage point, zoom in and scout for landmarks using Far Sight, and then glide your way over there. This pattern of climbing, scouting, and gliding meant I usually always had a goal or destination in mind instead of just seeing wherever the world would lead me. There are definitely distractions throughout the world that will draw your attention, but I found that my Immortals experience was a bit more focused and directed than Zelda’s freeform wandering.

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The character progression system plays a large part in that. Certain activities reward certain materials and currencies, so you’ll be seeking out specific locations in order to upgrade Fenyx the way you want. During the last hour of my play session, I was able to toy with some of the endgame abilities and skills, and it’s clear that your character will grow a great deal throughout Fenyx Rising. Combat was much more engaging with several abilities under my belt. I was able to juggle enemies in the air and take on multiple powerful foes at once. Exploration also became much more enjoyable once I had an increased stamina pool and a boost ability for my glider.

The combat system is practically lifted straight out of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You’ve got your light and heavy attacks, your parries, your dodges, you ranged attacks, and all that fun stuff, but Fenyx Rising takes things a step further with cool abilities and aerial combat. Enemies also have a stagger meter that stuns foes when filled. The combat in Immortals Fenyx Rising is surprisingly enjoyable, especially when you unlock some of the game’s more advanced abilities. There are also light stealth mechanics that can give you a leg up in difficult encounters. I used stealth to my advantage to take out a powerful minotaur early in my play session, and I was rewarded with a unique weapon that I used for the remainder of the session. Enemy encampments always have chests with useful items inside, so it’s worth it to stop and fight monsters you run into if you’re looking for new weapons or armor.

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Just like most people expected, Immortals Fenyx Rising is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey meets Breath of the Wild. While the trailers may have given off the impression that Ubisoft simply took a look at a hugely popular game and thought “let’s just make one of those,” Fenyx Rising actually has a lot of charm and personality that give it an identity of its own. It’s blatantly obvious what Immortals Fenyx Rising is drawing inspiration from, but the final experience doesn’t feel as derivative as you might expect.

Immortals Fenyx Rising launches on December 3 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Google Stadia. The game will feature cross-progression on all platforms thanks to Ubisoft Connect.

- This article was updated on:October 22nd, 2020

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