Immortals Fenyx Rising (Switch) Review
It is frankly quite difficult to talk about Immortals Fenyx Rising without The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild entering the discussion. I have written and rewritten this review half a dozen times at this point, trying to frame it in such a way that I don’t directly compare it to Breath of the Wild, but the two games are inexorably linked — as such, so will my review be. So let’s get it out of the way: yes, Immortals is very clearly inspired by Breath of the Wild, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is either lying to you or lying to themselves. We could talk for days about whether or not the game is a “clone”, or whether it’s a step towards a newly established genre, but at the end of the day one is, at least in part, inspired by the other, and I think it’s okay to land on that as the beginning and the end of such a conversation.
Unlike most people, I did not particularly enjoy Breath of the Wild. I know, that’s basically blasphemy for the deputy editor of a Nintendo-focused website, but it’s the truth. There are a few reasons why, reasons I’ll undoubtedly come to talk about in an opinion piece somewhere down the line, but to condense that all down: I didn’t like its approach to exploration, I didn’t like its approach to storytelling, and I absolutely hated its weapon durability system. Immortals takes all of these aspects, throws them out the window, then rebuilds them into something new. They’re very big shoes to fill, but the result is a game that feels exactly like it was made just for me, and nobody else. I can even forgive changing the name from Gods & Monsters.
Let’s start with the story, because so much of Immortals is built on top of its storytelling. Set on the fictional Golden Isles, during the time of Greek myths and legends, Immortals has you taking on the role of Fenyx, a voiced, but entirely customisable lead. Described as a storyteller and a shieldbearer, but certainly not a warrior, Fenyx’s entire crew (along with every other mortal) is turned to stone on a seafaring trip past the Isles. Without somebody to steer and man the ship, it meets a destructive fate, tossing Fenyx overboard where he eventually washes up, the sole survivor, on the fated island of the gods. His brother and crew turned to stone, smashed, and presumed dead, Fenyx takes up his brother’s arms, and sets about exploring the island.
That alone would be interesting enough, but it’s the framing around the story that really sets Immortals apart. Any other game would be content to let the story tell itself, but when you’re setting a game in the world of ancient Greek myths, filled to the brim with colourful characters, why not use those characters? And that’s what Immortals does. Fenyx’s story is told not by some faceless narrator, but by the gods themselves — specifically by Prometheus, chained to the top of a mountain, waiting for an eagle to peck out his liver, to Zeus, the king of the gods. It’s an unfolding story just as much as it is a conversation between two old frenemies. Almost every action you take along the story, as long as while you’re just exploring the world, prompts a short conversation between the two gods — and it totally rules. Really, I thought at first that having two old guys having snarky conversations with each other as you complete tasks would get tiring after a while, but it’s hilarious and engaging the entire 40-hour runtime of the game, and beyond. A lot of that enjoyment comes down to how interspersed the story, and the world, is with Greek mythology.
Every aspect of this game is inspired in part by Greek mythology. It’s not just the story, not just the characters and the monsters, but every weapon, piece of armour, every mechanic and ability — it’s all a product of Greek mythology, and that’s deeply interesting. I mean, if you absolutely hate Greek mythology (you heathen), then this game isn’t for you. But if, like me, you grew up watching Hercules and reading books about ancient mythology, or hell, even just have a very slight interest in cool stuff, this is going to absolutely rock your socks off. The level of detail that’s gone into representing this myths and legends, the amount of research that’s informed these core aspects of the game, it’s absolutely phenomenal.
It’s even better, then, that Immortals is so damn fun to play. Fenyx controls incredibly well, with a solid connection between your inputs and their movements. The combat system is solid too, rewarding attentiveness and deliberate responses, and offering a wide variety of different approaches, both through its interesting perks system for equipment and its deluge of mythology-inspired abilities. That perks system ties into my favourite part of the game (at least in comparison to BotW): no weapon durability.
Where BotW encouraged the use of different weapons and equipment by having said weapons break after a certain amount of use, Immortals takes a step in the opposite direction, giving each weapon and piece of equipment a unique perk that augments or adjusts how you spend your time in combat. Some will widen the window in which you can achieve a perfect parry or dodge, some will restore your stamina or health on hit, some will increase the damage of your abilities. With this, Immortals encourages you to hone your gameplay, focusing on the aspects of combat that you enjoy. It’s a stellar implementation of the “play your way” approach to game design, and it has the interesting side effect of encouraging further exploration and puzzle-solving. There’s always a way to improve your gear, or rather improve the way you use your gear, so there’s always an incentive to seek out new weapons and equipment.
The world itself is an interesting place to explore, too, which certainly helps. While it might not always have quite the punch that Nintendo’s beautifully-crafted vistas deliver, it’s generally a very lovely world, filled with interesting sights, curious puzzles, and fascinating (and mostly mythologically-accurate!) enemies. Rarely does the game ask you to wander aimlessly, as the world is littered with things to see and do; there’s always something nearby to work towards, be it a story mission, a world puzzle, a nearby guarded chest, or a new mount to tame. You’re always within a stone’s throw of something to do, and that means that it’s very difficult to get bored or worn out. Even the game’s vaults — equivalent to BotW’s shrines — while using the same general design inside them, offer massively varying puzzles to explore, or creatures to fight. They’re usually bigger too, halfway between the Zelda series’ old dungeons and BotW’s shrines, and just as satisfying as both. And yes, some of the mechanics are a lot like Breath of the Wild too, such as climbing and gliding and the stamina mechanic. But they’re implemented just as well (or slightly better in some cases) here as they are in that game, and if they were mostly good in another game, they’re mostly good here too.
As for performance on Switch, there’s really little to complain about here. Despite being a cross-platform game, and also on next-gen consoles, Immortals doesn’t suffer from a massively compromised experience like some other games have in the past. The effects and texture quality are toned down a bit compared to the PS4 version (which I also tested quite extensively, but did not consider for this review), but the load times are a little bit quicker on Switch. It’s a little bit of a tradeoff, but it’s a worthwhile one, given how fantastic the game is on Nintendo’s flagship hybrid. My only small complaint would be that sometimes, in the rarest of occasions, playing in handheld mode or on the Switch Lite would render far off objects a teensy bit difficult to see. But it is rare, and given how well the game performs, and how good it generally looks at pretty much every other time, it’s akin to a toothpaste stain on a white shirt: noticeable sometimes, in the right lighting, but pretty much insignificant.
As a side note, it also has full cross-save compatibility through Ubisoft Connect, meaning you can very easily transfer your save between your Switch, PlayStation, PC, and Xbox at will. It’s incredibly simple and takes seconds to upload or download, and more games could stand to learn from Ubisoft’s example here. And a colourblind mode that was good enough that I didn’t even remember it had one until I picked up the game on PS4 and had to set up my preferences. Again, something that should absolutely be standard on just about every game.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is always going to be compared to Breath of the Wild, but against all odds, it puts up a massively formidable fight. What’s excellent about Immortals is not so much what it shares with Nintendo’s biggest Zelda game, but rather where it differs, offering a fresh new approach to storytelling, a fantastic progression system, and a world that you’ll never want to leave. No game is perfect, but for me, Immortals comes just about as close as you can get.
+ So much Greek mythology
+ Intuitive and engaging progression system
- Far off visuals can be a little iffy in handheld
- The VA sometimes hams a touch too far