Immortals Fenyx Rising was one of the biggest surprises of last year for me. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch and didn’t even make my 2020 top ten. I was expecting something of a disaster, though, and it turned out to be a perfectly competent video game well aware of what it was, where it could excel, and how to cover up its own shortcomings. The Myths of the Eastern Realm DLC, which tells the exact same story but it’s condensed down and pasted over Chinese myths, has not carried over this self-awareness, but it has carried over the worst thing about the game - the animal enemies.
There’s a fairly decent range of foes in Immortals Fenyx Rising, especially when you consider that it's posing as a triple-A game despite not quite having the budget Ubisoft titles usually get. Artstyle is one thing, but it does feel like Immortals had its hand forced - especially when you consider the commercials use traditional animation rather than in-game graphics, which I suspect is the ‘money is no object’ artstyle Immortals might have in an alternate universe.
Anyway, the enemies include a few variants on Spartan soldiers, Wraiths of famous warriors, and mythical creatures like gorgons, harpies, and cyclopes - there are also a few boss mythicals with one-off battles like Medusa and Cerberus. These are all fine. It doesn’t have the most elaborate combat system in the world and the boss battles are basically ‘dodge this attack then hit it’ over and over again, but for a game mostly concerned with puzzles, exploration, and humour, the enemies do the job. But the game also tosses in bears, boars, and lions, and I don’t quite understand why.
There is just no need for them. We already have more than enough enemies, and the game never places too much emphasis on combat anyway, aside from in specific combat challenges where you go up against soldiers or bosses, not helpless pigs. These animals will defend themselves, sure, but most of the time you’re sneaking up on them and stabbing them from behind or booting them up into the stratosphere. I know they’re not real animals and they’re just an assortment of polygons, but it feels rather cruel to sneak up on a sleeping pig and kick it, just so I can get some blue crystals that give me a more helmety helmet, or something. The crystal system used to upgrade stuff is a bit naff too, but that's an issue for another day.
Just leave them alone, basically. They’ve done nothing wrong. Doesn’t Fenyx have bigger things to do, rescuing the Gods from being trapped inside robots or trees or talking roosters? I don’t really have time for “they’re not real” when other games do such a great job of building a connection between you and the animals around you; particularly with horses. Immortals has an offhand attitude to animals throughout the game - you can collect and then abandon your mounts whenever you feel like it, and can even find a non-flying Pegasus. Will wonders ever cease?
I’d mostly pushed this animal combat out of my mind after Immortals, with my main takeaway being my surprise at the game and thoughts about how a sequel with a bit more faith in itself could be even better. But playing the DLC, which completely misunderstands what made the base game so enjoyable, there was nowhere to hide. Again, I was asked to sneak up on and kill boars and bears with no real purpose other than the fact they were there, and told that I’d earn a handful of crystals for doing so. The Myths DLC seems to be copying the main game without much thought or heart, (in my review for TheGamer I said it felt "more like a knock-off than an extension") so it’s not surprising that one of the worst elements of it has also been copied and pasted without rhyme or reason.
If you haven’t played Immortals Fenyx Rising, it’s probably a better game than you think it is. But killing the boars for no reason just feels out of place, and it’s the worst aspect of a game that needs all the goodwill it can get. If Immortals ever does get the sequel it just about deserves, hopefully the animal killing won’t be part of it.
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