A release that was largely dwarfed by those around it might actually be the brightest light from Ubisoft. A surprisingly exceptional game that shouldn’t be overlooked.
I always talk about what it is an arrow straight to my ‘want pile’; Greek mythology, open world, collectables etc. Any combination and normally I’m sold. So when ‘Gods and Monsters’ was debuted at E3 last year it was like a lighthouse pointing only at me.
Unfortunately for them the energy drink Monster decided they didn’t like it and sued them, in a real dick move. So they changed the name to Immortals: Fenyx Rising. It was a bit more on the nose as to the idea behind the game, but it hurt it’s entire release campaign.
Title aside though, what was delivered was an incredibly well built game with a refreshing injection of puzzles, clean combat, vibrant open world and a story to buy in to. The sum of all these parts makes Fenyx Ubisoft’s best game for a while.
So Fenyx Rising is the story of a character called Fenyx that needs to restore the essence of 4 major gods to save the Golden Isles from evil titan, Typhon.
As a plot it is very basic. It’s all about a ‘mortal’ learning how to become a hero by overcoming tasks they normally wouldn’t. However what makes this particular version of the story is the way it plays out in the game.
As you’re playing the game, it’s actually a retelling of Fenyx’s adventure by Prometheus to Zeus. The entire time you’re running around the Golden Isles these two will be narrating your events. The exchange between the two is full of humour.
Fenyx Rising doesn’t take itself too seriously for the most part. The humour included isn’t clever or slapstick it’s mostly kinda cheesy, dad joke like quips from either Zeus or Prometheus, like those muppet dudes. It will either irritate you or actually add to the enjoyment of the game. For me it massively added to it, it made me feel like the idea was to have fun.
As fun as the game was, it also had it’s moments of reflection and seriousness as Zeus had a lot to reflect on, as well as the gods. Fenyx’s morals are in the right place and make the story feel fleshed out and full. I could buy into the whole thing and in the end it paid off, I loved it.
The game is set on an Island called the Golden Isles, essentially a little haven for some of the gods, that they let some mortals wonder around on. Fenyx is an open world game, and by open it really doesn’t shut you out at any point (bar a few mission related buildings or arenas).
I was free to explore to my hearts content without the fear of being level gated or story gated. You have 4 main areas, each dedicated to a god, Aphrodite, Athena, Hephestos and Ares. Then there’s like a Mount Olympus and Underworld areas.
Sure some areas included harder enemies, but I could, with some tenacity or patience, overcome them. Generally the game levels up with you that allows you this freedom to explore.
This was an excellent decision from the development team as they created a world that not only looked the part, but was filled with so much wonder that I could spend ages running around the map curious what was around the next corner.
It was never long before it was a new fight, puzzle or collectable within my reach. The world feels alive and dense with things to do. I had a mount and the ability to glide, should I need to cover longer distances but I didn’t want to.
The puzzles they included were excellent, I read before going into the game that they were simple, but they’re certainly not. They’re full of imagination and at points challenge. Whether that was arrow skill, combat skill, using my imagination or platforming. All the puzzles felt ‘doable’ so I was never turned away for not having a ticket at the entrance.
Combat in this game is nothing new, it doesn’t innovate in any way. However it takes a simple formula and does it well. You have a light attack, heavy attack, dodge and parry. There’s a few god skills thrown in for utility or damage and it all combines to feel smooth, responsive and gratifying. I had enough tools for each fight, to fight in a way that suited me but also not to be overpowered one shotting everything.
Fenyx represents what you can achieve when you take a few simple or overused formulas and do them really well. Ubisoft are kind of becoming a conveyor belt for generic open world ‘points of interest’ game. It’s led to things like the third AC game in the recent formula feel generic. The guys in Quebec however have injected life into it. They seemingly learnt from what AC Odyssey did well and what other games did well and brought it all together for a game that should not be overlooked.
It launched with more or less no bugs or issues, plays and looks good for both generations of console and is still at the older ‘normal’ price tag. It provides a 25-30 average playthrough with the likelihood of 60+ for platinum or completionists.
As I write this we’ve just had the release of Cyberpunk, which has received a lot of stick for it’s buggy release as well as a few more comments for the company behind it. Valhalla is being praised for looking the part, but as more people get their hands on it, it’s hard to ignore the bloated scale of it.
Amongst all of this Fenyx isn’t suffering from any of that. For me it’s a top 5, maybe 3 or even first on my list for this year, I really do believe that. It’s a shame that at the time of release everyone’s attention is elsewhere because they’re missing out.