Let's be real: Immortals Fenyx Rising is heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There are too many similarities for anyone to claim otherwise. But as a fan of BotW, I'm all for it. Link's latest adventure is one of the best open world games ever made, and more of that is something to be celebrated. Having recently played around three hours of Immortals, I'm glad to report that it's more than just a cynical, hollow imitation. It cribs plenty from Nintendo, but it brings something new to the table as well.
How Immortals IS like Zelda
The sheer scale of it all
Immortals is set on the Golden Isle, a mythical land of gods and monsters (Gods and Monsters was the game's original title) that feels massive. Early in the game I climb the columns of a colossal mountaintop temple and I'm treated to a view of what seems to be the entire island. Like Zelda, it has that same inviting feeling of seeing some curious structure in the distance and wondering what adventures are waiting for you there.
Each region of the island reflects a different Greek god. Aphrodite's, for example, is lush and idyllic, with pink trees and fields of swaying green grass. It's a pretty game, with the chunky, colourful look of an animated CG movie, and I can't wait to explore more of this vibrant island. However, it doesn't have the subtle mystery and elegance of Zelda's world. It's more obvious, which is, admittedly, a better fit for Immortals' lighter tone.
Navigating the world
Fenyx, titular hero of Immortals, is a gifted mountaineer, and pretty much every surface (as in Zelda) can be climbed on—but with the limitation of a stamina meter that, if it depletes, makes you lose your grip. If you've played Breath of the Wild you'll know the feeling of gauging a climb, and whether your current stamina amount will get you to the top—and it's the same here. Luckily, like Link, Fenyx can upgrade their stamina.
Instead of a glider, Fenyx has the wings Daedalus famously created for his ill-fated son, Icarus. But don't worry; they work better here, albeit in a not entirely wing-like way. They're the equivalent of BotW's glider, letting you jump off tall things and float through the air, the distance of which is, again, dictated by your stamina level. And like Link, Fenyx can sneak up on wild animals in the world, tame them, and use them as mounts.
Puzzles and improvisation
This is one area where Immortals really, uh, pays homage to BotW. The game is filled with fun, cleverly designed physics puzzles, many of which involve using telekinesis-like powers to grab heavy blocks and move them around, dropping them on pressure plates, and so on. The handful of shrine-like puzzles I completed were satisfying to solve. I just hope they get more difficult later in the game. (I expect they will.)
Zelda's sandbox is great because there's no set way to solve a problem, letting you get creative and improvise. I experienced this in Immortals when I was faced with a powerful cyclops. A head-on battle was hopeless, so I snuck in, stabbed him in the back with a stealth attack, fled until he lost sight of me, then repeated the cycle until he was dead. A clumsy solution, but it worked, and I'm glad to see that element of BotW in here.
How Immortals ISN'T like Zelda
You can create your own hero
Fenyx is a Greek soldier who washes up on the shores of the Golden Isle and finds themselves charged with rescuing the gods from evil titan Typhon. They can be male or female—it's your choice—and you can also customise their appearance. It's not the deepest character creation system I've ever used, but lets you make some interesting-looking heroes.
My Fenyx was a blue-skinned lady with red cropped hair and red war paint, which is about as far from the fairly generic characters used in the game's promo material as you can get. They're a likeable hero, with an enthusiastic spirit and a goofy sense of humour, although their facial animation (and that of the other characters you meet) is a little stiff and lifeless, not quite matching the high quality of the voice acting. Speaking of which...
It's basically a comedy
Breath of the Wild is funny and has moments of humour, both scripted and via clumsy physics-based buffoonery. But Immortals is a straight-up comedy—especially in the narration of Zeus and Prometheus, who are actually telling the story you're playing. I'm surprised by how funny it is, and how much I enjoyed the writing. You can tell the writers really had fun with it, which gives the game an infectious energy.
The two bicker over the details and accuse each other of being overdramatic, which affects Fenyx in amusing ways. In one instance they argue over the size of a cyclops you're fighting, and the monster changes size before you, shrinking, then suddenly growing massive. It's very tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, but it works. And similar to Hades, there are a lot of gags anyone who's into Greek mythology will find extra funny.
It's based on actual mythology
While BotW taps into decades of labyrinthine Zelda mythology, this game bases its story on decades of real-world mythology. But rather than a dry retelling of the myths, or something semi-historical like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Immortals just has fun with it. The gods are eccentric oddballs, who frequently disappoint Fenyx with their distinctly human qualities. Hermes, to give one example, is a cocky, self-assured kleptomaniac—a reference to him, according to the legend, stealing Apollo's cattle.
The mythology also plays into the quest design. Aphrodite was famously born from sea foam, and in one quest you have to recreate the moment of her birth, rolling a giant pearl through a series of treacherous, enemy-filled canyons, and finally into the sparkling sea below. During this quest, Zeus is shocked to learn the full details of Aphrodite's birth from Prometheus, which is, well... just Google 'Aphrodite Uranus' and read the details for yourself. This discovery, as you might expect, results in some pretty funny dialogue.
So far, so good
I've only seen the opening hours of Immortals, so I'm not sure what lies ahead. But what I've played, I really enjoyed. Occasionally the similarities to BotW are fairly shameless, but the game carves enough of its own personality out of the base material to not feel like a total facsimile. It's not quite in the same class as Zelda, but come on, that's a hard act for anyone to follow.
It's the story and characters that really surprised me here. Loads of games have riffed on Greek mythology, but Immortals' humorous take on the subject matter gives it an edge. The important thing is, when my hands-on demo was over, a few hours later I was itching to dive back into the Golden Isle. I hope Ubisoft can maintain the quality of those opening hours across the whole island.