I’ve been craving a big, open-world game lately–something with a big map stuffed with lots to do. I’ve long been a fan of the genre; the classic Assassin’s Creed formula always works on me, and games like Breath of the Wild have only improved on it.
Luckily for me, the recently released Immortals Fenyx Rising fits the bill nicely, and it’s a fun romp through Greek mythology–another interest of mine–to boot!
The game puts you in control of the titular Fenyx, a young shield-bearer who somehow survives when the evil Typhon emerges, defeats the gods, and turns the mortal world to stone. Finding themselves washed up on a mysterious island, Fenyx (whose gender and appearance are chosen by the player) is the only person left who might be able to defeat Typhon, but to do so, they’ll need to rescue several members of the Greek pantheon.
What follows is an adventure across the majestic Golden Isle, meeting deities and other figures of legend. Gameplay is, as many reviewers have noted, similar to Breath of the Wild: you have a stamina bar that drains as you climb, swim, or use special abilities; you gain the Wings of Daedelus, which allow you to glide across the map; and there are various puzzles and items to find scattered across the world. The game has caught a little bit of flak for hewing so close to Zelda‘s formula, but I have a few things to say about that: first of all, while the overall method of exploration is similar, the game differentiates itself in its approach to character advancement, combat, and Fenyx’s abilities. Second of all… so what? Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game that impacted its genre immensely. It’s only natural that other games would utilize and build on game elements that were popular and fun; saying that an open-world game that uses stamina and gliding is a “Zelda ripoff” is like labeling every single fighting game a Street Fighter clone because it involves two characters with defined health bars punching each other.
All of which is to say that the exploration is fun and there’s a whole lot to discover. Treasure chests guarded by monsters, puzzle-laden vaults, challenges of speed and skill–there’s so much to do! Admittedly, the design here might not be everyone’s cup of tea. A fair amount of the puzzle work is what I would describe as “old school.” There’s a lot of pushing boxes onto switches, shooting targets from afar, and so forth. Honestly, though? I’m fine with it. The game is good at introducing new twists and mechanics to these ostensibly simple puzzles, so they don’t get stale, and while they might be old-fashioned the classics are classics for a reason. Overall, this game feels like what I expected the games of the future to be as a kid, if that makes sense. Back then I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of the new genres and technologies that have emerged over the past two decades, but I would’ve expected something along the lines of, say, Spyro the Dragon to get a bit more sophisticated in terms of what you can do and what puzzles you’d be tasked with solving. This game feels sort of like that.
If you’re not interested in that style of puzzle, though, you might at least like the combat! It’s basic enough to begin with: you’ve got a sword, which is quick but deals less damage, and an axe, which is slower but can stun foes. However, as you find and spend Coins of Charon (one of many types of collectible that allow you to improve Fenyx’s attributes) you’ll learn new combos and skills, allowing you to take on progressively bigger and more dangerous foes. Combat is fast and snappy, with an emphasis on building up your foe’s stun meter until they’re vulnerable, at which point you can unleash a flurry of sword strikes to finish them off. At least, that’s how I approach it; you might prefer shooting them from afar with your bow or unleashing some of your Godly Powers (such as the Hammer of Hephaestus) to dispatch your enemies.
I mentioned a variety of currencies before. There’s the Coins of Charon, which let you unlock new skills; Zeus’s Lightning improves your stamina bar; collecting Ambrosia increases your health meter; various metals allow you to upgrade your weapons and armor; and pieces of Amber upgrade your potions. All of that is in addition to the many pieces of gear you’ll recover throughout your travels. One thing I appreciate about the weapons and armor in this game? None of it offers flat statistical bonuses. Instead, each piece of gear has a unique perk. For instance, you might find a piece of armor that increases your health meter, or a weapon that deals extra damage at the end of a combo. And if you don’t like the way some of your loot looks, no worries–you can reskin it to look like another piece you like more!
Clearly, I’m a big fan of the gameplay, but you know me: what I’m really looking for in my media is a good story. Luckily, Immortals delivers on that front as well! Okay, so it’s not anything groundbreaking (it’s a pretty straightforward “unlikely hero saves the day” plot), but it’s fun, funny, and light, which is what I’m looking for right now. Additionally, it’s got tons of references to all kinds of Greek myth, even beyond the group of gods you’re aiding. As a fan of classical mythology, I love stumbling across a puzzle and hearing Prometheus (the game’s narrator) describe how it relates to a myth I learned about in my Latin classes years ago.
With solid exploration, fun combat, a charming story, and a beautiful world full of things to do, Fenyx Rising soars. Its puzzles might not be for everyone, but if you grew up on the kinds of games I did (Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Sunshine, and the like) you might find them almost comfortingly familiar. And if you’re looking for something that’s filled to the brim with snarky jokes about the oddities of classical mythology, well, you need look no further!