Immortals Fenyx Rising

I picked this up on a Switch sale and played it through while on vacation. It’s ok.

The idea is simple enough – marry the map icon juggling of Assassin’s Creed and exploration of Breath of the Wild. The execution suffers for it because those two systems are wildly divergent in goals. Ubisoft is interested in the Achiever/Completionist player type. Nintendo is focused on the Exploration player type. It seems similar, but wow, much different.

Fenyx has all the trappings of an Ubisoft game. Towers to uncover the map. Icons of repetitive things to do, with no larger purpose than an actual in-game checklist. Parry-based combat. Mounts that serve little purpose. Subversive humour.

Fenyx takes a stride from Nintendo here in the exploration space. Early on you gain the ability to dbl jump and glide, which makes world traversal more pleasant – as it seems nearly everything is split on a vertical axis. Mounts are useless here because they can’t move up/down. It also comes chocked full of puzzles that fit into 3 main categories – moving blocks/spheres, shooting things with arrows, or the rare laser/knockout avoidance. Things start off easy enough, but the later trials are painfully complex or obtuse. Most of these are optional, but there are a few mandatory puzzles that I felt frustrated trying to complete the precise logic. BotW lets you solve most any puzzle the way you want, Fenyx has as specific solution to each.

The highlight is the main quest, which focuses on restoring 4 gods before climbing a literal mountain to encounter the last boss. They are caricatures or the greek pantheon, which is fine given the overall tone. There are enough hidden dirty jokes to make you chuckle along the way. Zeus is an interesting standout here… his lines are impressively delivered. His character development isn’t earned at all, and honestly not needed given that he doesn’t drive the plot. Your character Fenyx is about the purest person ever to encounter monsters… stopping at nothing to help everyone and everything. And the bad guy is just a bad guy – at least it’s not Kronos. There’s a setup in the plot for a sequel (it’s Ubisoft after all) since you don’t see Hades or Poseidon anywhere.

Thee exploration part is fun for a while, and the areas are distinct enough from each other to be thematic. There are no NPCs except for the gods, so it feels like an empty amusement park. The puzzles can be fun for a while, but they get super repetitive quickly. Once you have Phosphor’s double it dramatically simplified all “pressure plate” puzzles. Hade’s Wrath gives you a triple jump to negate a pile of puzzles. The ability to slow down arrows trivializes any shooting puzzle. Being able to lift giant stones gets rid of pushing puzzles as you can just walk out with things instead. It feels like these abilities are breaking the intent of the game, since everything is so contained. Oh, and you need to upgrade your stamina ASAP. There is nothing more frustrating that running out of stamina while climbing a wall, or when gliding around.

The combat portion is mostly about parrying. You can’t easily cancel moves, so you need to avoid mashing as much as possible. A well timed parry (plus a gear perk) will stun an enemy and make the fight trivial. Stealth is here too, and with a Phosphor perk you can chain attack a pile of enemies. Some enemies feel broken in their ability to chain stun you, but generally combat is the best part of the game. Sadly, it gets crazy repetitive and I turned down the difficulty to the lowest to be able to just ignore as much of it as possible.

While the game looks like it was built for a younger audience, that is far from the truth. Even on the easiest difficulty, death is a regular occurrence – especially in the puzzle sections. Mastery of player controls is essential to get all the way through. It does look good, and smart that for a Switch game it opts for less realistic graphics. It looks good.

Fenyx also has some DLC, and the game does give you a taste within the main content. Sadly, that content is the worst part of the game – timed puzzle completion. The controls and camera are quite poor (as with all AC games), so when you put a timer and expect precision, well I expect the game to support it in kind. Celeste this is not. Rare to find a game that does such a good job of pushing you away from DLC.

Fenyx is an interesting game, an attempt to marry divergent goals. It partially succeeds, if you avoid the checklist mentality of similar map-icon games. If you only play the main storyline you’re likely to have a good time – but it is absolutely not worth a full price game.

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