And no, I just looked it up, apparently, there isn’t supposed to be a colon in there. Another reason why this is a strong contender for the worst video game title of all time!
But is the actual game any good?
Immortals Fenyx Rising
I really wanted to like this game. (oops, I appear to have given my opinion away in the first sentence there!) I am someone who has fond memories of Assassin’s Creed from back before AC3, when the series had some fun and personality and focus; before it became a reskin of the generic, boring Ubisoft sandbox that they stamp out from the same template every year with a different sticker slapped on the front. So, when the makers of Assassin’s Creed decided to make a game based (loosely) on Greek Mythology with an actual sense of humour and some colour and personality to it, it was a difficult proposition to resist.
Typhon has escaped from the underworld and is taking his revenge on the Greek Gods. Zeus escapes and talks to Prometheus, who is the one telling the story. As Fenyx, it is your job to battle Typhon’s corruption, free the Gods and save the world, gaining new gadgets, powers and boons along the way.
It’s not a particularly original story, but they’ve obviously done their research into Greek Mythology and done their best to weave a story around it. Even if some of the monsters have been generified and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll see most of the twists coming a mile away. It was still enjoyable, even if it was stretched paper-thin over the unnecessarily large sandbox map, but more on that in a moment.
We need to discuss the attempts to inject personality and humour into the game (oops, I’ve done it again!).
Fenyx is a Greek Mythology fangirl/boy (depending on your choices), and so comes across a bit like Kamala Kahn in the Marvel Universe, for better or for worse. The narration is done by Zeus and Prometheus, who regularly argue with each other in a way that is funny about 20% of the time. It’s mostly mythology references and terrible puns (bad enough not to be funny but somehow not terrible enough to be ironically fully!) and the odd moment of fourth-wall breaking. If you are a fan of Greek Mythology, then you might get more of a kick out of some of the jokes and references, but even then, a lot of it falls flat.
The gameplay is where the Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) influences begin to become apparent. And, by “influences”, I mean “I hope Ubisoft have good lawyers”!
It’s a fairly standard light-attack, heavy-attack, jump and dodge system, with some ranged combat and magic thrown in. It takes a while to get used to, not least because of the atrocious controls (which I’ll get back to), but once you do get the hang of it it is challenging and engaging, if not particularly exciting. Most enemies feel like they’ve had their health boosted by about 20% more than necessary to pad the run time out.
There’s also climbing and gliding, with a stamina metre, just like in BOTW. You’ll spent A LOT of your time grinding around the map for various resources to upgrade your health, stamina, magic and weapons. Also, there are dungeons and puzzles in the overworld that have, at first, an interesting variety of activities. But, being a Ubisoft game, there are (again) about 20% too many of these activities and a lot of them outstay their welcome, being a chore to complete, rather than being actually challenging.
There are definitely standout moments, but there’s a lot of mediocrity to wade through to get there – a complaint that will probably sound familiar to anyone who has played a recent Triple-A, open-world game.
The Game World
It is a beautiful, colourful game world, albeit one heavily inspired by Zelda: Breath of the Wild (in the same way that the Grand Army of the Republic was inspired by Jango Fett!). I haven’t actually played BOTW, so I can’t make a direct comparison, but I’m intrigued to do so now, as I did enjoy a lot of what there was to offer in Fenyx’s adventure (and I suspect Nintendo have done it better).
There are lots of visually distinct areas with landmarks, so it’s easy to find your way around and there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore, which is great. The dungeons, however, are less interesting. Just a bunch of platforms floating around in a pretty skybox.
But, of course, they have Ubisofted all over it. You have to tediously scan the world from the top of every tall structure looking for treasure chests and side activities. And this is a Ubisoft sandbox, remember, so the world is absolutely fucking littered with markers, distractions and tedious side content. There are some interesting puzzles and boss fights, but most of them just aren’t that interesting and the rewards rarely feel worth the time you have to invest to earn them.
I have to talk about the controls. I wonder if they deliberately chose an awful button layout to mask the fairly generic combat system?
By default, light and heavy attacks are mapped to RB and RT respectfully, which is just idiotic and completely unlike any other game ever designed by actual humans who’ve played video games before. It is possible to remap the buttons (so light attack is on square and heavy attack on triangle, as it fucking should be!) but then you end up with all sorts of other clashes. I managed to get a solution that sort of works, even if I end up doing heavy attacks every time I try to interact with something.
It baffles me that anyone ever thought this control system was a good idea and that there isn’t an option to easily change it to something sensible, but never mind.
One other thing I need to say is that the loading screens are intolerably long on the PS4, to the point where I nearly walked away in frustration several times. When you first start the game, or when you die, fast travel or move from the overworld to the dungeons, it can be minutes before you get back into the action again. If you can, play it on PS5!
I did finish the game, in the end, but there were several times when I nearly put the controller down and never returned to the Golden Isle. The game had just enough personality and fun to keep me going to the end of the story, but I had no desire to continue once the end credits rolled.
If there had just been less content that was obviously padded out, then it could have been great, but it seems Ubisoft just can’t restrain themselves. There is some fun to be had, some memorable moments, a few funny lines and some nice nods to Greek mythology, if that’s your thing. And it’s certainly not “bad”, but there’s just so much mediocrity and grind surrounding the good stuff that it makes it hard to recommend.