Last year at E3, the world was given the first look at a brand new, animated adventure from Ubisoft named Gods & Monsters, and after a year's worth of radio silence, we were finally treated to our first look at gameplay, along with a new take-it-or-leave it name, Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
Now, there’s no hiding the fact that Immortals is an open-world action-adventure that shares many similarities with one of our favorite Switch titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, to be fair, many of the elements that make Breath of the Wild the joy that it is were also inspired by many games that came before it, like the Assassin’s Creed series. And as a matter of fact, the team behind Immortals, Ubisoft Quebec, actually developed Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. So we think they may know what they’re up to.
Last week, we were fortunate enough to go hands-on with the game for a whopping four hours and while, unfortunately, we streamed a PC build of the game and still have yet to see the game running on Switch hardware, it gave us a good look at what to expect when it arrives on shelves later this year.
As you’d expect, many gameplay elements from both Assassin’s Creed and Breath of the Wild have been carried over. You’re able to run, jump, swim underwater (more on that later), and climb anything you can set your sights on, as long as your stamina bar permits you. You’re also given a number of weapons and abilities that will help you maneuver the terrain and take down enemies that stand in your way.
The Sword of Achilles, for example, is best for quick jabs at your enemy; the Hephaistos's Hammer swings harder and further but in turn moves a lot slower; the bow of Odysseus allows for long-range takedowns and you can even fire an arrow and control it in slow motion to hit a target in a hard to reach area; and the Bracers of Herakles allow you to lift objects and pull enemies closer to you in battle. Eventually, you’ll be given access to the Wings of Daedalus, which allows you to glide around the map and can help propel you into the air for aerial combat.
While you’re given the entire map to explore in any order you like, your main goal is to find the four gods hidden within the regions of the Golden Isle and restore their powers. During our time we encountered Aphrodite the god of love, whose essence had been locked away. She sent us on a mission to bring her back some special seafoam, which required us to defeat a giant cyclops, a pack of harpies and we had to roll a giant pearl down a long and winding path until it eventually fell into the ocean, which in turn gave us a better look at the physics system. Normally, the player would have to physically push the pearl through the path, but since we had been given a heavy stat boost to help see more of what the game had to offer, Fenyx was much stronger than they should have been at this point and we were able to use our hammer to strike the pearl and hurl it through the sky towards its destination.
Vaults of Tartaros, which act like compact dungeons or the shrines in Breath of the Wild, are also hidden all around the map for you to discover. Some Vaults hold puzzles for you to solve, intricate platforming segments, or even boss encounters, and their milky galaxy interior is a sight to behold.
One particular element that surprised us most was the fact that you’re actually able to swim freely and explore underwater whenever you like, (as long as you can afford the stamina.) Unfortunately, we clung to dry land for the majority of our demo, but the thought of discovering a sunken city or finding lost treasure underwater is an extremely exciting endeavor, and honestly, just thinking about it again has us ready to dive back in.
The story follows Fenyx, a bottom-of-the-barrel shield-bearer who’s washed ashore alone on an unfamiliar island after their ship was destroyed during a heavy storm. After making their way off the shore they quickly encounter their team, who’ve all been turned to stone, including their brother Ligyron. Even though Fenyx has never actually been in battle, Fenyx takes their brother’s sword and swears to bring him back, one way or another.
The tyrant behind all the carnage is none other than Typhon, the most dangerous, menacing Titan in Greek Mythology. He’s stripped the Gods of Olympus of the majority of their powers and it’s up to you to help them get their abilities back. Thankfully, you won’t have to go it all alone as the mischievous god Hermes has a few tricks up his sleeve to help make the journey go a little more in your favor.
As you play, Prometheus and Zeus both narrate parts of the story, similar in ways to Bastion, but they don’t chat as often. The two gods usually only chime in when there is something relevant to speak about or is a good opportunity to make a joke at your expense, which is where the dialogue truly shines. Immortals is packed to the brim with humor and mythological lore. At one point during our demo, we're pretty sure we caught Prometheus retelling the complicated tale of Aphrodite's birth to Zeus, and he wasn't the least bit pleased about it. The devs even mentioned they drew inspiration from the film The Princess Bride, which is very much evident.
Fenyx also conveys an extreme amount of emotion in their dialogue and in their facial reactions. During our time with the game, we chose a Fenyx with more feminine traits, and we almost instantly fell in love with her character. Fenyx is an extremely silly and gullible — but determined — hero and regardless of which style avatar or voice you decide to go with, their dialogue and delivery will also be the same. In comparison to a game like Breath of the Wild, Immortals really helps its story by giving its protagonist a voice and letting them fly away with it.
You can also fully customize Fenyx, from their body type, voice, skin tone, hair color, etc... At the start, we stuck pretty close to the standard look for Fenyx, but eventually, we changed them up to look more like Zelda from Breath of the Wild, but we totally whiffed her eye color anyways. On your journey, you’ll also find new armor and weapons that’ll boost your stats, and if you happen to prefer the look of a particular piece of equipment over another, you can equip any armor piece and reskin it with an existing piece.
There’s no denying Immortals: Fenyx Rising is one of the best looking games we’ve seen in a long time. From it’s lush and magical environments, to it’s almost Pixar quality cutscenes, our jaws were on the floor even while having just streamed the game at a lower resolution from Ubisoft’s servers than we'd expect to see in person. Of course, when Immortals does make the leap to Switch the graphical quality will take a noticeable dip, but exactly how much will change is still a question we'll only be able to answer once we get our hands on review code.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising has had our attention since the very beginning, and after spending a few short hours with the game (boy, did they fly by!) we can’t wait to see what else this adventure has to offer come December 3rd.