So one day Greek god Zeus was in a bit of a moody, and so tied Prometheus to a rock and fed his liver to an eagle… Apparently Prometheus had it coming because he'd nicked some stuff from Zeus, but we won't go into all that highfalutin mythology stuff here - let's just say that Zeus and Prometheus' banter forms the narration of Fenyx's epic tale.
If I had to describe it in one paragraph I'd say IFR is a colourful, light-hearted action RPG set in a huge fantasy world known as The Golden Isle. The designers definitely took inspiration from some great games; Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, Tomb Raider and even hints of Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, Infamous: Second Son and Horizon Zero Dawn come to mind when playing as Fenyx. IFR supplies plenty of thrills, spectacular combat, brain-testing puzzles and epic views of the expansive world, but fun and humour is never far away.
The first thing you have to do is listen to the start of Prometheus' tale, as he tries to convince Zeus to release him. This story obviously features the titular Fenyx who battles the demon Typhon and his corrupted minions, and tries to restore various gods to their former glory. I was delighted to see that you can choose whether Fenyx is female or male (or something else entirely), change her/his voice, various features, hairstyle, skin, hair and eye colour, add tattoos, scars etc. I also like the fact that you can customise Fenyx's gear so you can wear what you want aesthetically, but get the buffs from any individual item of armour you've collected.
Controlling Fenyx is simple and mostly as I'd expected; movement is on the left stick and the camera is controlled with the right, you press 'A' to jump (and again to double-jump), 'X' to sprint and 'B' to glide (yes, the mortal Fenyx has God-given wings!) The combat controls being mapped to RB (fast sword attack) and the Right Trigger (slower but heavier axe attack) seemed weird to me at first, but with a combination of these plus the Left Trigger (aim mode) and LB a massive selection of special moves and combos can wreak havoc on the enemy, and encourage flowing, dynamic and spectacular combat. You will often stumble into a fight and hack-and-slash your way through, but there are many ways (including stealth and ranged attacks) to take on the numerous enemies.
Ahh yes the enemies… These range from various mythological monsters such as the Cyclops, Griffin and Cerberus to lions, bears, warthogs and - oh my, even chickens! There are also numerous wild mounts that you can discover on your travels, then tame and ride - which earn their keep when travelling long distances. If you're in a hurry or just don't fancy riding or gliding to your destination you can also fast travel to locations you've previously visited, which is handy as the world is so big and has certain areas that you'll definitely want to explore, but are very difficult to travel to and traverse.
In an open world as big as The Golden Isle another useful feature is Far Sight, assigned to a long click of the right stick button (so you don't select it accidentally during a frantic battle), this enables you to search for and mark previously undiscovered locations on the map, even when they're thousands of metres away and behind structures or below the contours of the land.
As you'd expect there are plenty of easy to kill 'cannon fodder' enemies, but there are also more than enough tougher creatures, and any boss battles are always just this side of too-tough-to-be-fun. Even when you get swatted like a bug, trampled or zapped to death in an instant you'll always want one more go, or be able to come back and get your revenge when you've improved your godly powers.
IFR features a high quality orchestral score with situational music, from rousing battle tunes to gentle, lilting melodies when in pleasant countryside, wonderful music that suits the action perfectly and adds to the action immeasurably. The game also has the the now standard Ubisoft Connect extras that give you the opportunity to unlock all sorts of twiddly bits and thingamabobs, including additional weapons, armour and even the first DLCs for IFR are available already; 'When The Road Gets Rocky' and 'A New God' (part of the Season Pass.)
IFR has a simple crafting mechanic, and you'll be getting into the habit of "farming" Pomegranates, Blue Mushrooms, Olympian Figs and Flower Nectar from the ground, trees and bushes, as well as various shards that allow you to make health, attack, defence and stamina potions, and upgrade your weapons & armour. There are mind-bending puzzles and physical challenges throughout The Golden Isle, both on land and in the numerous vaults (like magical dungeons floating in the sky.) Inside the vaults you'll find more treasure, as well as some seriously head-scratching puzzles and/or arena battles with traps and tests of your agility and combat skill.
Verticality has made a resurgence in recent games and IFR has it in spades. This makes for spectacular views, but a lot of climbing… and if you think the Assassin's Creed games have too much of it, then this may not be the game for you. Flying, climbing and swimming are all limited by your stamina level, and while all abilities can be upgraded (and aided by wearing the correct gear) only flying ever looks elegant, or is actually fun. Swimming has two unlockable faster strokes (surface and underwater) that both look awkward, and climbing can be sped up by a jump-climb move, but again it isn't exactly fast, and long climbs are tedious. The ability to actually fly rather than glide, and maybe the ability to sail a boat or get a tow from a dolphin (or a giant mythical fish or something) would have improved general gameplay immensely.
So what do I actually think of Immortals Fenyx Rising? Well if you're new to fantasy action-RPGs then this is the perfect start point. If you're a veteran of the genre the relative simplicity of some parts of the game and the lighthearted narration and back story may grate, but the combat and the challenge of the Vaults will keep you coming back for more. Fun, and addictive as hell, it's the best game I've played in a while.
Special thanks to Stefan and Calum at Ubisoft for the review copy.