One of my favorite things about being part of the video game community is seeing those moments that happen several times a year when the discourse becomes completely focused in on new releases, and it seems like everywhere I go I keep hearing about the same games. This fall, it’s been the massively open-world of Genshin Impact and the sexy as hell Greek gods in Hades. With those two highs running through the community, I’m surprised that there’s not more discussion of people digging into the Google Stadia demo for Ubisoft’s upcoming Greek-mythology-based open-world adventure, Immortals: Fenyx Rising.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising is a beautiful hodge-podge
I’ve had my eye on this game since it was first announced. From the beginning it was clear that Ubisoft was taking their typical open-world template (see Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, and Far Cry) and painting it with brushes they borrowed from the Breath of the Wild team’s paint set.
That hodge-podge origin didn’t bother me in the slightest. I’ve dug most of the Ubisoft open-world games that I’ve played and Breath of the Wild is one of the most beautiful games ever made, so merging those two things together and then injecting it with Greek gods seemed like a fantastic plan.
The Gods Are Part of Fenyx’s Story
The Stadia demo for Immortals: Fenyx Rising is available to anyone who sets up a Stadia account, whether you’ve got a paid or free plan. Repeat: it's free for everyone. And you can play on your Android devices. (At least before 10/29/20.)
The demo gives players a short slice of an adventure where the main character is on a quest to unfreeze and destroy a cyclops… a fairly generic objective that is infused with a ton of charm.
The setup for the mission is that Zeus and Prometheus are telling each other stories about the progranonist's (named Fenix by the way) adventures. And they keep changing the details as you play the game. In terms of gameplay, this means that the gods will chat about obstacles you come across to give you hints on what you might need to do next. This makes for a fairly seamless hint system, as well as providing a chuckle here and there thanks to Zeus’s over the top bro-sona.
One of the weirdest moments in the demo comes when Fenyx actually interacts with the gods that are narrating the story, in that they keep changing the enemy that the hero has to face… eventually setting you against a pack of murderous chickens.
The actual gameplay in the demo is going to feel familiar to anyone who has played Breath of the Wild, or most any open-world adventure game. The landscapes you explore are gorgeous, and you’ll frequently find yourself coming up against small groups of enemies that’ll reward you with experience or treasure for dispatching them.
Moving around feels good, with Fenyx being able to climb and glide in a manner that feels almost identical to Link or the main character in Genshin Impact, but having a movement system that didn’t feel good would be the death knell for open-world adventure games at this point (I’m looking at you, Horizon: Zero Dawn).
The most surprising aspect of the gameplay for me was the combat. I recently dipped back into Breath of the Wild, and it’s basic combat feels trivial in comparison to the Fenyx demo, which gives players three different strengths of attack (mapped to three different weapons) along with a bow for picking off enemies from a distance.
Pulling off a combo that starts with a perfectly timed counter-attack, then throws an enemy into the air with a swing of a sword where you juggle them a few times with an axe before finishing them off with a blow from a massive hammer feels amazing, and is more gratifying than any melee combat in the latest offering from the Zelda franchise.
We'll see how the musou origins of Age of Calamity fare against Immortals later this year.
Does the Demo Justify Fenyx?
I’m so glad that this demo came out, because it has reassured me that Immortals: Fenyx Rising is going to be exactly what I expected: An open-world adventure game that is beautiful to look at, satisfying to play, and backed by a version of Greek mythology that is both familiar and fresh. I don’t think this game is going to break a lot of new ground, but I think it’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun, and the demo only made me more excited for it. If you're on the fence the demo is definitely worth trying out, and if you know you're going to be picking the game up you can earn a free piece of gear by playing through it.
I think the biggest problem with Immortals: Fenyx Rising is that it’s going to be releasing this December. That means it falls right between Genshin Impact, which does a lot of similar things for free, and the sequel to Breath of the Wild, which will offer a similar experience in an established franchise.
It’ll be interesting to see if this game is able to carve out a place for itself as another of Ubisoft’s stable of open-world games, or if it’ll fade into obscurity like a God without worshippers.
That said, setting up a free Google Stadia account and playing the Immortals: Fenyx Rising demo is worth pretty much everyone's time.