Anyone remember renting games? I’m pretty sure you can still do it, but given the rapid price drops most games experience and the vast variety of content available for consumption – not to mention the demise of video rental stores in general – the practice has mostly died off. That’s a shame. There was once something to be said for stopping by Blockbuster on Friday and picking up a game that caught your interest you could easily run through in over the weekend. Game rentals were cheap and a great way to check out lots of games for little money – and also a good excuse to pick up a popcorn tub and a few 2-liters of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage.
While nowhere near the epic journey early trailers and rabid Zelda fans may have anticipated, Immortals Fenyx Rising ends up feeling like one of the better rentals you might have tried from Blockbuster back in the day; it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s well-made and worthy of at least a weekend of your time.
In the ancient Greek world, the fates of mortals are determined by the whim of the gods. While these deities might be all-powerful, that doesn’t mean they don’t have enemies of their own, as we discover when the titan Typhon emerges from imprisonment to wage war on Olympus. It’s up to Fenyx, a lowly shieldbearer, to take up the mantle of heroism and save the day by battling Typhon and restoring the glory of the gods.
Fenyx Rising is in an interesting situation as a game that has few to no distinguishing features of its own. It is, broadly, a Greek-flavored take on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That formula sees a few changes here and there, namely with very simplified Assassin’s Creed-style combat and a greatly diminished focus on itemization and inventory management, so what you’re getting is basically BotW Lite.
The concern, then, is whether or not BotW Lite is going to be a problem for you as a player. There’s no question that while Fenyx Rising is a simpler game than the one it’s blatantly ripping off, it’s still perfectly competent . You’ll run around, explore, complete Shrine-mini-dungeon-equivalents, battle bosses, upgrade your character and so on…and it all feels just fine. For my money, a well-made game might still be worth a look even if it doesn’t do much to set itself apart.
There’s a few places where it falls flat, though, and hilariously these tend to be the ways in which Fenyx Rising tries to deviate from its inspiration. Combat, as mentioned, is basically a much more simple take on the system used in the modern Assassin’s Creed games rather than a system focused on emergent gameplay and innovation a la Breath of the Wild. You’ve got a light sword attack that restores stamina, a heavy axe attack that consumes stamina but can stun enemies and leave them open for a follow up, an automatically-reloading bow for plinking away at a distance and the standard Souls-style dodges and parries.
Upgrades shake this up a little more as you progress, but it never reaches the heights of creativity that we see in Breath of the Wild, the combo-focused intensity of Genshin Impact or the sheer brutality of Assassin’s Creed. There’s something to be said for how defeated monsters go flying, though. Very satisfying.
Fenyx Rising also tries to shake things up by adjusting how your gear works. There’s none of that random loot malarkey here, and indeed gear plays a much smaller role than it does in other games. You’ve got a sword, an axe, a bow and several armor slots that can be filled with various goodies you find around the game world, but they don’t directly affect your stats – that’s done via upgrades you purchase via in-game currency, and gear mostly just offers passive perks. These are generally less than game-changing, though there’s a few sets that offer comparatively massive boosts and end up being the go-to choice, and this means that (outside of finding pieces of the better sets) loot isn’t as interesting as you might expect.
At least you’re free to fully customize Fenyx’s appearance as well as that of their gear whenever you’d like, so you’re not stuck wearing something goofy just to get the nice perks off of it.
That’s not to say all the sorta-new stuff is bad, though. Fenyx Rising’s heavy-hitting feature is the ability to pick up, carry and move physics objects with the Bracers of Heracles. The control scheme for this is pretty intuitive and it feels great once you’ve got the hang of it. With some practice, it’s enjoyable to weave lifting and throwing into combat to shake things up, and the puzzles in which futzing about with physics is the central mechanic tend to be pretty good as well.
Puzzles in general are another of Fenyx Rising’s high points. Breath of the Wild had a tendency to introduce concepts for puzzles, allow the player to try them in a Shrine, then drop these ideas and never use them again. Fenyx Rising doesn’t tend to go this direction, instead leaning more on its gliding and lifting mechanics and offering more substantial challenges. It’s a nice departure, one that we can hope Nintendo learns from for its Breath of the Wild sequel.
Finally, Fenyx Rising is really kind of cute and endearing. The banter between Zeus and Prometheus, among other characters, is genuinely endearing in a hokey Dad-joke kind of way. It’s somewhat similar to Supergiant’s games – hello, Hades! – with their voiced narration, so that’s another element that probably got cribbed, but if you can deal with the goofiness of it all then there’s a lot of love here. It also means that Fenyx Rising is a solid choice for kids, especially ones who got a lot out of Breath of the Wild and wanted more.
That “good choice for kids” thing is reinforced by Fenyx Rising’s aesthetic. It’s a cute, Disneyfied take on Greek mythology that’s vibrant, colorful and fun. Enemies are intimidating enough…right up until, as mentioned, Fenyx gives them a good whack and they go flying off into the stratosphere like Team Rocket. This stylized look is both appealing and a great way to ensure that the game runs well on most hardware.
Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t the best game of 2020 – that would be Hades – but it doesn’t really have to be. As mentioned, it’s the kind of game that, in days past, you might have rented for the weekend from Blockbuster, enjoyed fully and been happy to return when you were done. You might have even justified a day or two’s worth of late fees to see the ending. That’s pretty high praise in my book. It might not be Breath of the Wild, but few games are. You should probably check this one out.