In the time before kids had TikTok, Fortnite and sexting, they had Saturday morning cartoons. He-Man, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – a pantheon of bubblegum classics that still have their fingerprints all over pop culture today.
It’s no surprise, then, that the generation reared on them would now be finding themselves creating videogames that tap into a similar vein: Ubisoft’s Immortals Fenyx Rising, released this week on PS5, Xbox Series X and pretty much every console there is, owes as much to Masters of the Universe, at least in terms of spirit, as it does to Plato and Homer.
Immortals Fenyx Rising puts you in the sandals of the titular Fenyx, a ‘nobody’ soldier that washes up on mythical Greek shores. With the raging titan Typhon being a right old nuisance and threatening the authority of the Greek gods (and the fate of the world itself, of course), Fenyx must rise from zero to hero.
The stakes are high, then, but Immortals Fenyx Rising never takes itself too seriously. ‘Funny’ games always raise wary eyebrows here at TechRadar – it’s not easy to make a game both broadly accessible and rib-tickling with stiff gaming avatars.
But duelling narrators Prometheus and Zeus (the former earnest and inspiring, the latter pompous and arrogant) saltily bicker over the details of the tale – actively changing the game around Fenyx. Was that Cyclops 6 foot or 15 foot? Let’s go with 15, as the monocular monster scales to fit the gods’ recitations.
Immortals takes a goofy, good-feeling approach to it all. Where some games paint in pastel shades, or aim for photo-realism, Immortals is like a game designed with the energy of your most vibrant marker pen sketches. That sprightly, iconoclastic take on these established figures, like the best cartoons, dares itself to be bolder, sillier. What’s cooler than a mutant turtle? We know that’s a mutant ninja turtle – just ask Michelangelo. So then, what’s grosser than a gorgon? How about a fat, wormy gorgon that shoots lasers? If we can’t have Assassin’s Creed’s eagle dive, how about a Looney Tunes-esque panicked flail misjudged from a great height?
The Legend of Desmond
It was a few hours into Immortals Fenix Rising that I realized that, if there are two game series that I’ve invested more time into than any others, it’s the Zelda and Assassins’ Creed series. Ocarina, Breath of the Wild, The Minish Cap and a couple of others have given me a fairly comprehensive overview of Nintendo’s adventures, while I’ve played (if not completed) every Assassin’s Creed game Ubisoft has put out since the original back in 2007.
Immortals naturally owes its core existence to the Assassin’s Creed series (it’s developed by the same team behind the grown-up Greek adventure Odyssey). And there’s no denying the obvious influence of Breath of the Wild here. From the fact every surface you climb is tempered by a stamina bar, to the powers that Fenyx acquires that lets them do things like lift heavy stone objects with jazzy magnetic ease, the systems here aren’t so much inspired by Zelda, but practically lifted wholesale from them.
But it’s made a little easier to stomach, given that Ubisoft itself’s stamp on the open world formula was pilfered by Breath of the Wild too, right down to the map-revealing viewpoints from the Creed and Far Cry series.
Immortals Fenix Rising feels like a Playmobil version of Assassin’s Creed – and that’s just dandy. Having just finished an 80-hour playthrough of the (still excellent) Assassin’s Creed Origins, this colorful cartoon caper has lightness and humor that’s very endearing, and a succinctness that’s appreciated in the realm of increasingly bloated open-world titles. I can’t wait for the inevitable animated spin-off series.