It’s been awhile since we’ve had a new, fresh "Zelda" game. And who knows? Maybe in 2021, we get one too. But even if we don’t, those who miss and pine for "Zelda"-style adventuring gameplay have an alternative this year.
Meet Fenyx, star of "Immortals: Fenyx Rising," and our placeholder for Link in a quipped adventure from Ubisoft. Immortals is a game that feels plenty like "Zelda," and definitely draws from "Breath of the Wild" as heavy inspiration. But Ubisoft places its own spin on "Zelda," mixing in some decidedly Ubisoft elements to create a distinct, unique, and altogether fun adventuring experience.
This is a game that struggles to find its pacing at times, especially when it comes to storytelling and the wonderment that should come with discovery in games like this. But by and large it’s a fun experience. Greek mythology is the backbone of this adventure, which has a big bad named Typhon escaped and wreaking havoc on the gods. That leads a rather comical Zeus to make a wager with Prometheus that a mere mortal can’t beat Typhon.
Zeus and Prometheus’ back-and-forth narrates your adventure, creating an off-beat tone to the entire game. This is meant to be equal parts action-packed and relaxing, and they constantly remind you of that. A great majority of the jokes actually don’t land, but the over-the-top voices of every character in the game reinforce a cartoony feel. It’s a unique juxtapose from the bulk of Ubisoft’s ultra-serious, ultra-grave franchises.
The gameplay, on the other hand, crosses "Zelda" with what you’ve come to expect from Ubisoft, with quality results. The world you explore is vast, and there’s plenty to do, both to advance the story and keep yourself busy. There are platforming challenges and some solidly complex puzzles to figure out. And combat is a joy, upgradable to the point of being nearly overpowering as you progress. Even early on, you can take on a wild bear if you’re smart with your tactics. Fenyx moves well, and eventually he’ll gain enough upgrades to no longer feel like the mere reject soldier he begins the game as.
If there’s an issue with Immortals’ gameplay, it’s that it obviously wants to be a game that pushes you to explore, but it gives you a bit too much guideposting. At first, this feels like "Zelda," and you expect to enjoy the process of discovery. But eventually, much like "Assassin’s Creed," you’ll find yourself atop a large structure from which you can see a full area, with every key icon revealed. You rarely have to flat-out hunt and “explore” an area, instead enabled and empowered by your map and icons and HUD to head exactly where you want. This isn’t dissatisfying, but it does remove some challenge and sheer joy from the discovery that could come on such a uniquely plentiful game map.
Still, the entire experience manages to be fun, and it’s a welcome addition overall to the Ubisoft gaming library. Really, it’s a welcome addition to the 2020 gaming library overall. From "Cyberpunk" to "Watchdogs: Legion" to "Spider-Man: Miles Morales," we’ve had quite a few serious games that push the bounds of our hardware. "Fenyx," with its more cartoony visuals and over-the-top voice acting, created a nice break for me, a relaxing, fun story that challenged me at some points (yes, the puzzling and platforming is that strong), and had me rolling my eyes over its whimsical story, even when the story seemed to miss.
This game isn’t a miss. "Zelda" this is not, but it’s plenty of fun.
3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Available on Xbox platforms, PlayStation platforms, PC, Stadia
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