Despite being a game that feels as though it’s been designed by committee, Immortals Fenyx Rising seems, on first impressions at least, to be more than the sum of its parts. Here is a game that’s remixes Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with Breath of the Wild in such a blatant way that it’s a wonder that someone from Hyrule isn’t sending them a summons. That obviously won’t happen – perhaps it should be a Greece and desist letter? – but Nintendo should be feeling particularly flattered right now.
Originally known as Gods and Monsters – a Ronseal of a game title if ever I heard one – Immortals Fenyx Rising is Ubisoft’s attempt at an open-world adventure that’s steeped in mythology and doesn’t involve repeatedly stabbing people with blades hidden up your sleeves.
After Assassin’s Creed Odyssey did such a remarkable job of transporting us to the mythologically rich period of Ancient Greece, I’d worried that Immortals Fenyx Rising would feel like a childlike rehash, an attempt to wring some more money out of a setting that had gone down so well. That might still have been the underlying motivation, but I needn’t have worried; based on the Google Stadia demo, it’s clear that Immortals is its own thing, a brighter, lighter caricature that leans hard on the mythology and the mirth to create something that feels wholly different.
Despite carrying around the legacy of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Immortals has had a rather lovely, anime-esque makeover. Here’s where you’ll find the first, and most obvious, connection to Breath of the Wild, as there’s definitely more than a couple of visual flourishes that Ubisoft have copied straight from Nintendo’s homework. It might be pretty cheeky, but it’s also bloody lovely, and the idyllic Grecian image of the world – mostly alabaster columns, shipwrecks and urns – is immediately a pleasure to spend time with.
This being a third-person action adventure title, there’s lots of running, jumping, climbing and fighting to keep Fenyx busy. Once again, her range of abilities will have gamers raising all of their eyebrows in unison at the sheer swagger of Ubisoft as they’ve
ripped off carefully replicated rather a lot of our Link’s repertoire. There’s sword play of course, and a bow, while miraculous wings let Fenyx float from great heights, or be whisked along by air currents.
Fenyx, a lesser god herself, then has a batch of Godly Powers. While some of them remain hidden away for the main game, the demo gives you Herakle’s Strength, letting you lift, throw and manipulate large objects using a sort of magnet-like energy field. You’ll have to remind me at which point imitation and flattery become plagiarism.
It feels unfair to continually namecheck other games, but Immortals puts little to no effort into hiding them, whether it’s the Assassin’s Creed style inventory page or the Breath of the Wild-esque potion mixing. I rather hope there’s more to the cauldron and ingredient collection elements as they seemingly only allow for you to mix four types of potions together, but perhaps there’s a lot more to see in the main game.
I’ve made it sound as though I don’t like the game, that it’s a local newspaper Zelda-spot-the-difference competition come to life. And yet, it’s not. It’s certainly familiar, and that’s being kind, but I want, no need, to see where it’s going.
For one thing I hadn’t anticipated laughing quite as much as I did during my time with it. Elder Gods Prometheus and Zeus bicker their way through an imperfect narrative where you’re fairly sure that Zeus is just making the whole thing up, and it carries a lightness of tone that I simply wasn’t expecting. Sure, Assassin’s Creed can be witty, but this has just the right level of sarcasm and silliness that it plays out like a Grecian Roald Dahl short.
The combat feels just right as well, action-packed and intuitive. There’s a host of different difficulty settings from Story through to Insane so you can peg the difficulty just right, which will be perfect for younger gamers, those short on time, or those that want to whimper into Zeus’ robes at the brutality of it all. The impressively ugly Cyclops that you face off against at the end of the demo is no slouch on normal difficulty, so I dread to think what he’ll do higher up the scale.
Unexpectedly, Immortals Fenyx Rising has Trojan-horsed its way to the top of my winter wishlist. It’s easy to dismiss the egregious mimicry of other game series, but tonally it is something else entirely. Cheeky, charming and characterful, this could be a Titan-sized success come December.