Experiencing Immortal’s power curve backwards has been an odd experience, but the contrast between the two really demonstrates the sizable journey Ubisoft has implemented for player development. When Fenyx can leap around and deal a dozen cuts in mid-air like the Yoda vs Palpatine battle from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, you really do feel like you’ve been blessed with mythical super powers.
Without those powers, though, Immortals gently funnels you into activities that don’t ask so much of your meagre abilities. Aphrodite’s area may not be the tutorial zone, but as the region adjacent to the offshore training isle it’s clearly still designed to teach players the street smarts required by the world. Seeing a group of demonic soldiers scares me away, but my diverted path leads me into a wood filled with pomegranate trees. I pick them one-by-one, using my bow to shoot them from branches, before realising that hitting the trunk with my axe will release all the fruit from their lofty prison. I then brew the juice into restorative potions, which help keep me alive when I have no choice but to butcher a gorgon while rolling the pearl down the mountain.
The path the pearl takes is carved into the rock, and so gravity does much of the work, but it still needs a helping hand. Sometimes that’s a barrier to break down, sometimes it’s enemies to defeat, and the finale is a simple shoot-the-target puzzle that opens a gate through which the pearl tumbles into the waters below. It’s not a taxing quest, but I appreciate that it’s an extended puzzle, rather than a ‘go here, kill that’ checklist. Further core quests in subsequent areas will need to be more challenging to hold my attention, but hopefully the simplicity here is due to this being the first area of the island you visit. The island being freely explorable from the very start – you don’t have to do this region first – does make me wonder exactly how the core quest challenge curve is handled, though.
That’s not to say that the Valley of Eternal Spring is devoid of challenge at all, though. There are tasks clearly designed to be tackled after you’ve explored further and significantly improved Fenyx’s powers. One such activity is a major boss fight against a wraith version of Achilles, which unlocks after I apply the healing bubbles to Aphrodite’s roots. Throughout the Isle, Typhon is able to send corrupted versions of Greek heroes to hunt you, akin to the way Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s mercenaries would turn up out of the blue. You can never truly defeat them in these random encounters; to do that you must best them in a boss fight that takes place in the underworld.
Ubisoft let me cheat and power up Fenyx so I could try out the Achilles fight. Upon entering his lair there’s a short traversal challenge that must be overcome before stepping into the battle arena itself. The fight is a pretty standard boss battle – I had hoped for something more flashy, akin to Odyssey’s battle with Medusa, that made distinct use of the character’s famous heel – but even with my extra powers I still found I was on the back foot. This is clearly a late-game activity that requires familiarity with the systems.
Immortals Fenyx Rising Screenshots
In this second hands-on I saw a different side to Immortals; one more focused around a core quest. It’s a side that I’m less enamoured with compared to the vast array of smart puzzles I discovered in the previous demo, but I think that’s mostly down to me not having enough abilities to be set fully loose. The greater focus on story did mean I was able to learn more about Fenyx though; they are gleefully obsessed with the Greek myths in the same manner that Marvel’s Kamala Khan is obsessed with the Avengers, and this makes for an endearing protagonist.
The freeform character creator, which lets you mix and match any of its components to create whatever kind of Fenyx you want, is simple but effective. I made a Fenyx who is essentially Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed who’s been listening to too much pop punk, but you could make him or her whatever you please within reason. That feeling of doing whatever you please permeates through everything I’ve played so far, even if the experience feels a touch more restrictive without many powers. If that freedom only grows as Immortals progresses – which, let’s face it, its obvious inspiration suggests it will – then I think Ubisoft Quebec has made something quite exciting: the first true post-Breath of the Wild open world.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.