Immortals Fenyx Rising – it’d make a great Kid Icarus game (pic: Ubisoft)
Ubisoft’s take on Zelda: Breath Of The Wild may wear its influences on its sleeve but it still manages to carve out a personality of its own.
Until now, the games industry has paid only a tacit compliment to Nintendo’s Legend Of Zelda games, with very few titles ever daring to copy them directly. Which isn’t particularly surprising, given the likes of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild get so close to perfection that any attempt to rip off their blueprint would run the risk of looking very shoddy by comparison. And yet, surprisingly, Immortals largely gets away with it.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is, essentially, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild with a Greek mythology setting. It contains all the key elements of a Zelda game: a naïve, heroic protagonist; epic puzzles; dungeons; boss battles and an ever-growing array of abilities. Visually, it looks very similar in stye to Breath Of The Wild (albeit with a slightly more primary-coloured palette) and, as you play it, you notice other elements that have been cribbed from Nintendo’s game, such as a stamina meter which runs down when you climb.
However, Immortals turns out to be a much less cynical exercise than it might appear on paper and, crucially, it manages to carve out a distinct identity of its own. One aspect that helps immeasurably with that is the way in which it lovingly mines Greek mythology to forge its storyline, employing a clever narrative structure not unlike the one which underpins Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (whose combat system it also more or less replicates).
Crucially, Immortals is great fun to play and, like Breath Of The Wild, extremely meaty. Story-wise, it follows the fortunes of Fenyx, who is shipwrecked on an island only to wake up and find that humanity has collectively been turned to stone. Which turns out to have been the work of Typhon, who has broken out of the underworld where Zeus imprisoned him and has robbed the gods of their powers.
Luckily, prophecies abound, stating that a human champion will emerge to rescue the gods and save the world, and that champion is Fenyx. In a whirlwind prologue, she acquires an arsenal of legendary weaponry, learns to fight (with sword, axe, and arrows) and develops Link-like abilities such as lifting heavy objects, steering guided arrows, and flight (or at least gliding, initially using wings crafted by Daedalus).
The game world is liberally studded with vaults – basically dungeons in the underworld containing a wide variety of increasingly elaborate and mostly excellent puzzles. Above ground, there are countless pursuits on offer: various side missions which yield useful objects (such as a phoenix called Phosphor whose aerial attacks can be directed), flight challenges, music puzzles based on giant lyres, hidden chests to uncover, and a vast array of useful items and resources to collect. Ambrosia, for example, can be used to upgrade Fenyx’s health.
Initially hooking up with Hermes, once Fenyx makes it to the Hall of the Gods she can upgrade her stats and buy new moves and powers using coins of Charon earned by completing tasks. Plus, she can get on with the main storyline, which involves restoring various gods, one by one.
Aphrodite, for example, has been transformed by Typhon into a tree, so Fenyx must free her by completing a number of missions, such as rolling a pearl into the sea to generate foam which will dissolve her roots; then burning corrupted seeds in a huge vault, before defeating a boss to acquire the essence that will restore her.
Athena, meanwhile, has been transformed into a rather peeved little girl, and her story arc throws up a very different set of missions. Each god that Fenyx resurrects has a distinct area of the game world, and when they are all reassembled Typhon can finally be taken on directly.
Immortals Fenyx Rising – you have to wonder how Nintendo feels about this (pic: Ubisoft)
Immortals also embraces the notion of the Greek chorus: the whole story is narrated by Zeus and Prometheus. However, Robert Graves it ain’t: all the characters speak in a thoroughly modern manner, cracking the sort of jokes designed to appeal to young teenagers.
There’s nothing edgy about Immortals, it’s as youngster-friendly as a Zelda game, but not so juvenile in tone as to alienate adults. Plus, it recounts many of the key stories of Greek mythology, without ever coming across as unduly didactic, which has to be a good thing.
In terms of being a pseudo Zelda game, elements which it gets spot-on include the way in which Fenyx’s powers grow and improve: if you concentrate on upgrading her she begins to feel really powerful, which is just as well since you encounter some pretty fearsome bosses.
The puzzling in the game is top-notch too and it offers a satisfyingly long gameplay experience, with loads of potential for post-launch expansion. While it may not have that indefinable magic which elevates the Zelda games above their peers it’s still hugely enjoyable to play and strikes a lovely, endearing tone.
While you frequently encounter little touches reminiscent of Breath Of The Wild, Immortals also contains enough of its own ideas to develop a distinct and lovable personality. It looks great and is impressively polished, too. At the very least, it fills a gap while we wait for Breath Of The Wild 2. But you have to applaud Ubisoft’s confidence: it has created a Zelda-like game which doesn’t look at all shabby in comparison with its vaunted inspiration.
Immortals Fenyx Rising review summary
In Short: It’s hard to know which is more impressive here, the complete lack of shame in how much Ubisoft copies Zelda: Breath Of The Wild or the fact that Immortals suffers the comparison so impressively well.
Pros: Fun puzzling and combat, with satisfying godly powers. A varied and content-filled game world, with attractive visuals. Surprisingly faithful interpretation of Greek mythology.
Cons: If you’ve played Breath Of The Wild the levels of déjà vu can be intoxicating. The use of modern slang often seems incongruous.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, PC, and Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: 3rd December 2020
Age Rating: 12
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