So we've come full circle. After Ubisoft carried the torch from Rockstar and helped shape the template for open world games (for better or worse), Nintendo perfected it with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Now, the team behind Assassin's Creed Origins is attempting to mimic some of Nintendo's innovation. The result is Immortals: Fenyx Rising (formerly Gods and Monsters), an open world adventure title steeped in Greek mythology.
One look at the game makes it clear this isn't another Assassin's Creed, though. The art style is more colorful and cartoonish -- practically the complete opposite of AC's obsession with historical accuracy. The combat is fast and arcade-like, complete with a variety of combos and air attacks. And there's also an irreverent running commentary from Zeus and other gods as a divine Greek chorus.
You play as Fenyx, a human who ends up wielding the power of the gods to save the world from an evil curse. During a brief remote play session, I didn't get much of a backstory — but honestly I didn't really need one. She's a powerful warrior who can glide and float with the wings of Daidalos, fight using swords and axes, and go toe-to-toe with giant mythical monsters. What else do you need to know?
The Breath of the Wild influences are clear from the start: Fenyx can climb and glide anywhere, but she's limited by a stamina meter. Ubisoft can't help but overstuff its open world map with a ton of icons, but there are also a fair amount of visual cues to guide you to your destinations within the world. And there are also plenty of dungeons with puzzles to solve strewn throughout the world.
There's so much Zelda in Immortals: Fenyx Rising it's almost embarrassing. Still, I also found myself enjoying it throughout my session. Traversing the fantastical Greek island is a blast, no matter if you're on foot, riding your (seemingly magical) steed or flying through the air. And the combat feels more akin to something like Devil May Cry than Assassin's Creed. I dove into battles head-first, balancing my weapons skills with an assortment of godly powers. (And sure, you can stealth attack some enemies if you miss sneaking about.)
My first mission involved lighting several furnaces for the god Hephaestus, and it was all relatively straightforward. Fight a few enemies, solve some light puzzles (which were honestly a bit confusing) and take on a large robotic boss. (Somehow Ubisoft Quebec managed to fit in steampunk alongside Greek mythology.) I found more to enjoy as I explored the open world, where I ran into a giant sleeping Cyclops, chased down some lost treasure and searched for new puzzle dungeons. At one point, I stumbled into a giant game of pinball that relied on magic and boulders, which was a nice break from typical combat.
Even though Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a new original franchise for Ubisoft, very little about it feels genuinely fresh or new. Even Fenyx's character design seems a bit basic (at times she reminds me of Ruby, the former Radeon mascot). Still, I'm looking forward to playing more. It gets the basic formula of modern open world games right, and sometimes that’s good enough. Especially when it involves stabbing a cyclops in the eye.