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(Pocket-lint) - There are two ways of looking at Immortals Fenyx Rising. A cynic would suggest that it is hopelessly derivative – there's no getting away from the fact that it is heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But you could also earmark it as an act of bravery by the developer, Ubisoft Quebec, as it takes a lot of confidence to follow in the footmarks of near-perfection – which is why so few Zelda-clones exist.

Having played through both games, we incline to the latter view. Crucially, Immortals Fenyx Rising proves great fun to play: it's thoroughly absorbing, at times clever, has a lovely jokey, gentle vibe which is suitable for all ages, and is very long indeed (containing upwards of 50 hours of gameplay). Despite the frequent similarities to Zelda, it manages to establish an identity of its own so, on balance, it feels like a worthwhile exercise.

Arise winged warrior

The action starts with Fenyx, washed up on the shores of the Golden Isle after a shipwreck, discovering that all mortals appear to have been turned to stone. She encounters a cocky youth who turns out to be Hermes, and we learn that Typhon has escaped from the underworld jail in which Zeus incarcerated him, and is responsible for not just petrifying the mortals but for robbing the gods of their powers.

Reaching the Hall of Gods – the game's hub, which allows you to upgrade Fenyx's stats, god-like powers, armour and weaponry – Fenyx sets out to restore several gods to their normal selves, one by one. Each has their own area of a strikingly large map, and an individual story arc, mirroring the episodic narrative structure which Ubisoft adopted for Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.

Straight to battle

In a whirlwind prologue, Fenyx rapidly acquires the sort of powers that it usually takes tens of hours of gameplay for Link to build up. She can fly-glide (initially thanks to wings designed by Daedalus), lift and throw heavy objects, unleash guided arrows and direct her pet phoenix, Phosphor, to attack enemies (which is very handy against airborne baddies).

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Combat-wise, she has an axe, a sword and a bow, and as the game progresses, acquires an array of special attacks and moves. Fenyx feels satisfyingly powerful in battle after a while. Which is probably just as well, since you encounter plenty of boss-battles – which vary somewhat, difficulty-wise, but rarely hit Zelda-like levels of fearsomeness – and the map is liberally studded with mythical animals like minotaurs and cyclops.

On the side

Beyond the main storyline, you find a vast array of vaults – dungeons containing a multitude of mechanical puzzles, many involving those great staples, crates and heavy balls.

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There are side-missions which yield useful objects and powers, plus challenges involving flying, archery, rearranging frescoes and memorising music. 

Chests abound – often requiring puzzle-solving before you can get to them – and a bewildering array of resources can be collected. Pomegranates, for example, restore Fenyx's health (or form the basis of health potions), while blue mushrooms do the same for her stamina.

Lots of stamina

As in Breath of the Wild, stamina is Fenyx's most crucial attribute – it runs down when she climbs, for example, or dodges around in combat. The combat is nicely fettled: it, too, feels a bit like a simplified version of the fighting in Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.

UbisoftImmortals Fenyx Rising review photo 2

Story-wise, Immortals Fenyx Rising plays pretty fast and loose with the Greek myths, but at least it encompasses many of their most outlandish and compelling tales. Traditionalists won't be wildly keen about the very modern slang which most of the characters employ, but at least the game never feels unduly didactic. Zeus and Prometheus narrate proceedings in the grand tradition of Greek choruses.

Technically, Immortals Fenyx Rising impresses too. It looks fabulous – albeit in a very similar visual style to Breath of the Wild – and feels very polished.

Verdict

Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a similarly enjoyable experience to a Zelda game, which is some achievement, and the way in which it mines Greek mythology provides a decent amount of distinctiveness.

However, it doesn't manage to provide that indefinable frisson you so often encounter in the Zelda games, in which you're suddenly made aware that you're in the presence of a special kind of genius.

All said, it's packed with activities and clever puzzles, the combat is enjoyable, and it's the sort of game in which you will become obsessed by collecting a particular resource, such as the ambrosia which lets you upgrade Fenyx's health, which tends to be hidden in hard-to-reach places.

Writing by Steve Boxer. Originally published on 3 December 2020.