Maybe open-world games don't need to boast 175 hours of playtime even while torturing developers with months of crunch. Immortals, and by extension Ubisoft, isn't immune to this problem, but there are pieces here that argue for a shift in the scope of a genre that has historically been more interested in simulating the minute details of a horse's genitalia than caring for the people who worked on them. Immortals makes an impression because it's not a massive game like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, even if it benefits from the many systems and ideas that Ubisoft's open-world games have refined over the years. Its sharpest ideas have just enough time to dig in before the game smacks you back down into an experience you could have anywhere else.
But when you're playing a character that chooses to do all the things you can make her do, she should have understandable reasons to do them. Elena doesn't, and that numbs most of the game. I don't think Whispering Willows intended for me to ask myself why I needed to keep playing for the majority of my time with it, but it did. It's the kind of game that lacks satisfying substance, the kind of game where all you can say is that you finished it.
Combined with no challenge to its climbing, other than a few misdirections that effectively punish you with the tedium of having to go backwards, the game misses the mark on taking its promising and, at least, baseline effective parts and turning them into something as strong as Shadow of the Colossus. Even if you were to remove that comparison, the game stumbles to create a consistent experience on its own. And at some point, it would be fair to argue that the comparison is being a little generous.
But those disappointing moments are ultimately rare. Hatoful Boyfriend earns almost everything else it does. Like those fantastical and ridiculous movies and novels, it demonstrates an ability to rise above its base, absurd concepts and weaves several stories that last. It's much more than it seems, and begs for you to play it and discover its depth.