Having played countless open-world Ubisoft games starring scowling assassins and square-jawed soldiers, I was immediately charmed by the vibrant, plucky protagonist of Immortals Fenyx Rising. The titular character’s gender can be chosen and their appearance customized, but as I discovered during an extended hands-on demo with the game formerly known as Gods & Monsters, no matter how menacing you make them, you wind up with a personality that’s more optimistic Disney hero than doom-and-gloom brute.
I went with a female Fenyx — much like the one used in the game’s marketing. Though I gave her ghost-white eyes, a small battle scar, and some ashen war paint. Despite my best efforts to lend a bit of edginess to her appearance, it did little to diminish her brimming charm.
As the game’s Greek mythology-inspired tale goes, Fenyx is a mere mortal: a low-level shield bearer accustomed to living in her brother’s shadow. But in a turn of events that sees the evil-doing Typhon freed from his mountain prison, the young hero becomes the gods’ only hope of thwarting chaos and restoring peace.
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This sort of underdog yarn has been spun to death. Yet Fenyx’s reaction to being thrust into the predicament had me rooting for her from the get-go. Rather than entitlement — or even smug acceptance — she enters the role with disbelief and surprise. The first time Fenyx sees a griffin, she doesn’t shrug it off. She shouts like someone who’s, well, just learned mythical monsters actually exist: ‘’A griffin! But they aren’t real!” When she acquires wings granting her the ubiquitous double-jump ability, she doesn’t immediately leverage them to solve platforming puzzles, but flashes an inquisitive smile before cautiously testing them out.
It isn’t t long before her slack-jawed surprise morphs into enthusiastic thirst for adventure, but the transformation makes her no less appealing. Whether playfully drumming her hands on a treasure chest before looting its goods, fawning over a tiny cyclops, or guzzling a chalice of ambrosia (for a max health boost) like a child indulging a sweet tooth without parental supervision, she’s having an absolute blast — and taking us along for the ride.
But the game’s lighter touch isn’t limited to Fenyx’s personality. It extends to everything from eye-popping visual presentation and colorful storytelling (comically narrated by a bickering Zeus and Prometheus) to even its horned, fanged, and clawed threats. Subtle inclusions, like a clueless, lounging gorgon casually scratching its back with its tail, for example, reinforce that Fenyx’s journey is a far less serious affair than other Ubisoft open-world romps.
None of this is to say its endearing personality comes at the cost of engaging, challenging play. On the contrary, that same itchy gorgon put up quite a fight once provoked, unleashing fiery streams from beneath its head of hissing serpents and covering plenty of ground with its whipping tail (of course, it also brought a bit of mid-combat levity, taunting me with an exaggerated belly laugh). Having already poked the beast with a damage-dealing stealth strike, I was able to make quick work of it with a satisfying series of well-timed parries and a flurry of light and heavy attacks.
More menacing threats, like a towering, rock-tossing cyclops required a bit more strategy. Those called on me to add quick dodges and ranged archery attacks to my hack-and-slash repertoire. Using Herakles Strength, a god-granted ability, I was also able to levitate the monster’s projectiles and hurl them back at its big, dumb face. Regardless of what threat I faced, though, the combat always felt responsive and snappy. I effortlessly mixed lightning-quick basic attacks with over-the-top special powers and abilities.
In addition to bringing down the aforementioned foes, besting everything from wild boars and grizzly bears to harpies and possessed soldiers boosted my confidence in combat. Following a quick detour to the Hall of Gods, where I could increase my max health and stamina, as well as upgrade some newly acquired Godly Powers, I decided to seek out one of the game’s Mythic bosses.
Optional, tough-as-nails versions of bosses you encounter on the critical path, these baddies are said to drop the best loot… If you can defeat them. I wouldn’t know. “Ozomene The Mythical Harpy” wiped the floor with me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Emboldened by Fenyx’s boundless enthusiasm and my own misplaced confidence, I entered Ozomene’s arena. The harpy arrived with a list of nicknames (“Scourge of the Skies,” “Terror of the Isles,” “ Abductor of Nike”) as long as its life bar, and a wingspan that put them both to shame.
I threw everything I had at the flying behemoth. That includes Hephaestus’ Hammer and Ares’ Wrath: Godly Powers that summoned a massive mallet and thrusting spears, respectively. But my arsenal was no match for Ozomene, which brought to bear fireballs, an explosive, carpet bombing, and a nuclear ring of death that spread out from and circled the beast when it dove into the ground. And these were only its sky-based strategies. On the dusty surface, the big, purple ugly — flanked by smaller harpies — unleashed rush attacks, as well as flurries of missile-like projectiles that’d make Tony Stark proud.
Immortals Fenyx Rising drew me in and kept me engaged with its playful charm and personality, epitomized by its titular protagonist, but it’s the promise of a rematch with Ozomene that’ll have me returning to the Golden Isles when the game lands later this year.