Last year, at E3 2019, Ubisoft unveiled a new IP that it had been working on. At the time it was called Gods and Monsters, and the tease fuelled inquisitive fans around the world who were curious about what exactly the project could be. Since then, it's been over a year and surprisingly little has been revealed about the game, at least that was the case until a few days ago when I was invited to go hands-on with the title, now officially named Immortals: Fenyx Rising, as well as speak with the game's director, Scott Phillips.
Developed by Ubisoft Quebec, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is an action-adventure RPG that tells the tale of a young hero named Fenyx, as she (our Fenyx was a woman but you can choose to be a man if you prefer) fights to save the Gods from the terrifyingly, dangerous Typhon. Featuring a whole range of influences from Greek mythology, the story of Fenyx will take you on a journey through legend, as you travel through iconic locations and fight powerful monsters, all to help the Gods take down Typhon and save their lands.
Coming from the same studio who delivered Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is quite an expansive RPG from what I have experienced. At the beginning of the storyline, you are able to create your own Fenyx by changing body type, hair colour, eye colour, facial features, and gender. In fact, this level of personalisation is precisely the reason the title went through a slight identity change recently. When asked about the name change, Scott Phillips told us: "We felt like we wanted to surface Fenyx more, we wanted the game to call out this was Fenyx's journey."
In a world of myth and legend, the protagonist has to be strong and powerful. Ubisoft Quebec has been sure to accommodate this feeling in Fenyx's kit, giving her the ability to glide with the Wings of Daedalus, manipulate objects with kinesis, and even complete mighty attacks, powered by the artefacts of the Gods. "We wanted every item to be imbued with an epicness that comes with Greek mythology," Phillips explained. "We wanted everything to be over the top and fitting to that mythological setting and that interaction you're going to have with the Gods." Aside from what felt like a punishing stamina system and a slightly obscure control scheme, you can definitely feel Fenyx's power.
To further accentuate the strengths of the character, there are plenty of upgradable options available throughout the storyline, and Phillips hinted on some of the potential areas that will be included. "You're going to get to upgrade your swords, your armour, your bow, axe, everything. There's even a whole skill tree for abilities and new fight moves to expand your capabilities within the fight." All of these upgrades are completed at the Hall of the Gods, a sort of hub location located on the map, and it's where the Gods themselves gather.
A large portion of Immortals: Fenyx Rising revolves around its hack and slash combat that sees you whittle down enemy health bars with intricate and awesome combo moves, using the various items in her kit to assist your efforts. Fenyx can attack with her sword, axe, and bow, and there are even several godly abilities that launch devastating damage to their recipients. From using Hephaestus' hammer to throw an earthshattering slam, to channelling the fury of Ares to fire spears from the ground, or charge with ferocity with the power of Athena; these abilities cost stamina, meaning being methodical with their usage is important, especially with the demanding stamina system in place.
Fenyx is also capable of airborne combat, allowing several new ways to approach a combat encounter. Phillips described the combination of air and ground combat saying: "We wanted that three-dimensional feeling of combat that's not just on the ground. We wanted you to have to move between the two spaces." From what I played, the combat was one of the strongest aspects of Immortals: Fenyx Rising, something elevated by the striking visual effects that accompany each move.
As for the map, I was able to play around in Hephaestus' region, The Forgelands, a barren wasteland stripped of life in the search of natural resources to power the forge. I asked Scott Phillips about the other map regions and what they would feature. "There's four main regions with four main gods. We've shown Aphrodite's region, and since she's the goddess of love, everything there is beautiful, the trees are colourful and in bloom. You also have the other Gods' regions who have a war-based theme, and the Zeus mountain as well, which is an epic adventure in of itself." Could those other areas be teasing possible appearances from Ares and/or Athena? When thinking about Fenyx's godly abilities, this could certainly be the case.
The world of Immortals: Fenyx Rising is both massive and beautiful. The open-world is diverse, built with the intention of being consistently engaging. From tricky Tartarus Vaults and confounding constellation challenges, the side objectives are puzzling and unique, asking you to do more than follow the 'open-world formula' style of gameplay - the developer wanted "the feeling of there being something new around every corner."
Throughout the world, there are plenty of different enemies to clash with. In The Forgelands, I fought massive cyclops, towering robots, airborne harpies, and many other foes. Each region throughout the game has its own unique enemies, and to keep gameplay fresh, some will be harder to conquer than others, an example of such are the Wraiths. Whilst I didn't get to go toe-to-toe with these dangerous foes, Phillips gave me a description:
"These are sort of fallen Greek heroes like Achilles, who I would say are the ultimate challenge. Even though they are more human size, their fight moves are really custom and everything they do is unique to them." To build on this, the title does feature boss encounters, but from what I experienced in the short demo, they felt like stronger versions of regular enemies. The world bosses hinted by Phillips however, promise more.
With the success of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and the similarities it and Immortals: Fenyx Rising share, I asked if the title's development was influenced by Odyssey. "The first memory I had of imagining what Immortals: Fenyx Rising could become was actually a bug on Assassin's Creed: Odyssey where you were sailing on your ship, and instead of regular crew members, you had cyclopses. It was this moment of like: 'that's cool, imagine if we had a whole game that was based just around the mythological aspect of Ancient Greece.'"
Looking at the release schedule for Immortals: Fenyx Rising, the title is expected to launch on December 3, 2020, for current and next-generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as PC and the Switch. When we talked about the impact of next-gen on development, Phillips noted that the new technology would allow for better performance and prettier visuals, but he also focused on the Switch launch, tell us how they "are really excited about the Switch version because that's a first for us at Ubisoft Quebec, of putting this giant open-world game onto the Nintendo console."
Immortals: Fenyx Rising is looking to be one of Ubisoft Quebec's most ambitious open-world projects. Based on the short time I spent playing, it was the stunning worlds, diverse combat and engaging side activities left the greatest impression on me. At the same time, between now and launch, I hope the development team takes a look at the stamina system because it seems like it could become a real make or break area for the title's success. Either way, Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a sprawling adventure and I only got to scratch the surface. As it gets closer to December, I can't wait to see how the Assassin's Creed: Odyssey-inspired adventure fills out and stacks up. Will it be legendary? Only the Gods know.