Somehow I’ve grown to be simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed by many AAA titles. A combination of their marketing, mixed with the hype of a new console generation, has my timeline looking like a Daft Punk song: harder, better, faster, stronger. Maps are now massive, endings are limitless, characters have pores, and horses have balls that shrivel in the cold. And that’s why, as a AAA title, Immortals Fenyx Rising is so goddamn refreshing. Immortals Fenyx Rising doesn’t seek to tell the darkest story imaginable or give you a character creator so expansive and precise you can adjust your character’s earlobe length. Immortals doesn’t strive to be a Great Game, but rather a game that’s great at what it does, which is creating a cartoonish open-world adventure that is streamlined, cheesy as hell, and inoffensively fun to play.
Immortals Fenyx Rising begins with the almighty Zeus seeking advice from the bound Prometheus—a feat which was his doing and could be undone if he so chooses, Prometheus reminds him time and time again. We come to find the Greek pantheon has fallen to the wrath of Typhon, and have been “stripped of their essence,” reverting them into weaker and lesser versions of their former selves. Zeus is at a loss for what to do, so Prometheus offers up a solution, and begins to weave him a tale of a hero named Fenyx, a mortal who has the power to restore the Gods and put an end to Typhon’s reign of Tartarus and terror. What ensues is double narrative: you controlling Fenyx as they restore order, and a Princess Bride-style story in which Prometheus recounts your labors to an arrogant god, who, overtime, grows guilty, compassionate and perhaps even a bit fond of both the story and mortals as he learns more about the power of man’s resolve.
From early on in its development, as well as in my preview of the game, Immortals Fenyx Rising has drawn comparison to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and for good reason. Several mechanics and concepts seem to be directly taken from the critically acclaimed Nintendo title and inserted into Immortals, including circular stamina meter, vaults (comparable to Breath of the Wild’s shines), telekinesis, scaling large towers to reveal a territory, taming mounts, basic crafting (complete with cutesy animation) and the freedom to go about completing the game’s many puzzles—and story—in a multitude of ways. However, whereas Breath of the Wild is defined by the minimalistic grace it carries with it—which is reflected in its music, environments and overall atmosphere—Immortals Fenyx Rising takes a drastic departure.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is loud, abundant and abundantly loud. The colors are brighter, the map is fuller and the dialogue is frequent and boisterous, with jokes that land, fall flat, and somehow land by falling flat—which feels in line with how farcical Greek mythology tends to be. Furthermore, everything feels a lot less like a process in Immortals. Resources are plentiful, weapons are unbreakable, everything can be upgraded, and the combat is challenging while still being an absolute, fast-paced blast that leaves you walking away from battle feeling pretty damn good about yourself. It doesn’t invoke the same feeling as the somber and delicate hero’s journey Link undergoes, but instead channels the same energy as a Disney movie, complete with jokes that might go above players under 10 but will certainly raise eyebrows (see Aphrodite telling Hermes he’s been loving on himself so much he needs to clean his toga). Also in line with a Disney movie is its story, which is parabolic and surprisingly heartwarming.
In an interesting choice, the essences of the Gods Fenyx retrieves to restore them to their former selves are not “good” things—they are the gods’ flaws, which have been stripped away to create a more perfect world free of the pantheon’s arrogance. However, the major and recurring theme throughout this journey is understanding that it is our flaws as much as our goodness that make us who we are. Fenyx reminds Aphrodite that her self-involvement is also her means of self-preservation, and reassures Hephaestus that it is his sorrow that fuels him to create great works, and bring beauty and ingenuity to the world. Later on, when Fenyx reaches a low point in their journey, it is the gods they’ve saved who remind them that Fenyx was the only one who saw what was admirable within the darkest parts of themselves, and they should offer themselves the same grace. To be honest? It genuinely choked me up a bit.
This isn’t to say the narrative is perfect, however. While the game strives to bring the same charm Lionhead does in its Fable series, the writing and humor just isn’t quite where it needs to be. In addition, the ending of the game is detrimental to the game’s overall message, and left me more than somewhat frustrated. Finally, some of the game’s puzzle and platforming elements fall flat. There is one area in particular, at the very end of the game, that took me a good half an hour to successfully navigate. Between that area and my irritation with the game’s ending, which went on far too long and hurt some of the game’s best narrative elements, the last hour or two made an otherwise smooth-as-gliding-with-Daedalus’-wings ride incredibly rough.
Much like the characters within the game, Immortals Fenyx Rising has its flaws—but what makes it a bit charming is that it owns them. While it’s absolutely a AAA title, I’m beyond thankful it’s not another one that sets itself up as bait for Keighley’s Game Awards, or feels the need to fiercely defend its validity and depth. Sometimes, a game can just be good, cheesy fun, and Immortals Fenyx Rising is precisely that and better for it.
Immortals Fenyx Rising was developed by Ubisoft Quebec and published by Ubisoft. Our review is based on the PlayStation 5 version. It is also available for Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Stadia and Amazon Luna.
Jessica Howard is an editorial intern at Paste and the managing editor at gaming site Uppercut. She enjoys loud music, hot coffee, and games with romanceable NPCs.