Immortals Fenyx Rising Preview — Deaf Impressions

Ubisoft has invited Can I Play That? to attend another Ubisoft Forward event, which means that we’re able to get early impressions on the accessibility of Gods and Monsters. Oh wait, the studio changed the name to Immortals Fenyx Rising. Now, I was able to get hands-on with this title…earlier today and so my thoughts on the state of accessibility are fresher than a baked loaf of bread. Steve and Grant were also able to jump into an earlier session and share their accessibility impressions with one another.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a game about a hero —named Fenyx (Pronounced “Pheonix”)— who embarks on a quest to save the Greek Gods with their story being comically narrated by Zeuz and Prometheus. The game is set to a colorful and stylized world that bears visual similarities to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild along with its incredibly similar gameplay mechanics such as stamina affecting everything you do, gliding across the land, and enemies dying in an abrupt burst of smoke.

The gameplay itself, along with the sheer scale of the open-world feels massively inspired by Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and that’s understandable considering it’s being developed by the creators of Odyssey. So already, with this coming from the Odyssey developers, I’m already hopeful for the state of accessibility. And considering the previous Ubisoft Forward event that we attended allowed us to check out the wealth of accessibility features in Watch Dogs Legion, surely this game has to follow suit? Right?

As it happens, in its current demo state, it didn’t follow suit at all. Instead, Immortals Fenyx Rising for this early preview session feels incredibly lacking and comes across like one of Ubisoft’s most inaccessible games for Deafness in recent years. It is worth mentioning though that Ubisoft has confirmed that the game will actually be launching with numerous accessibility options. But what was presented in the preview left me wandering around with no clear sense of direction. In saying that, it also felt like one of Ubisoft’s prettiest games to date.

The preview had me starting mid-way through the game with the main quest requiring me to go and start up some furnaces and unclog the vents. However, in order to locate where I needed to go, I entered a first-person camera mode that shows icons for points of interest, with some icons requiring you to feel a rumble and pull the trigger to reveal what they are. Icons just never felt clear, and I didn’t feel as if I was being guided toward the main objective like in Assassin’s Creed games. I also didn’t feel as if I was getting the needed information when hovering over random icons, and It wasn’t until I entered the map view that I was able to see what icons meant, or what the goal was pertaining to that icon.

After tracking the main quest I jumped down to a grassy area, which so happened to be by a Vault entrance — I’ll explain these later. This area was littered with a few waves of enemies, instantly launching me into an Assassin’s Creed style combat system with little guidance in what my attacks and abilities are. Thankfully with my knowledge of Oddysey’s combat system, I was able to pick this up rather quickly.

The combat takes a more mythical approach to what I’m used to, allowing me to activate unique attacks with weapons from Greek Gods that grant access to devastating hammer attacks, dash attacks, guided arrows, air attacks, and more. When holding LB, the HUD would expand out the icons for special abilities allowing me to have an easier time seeing what the assigned buttons do.

But I did find myself mashing buttons a lot with no real tactic in place. I’d alternate light and heavy attacks, parry if possible with LB and RB, then dodge with X, then panic and jump with A, then dodge again, then panic and hold LB to activate the abilities and then perform some powerful attack that drained my stamina. I’m sure with time I’d get the hang of it, but it felt like a lot.

The more I played Immortals Fenyx Rising, the more overwhelmed with the combat due to the visuals I became. Damage counters, smoke, sparks, health bars, stamina bars, magical flashes of blue, and more just contributed to the mess. It soon became an effort to keep up with where enemies were thanks to the directional indicator for enemies being hard to see, or at times non-existent. In fact, the main times I noticed the indicator was when an enemy had physically noticed me, but not giving me enough time to break from their line of sight, resulting in combat or fleeing.

The HUD features were somewhat easy to understand, with D-Pad controls showing potions and edible items for those inputs, and what I mentioned above with combat abilities. But there’s also a compass bar which I felt relied too heavily on icons that are only explained through your understanding of the icon itself. Immortals Fenyx Rising felt far too focused on having me freely roam the massive world that I felt lost, with no paths to follow, and markers not being abundantly clear.

The game does come with a lot of dialogue from NPCs, the two narrators, and even Fenyx themself, so thankfully there were subtitles present. And while there are more presentation options coming at launch, for the demo the subtitles felt rough, hard-to-read, and may have even benefitted from colors for speaker labels due to the number of people talking in a sequence at times.

Following the subtitles was harder than normal as well because the narration dialogue felt as if it was being overpowered by the theatrical sounds of the rest of the game such as ambiance, magical enemy blasts, and even the footsteps and crunching grass. On top of that, sometimes there were moments where I had to focus on engaging in combat or running from events while the narration was playing out with the badly presented subtitles.

The visual understanding of Immortals Fenyx Rising continued to be a troublesome beast for me when it came to puzzles and challenges. I found myself stumbling across lots of these areas, and sought out a couple myself. They’re usually guarded by enemies to start, then you get to start whatever it is you need to do.

In one example, I had to locate a number of blue orbs to make a constellation. These orbs were originally locked in different puzzles within the area with different requirements to solve each puzzle. One found me gliding from a roof and through a timed doorway, another found me pushing large, heavy blocks to buttons, and another found me lighting my arrows on fire to light nearby lanterns.

Locating each of these sections felt challenging in itself with no visual guidance to say, “Hey, this area here has an orb!” And even then, despite standing like a fool struggling to understand the puzzle, there was no way to highlight hints. Of course, the full release should include “Puzzle Captions” and an assistance mode which should point you to the origin of your goal and help you overcome the challenge.

What baffled me the most was a challenge that was specifically for flight navigation. At first, after killing a minotaur, I stood on a round seal that lit up, which started an invisible timer…it wasn’t clear I was even being timed until a message soon after said I’d failed. At the ledge, I could see a series of lasers and walls in the distance suspended in the air with gaps and bursts of air for flight. So I jumped and tried to fly over them all, but it turns out you have to specifically go through the gaps or you fail the challenge. I attempted this a few times before eventually giving up on account of not wanting to waste too much time, but also because the flying controls felt awful and jarring.

The one continuous problem I found with Immortals Fenyx Rising was similar to an issue I had with Breath of the Wild. The world is so expansive that I just felt lost with no clear sense of direction being communicated. Vaults were the only place I found comfort, and that was because the direction to go was clear. Either straight ahead, following the path, or off the edge into a deadly abyss. Vaults are similar to the Temples in Breath of the Wild —also my favorite parts of the game— and essentially find you completing a series of trials such as gliding, puzzles, and timed-challenges.

But in saying all of the above, I actually liked how fun and quirky the game demo felt, especially in its sarky humor on top of it feeling like a friendlier Assassin’s Creed. The combat felt messy but it is button-mashing fun, and I like how colorful the world felt and I especially adored the Greek setting. But the main disappointment certainly came in regards to understanding the elements that make the world, the enemy locations in combat, the puzzles, and the dialogue. I’d have liked to have seen more danger indicators that felt clearer, better subtitles presentation, and some helpful tools to help traverse the world.

I was also disheartened to see such a lack of accessibility features demonstrated in advance for this demo, only being given a mention of the features that are going to be available at launch when the game arrives in December this year. After the number of working options in Watch Dogs Legion, this was certainly a step backward, but I hope the launch-day version massively improves the experience of the incredibly fun story and gameplay. And seeing as it’s Ubisoft, I have hopes for these features to be added and on par with the accessibility from the studios’ other games.

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Ben Bayliss

Deaf Editor at Can I Play That? - British and enjoys games with good subtitles and will complain about bad subtitles.

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