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Earlier this week I was lucky enough to get hands-on with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Ubisoft's follow up to Nintendo's beloved Nintendo Switch launch title, which was finally revealed at Ubisoft's September 'Forward' event. Moving away from series staple Link, we now take control of the slightly more chatty Fenyx, who like her green (or blue in BOTW) counterpart in the first game communicates mostly through grunts, yells and witty comments.
As with Breath of the Wild, you can traverse a wide open world, with themed areas, tameable horses, and you can glide from high peaks - where your only foe is your stamina.
Honestly, I thought it was a brave choice of Nintendo to let Ubisoft take over development of the sequel, but even more courageous to let them change the name from Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, to something completely different... to a complete new franchise... Wait a minute, I wasn't playing Breath of the Wild 2!
That's right, Immortals Fenyx Rising is actually nothing to do with Zelda - but damn, it's certainly hugely inspired by it. Everything that worked in BOTW features in some way in Immortals. Shrine Trials, for example, appear; but here they are called Vaults of Tartarus and appear as cracks in the ground. Just as you'd expect, the challenges are mostly themed around a certain mechanic or play style, which at the end offers a piece of Zeus' Lightning. I'm under the assumption that these rewards can be used to power up your abilities.
Even traversing the landscape feels similar to its inspiration: you can run across the world on foot, tame and ride horses or, as mentioned above, use your Icarus wings to glide slowly from great heights. I will say it's strange swapping a glider for wings, as they feel a tad under-utilised. Outside of gliding, they're only used to perform a double jump and you can't actually fly. Obviously the devs don't want you Superman-ing across the open world, bypassing all the fun... but a few segments here and there of full flight wouldn't go amiss.
Although the entire world will be open from the beginning of the game, for the sake of the demo I was only allowed to explore The Forgelands region. My mission was to attempt to overcome Typhon, and the dreaded god destroyer's (the game's big bad) monstrous minions, to bring Hephaistos, god of fire, hammer, anvil and forge's workshop back to life.
The world and characters clearly take artistic inspiration from Breath of the Wild, and also take advantage of this generation's more powerful consoles (and also next generation's) to up the detail in the draw distance and allow the development team to implement a few more extra flourishes. I'm not saying it's a more visually pleasing game than Breath of the Wild - that game is bloody gorgeous, and its simplicity is a strength - but it definitely feels somewhat fuller.
The combat is much less sandbox-based, and instead relies more on the hack-and-slash formula with heavy and quick attacks as well as left bumper special melee abilities that can be strung together into combos - although this wears down your stamina fast. Thankfully, the quick sword attack replenishes stamina pretty quickly if you land enough constant attacks, meaning that once you work out an enemy's rhythm you can jump in at the opportune moment and land those tasty quick attacks to build up to a massive takedown strike.
Another change is that Fenyx is not a set defined character, but someone you can customise to make your own.
Legendary beasts work very similarly to recent Assassin's Creed titles (the game's also running in the same engine, AnvilNext 2.0, as Odyssey). On my travels I stumbled across Pyrakmon, a legendary cyclops. I managed to deck him with a combination of shooting arrows from a distance, perfect dodges and big, Thor's-hammer melee whacks. For defeating it I was awarded a brand new axe, called Eternity, that offered +22 damage with Power Spin Finisher and +30 on the Combo Meter. Needless to say, it became my equipped weapon of choice throughout the rest of my time. I also found myself attached to a sword called Crystal Shadow, which after a perfect dodge froze enemies for three seconds - yet again, perfect for getting those quick attacks in.
There are plenty of baddies to tackle along your way through the world, from smaller groups of evil lions and eagles to massive, laser-firing robots. With so much evil to contend with, I was (personally) thankful that there seems to be zero weapon degradation (weapons don't break). That's a welcome change from Breath of the Wild - so with any battle on your way, there's less pressure to sneak around and evade and more of a push to go head-first, all axes and swords blazing.Still, keep an eye on those potions.
Like in Breath of the Wild, cooking is also a thing. Unlike Nintendo's game though, it seems you can only concoct potions (health, stamina, attack and defense potions). However, just like in Zelda, these elixirs can only be crafted in certain locations. In the Forgelands, potion brewing is done at the Cauldron of Circe, and has an adorable cooking animation that seems ever so slightly inspired by the curry cooking scenes in Pokémon Sword & Shield.
Developers Ubisoft Quebec know what they're doing with Immortals Fenyx Rising. They want a bite of that tasty Zelda pie, and want to bring it to every console. Walking away from my hands-on session, I can honestly say I enjoyed myself. It's a nice, light-hearted open-world romp that takes heavy inspiration from one of the greatest games ever made. Yes, the dialogue can bring out a cringe every so often - the narrators Zeus and Prometheus love to break the fourth wall with their weird, straight-man/funny-man schtick... but damn it if I'm not charmed by the world they've created.
So when Immortals Fenyx Rising releases on December 3rd (for PlayStations 4 and 5, Xboxes One and Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, Stadia and PC), at the very least we'll have something to tide us over before Breath of the Wild 2.
Featured Image Credit: Ubisoft
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