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Hands-On with Immortals Fenyx Rising with Developer Insights
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:58pm 18/09/20 | Comments
We not only got hands-on with the newly renamed Immortals Fenyx Rising, but also spoke to the game's director, Scott Phillips...

As far as Greek mythology goes, I know only one god (posing as a mortal) in our (or my) very own Kosta Andreadis. And I’m not sure if the Ubisoft Quebec team has ever met him, but if they ever had, he’d 100% be the inspiration for the main hero in the freshly renamed Immortals Fenyx Rising. Fenyx, now being the titular protagonist -- winged, Icarus-like to boot -- working to bring down a once-trapped wayward god wreaking havoc across all of the game’s seven isles in its fantastical archipelago, each island themed from a god. If there were any such Kbit isle, I’d imagine sensual beats, loads of meaningful writing, plays of the comedic lean and science in the affirmative, as progressive thought and action.

Maybe they can do a Kbit DLC.

Still, I had the chance to play Immortals ahead of its recent reveal at Ubisoft Forward 2: The Revengening and can tell you outright, it’s awesome. Like, maybe the sleeper hit of the year and a game you absolutely have to have in your cyclopian sight. Why? Two reasons: this is as if Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was morphed into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And honestly, Ubi needs to embrace this to the nines because I couldn’t imagine a better combination. After even just half an hour with the game I immediately noted in my hands-on scribbling: “this is what Kid Icarus should have been all along”.

When time was up, I didn’t want to put it down.



“It's an honour to be compared to such a great game,” enthuses Immortals’ director, Scott Phillips, when we ask about the clear worn sleeves of both Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. “Our team loves Zelda, you probably know we put an Easter Egg in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by the way! Assassins Creed Odyssey was also an inspiration since we had just spent three years researching and immersing ourselves in ancient Greece.

"Puzzles are as important as the combat and traversal already mentioned, and finds itself embedded in both of those as well as the world itself (natch)...”



“But beyond that, pretty much any open world game of the past five to 10 years has been an inspiration for us in some respect,” he adds. “As with any creative endeavour, we are inspired by everything around us and we all bring those inspirations together to create something new and different.”

It’s sort of hard to relay much more beyond the intro here in terms of gameplay (well, the second paragraph), but there’s nuance which is bred by Scott’s statement above. What I can tell you simplistically is:
  • Game-world traversal is awesome between horse-riding and winged gliding, and combining the two.
  • Combat is thick, fast and easy to learn, but has depth not entirely revealed in full.
  • Puzzles are as important as the combat and traversal already mentioned, and finds itself embedded in both of those as well as the world itself (natch).
  • This is a gorgeous game with a lot of charm and humour (in fact Zeus sounds like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).
  • Also, your game is partially narrated on-the-fly by both Zeus and Prometheus.
  • Crafting plays a big part in the game, from potions for things like Health and Stamina to your weapons, such as swords and bows.
  • Sub bosses quickly became world enemies, helping you scale the experience and your investment into your character.
  • Speaking of, while there’s a specific look to Fenyx in the trailer, your character is entirely customisable.
  • Like Breath of the Wild, you’ll partake in Shrine-like ‘otherworldly’ puzzle and combat components of the game.



What helps all of that is that it paces beautifully. There are sections of the game-world where sub-bosses pose a significant challenge to the player for wanted treasure, and these aren’t easy. But they’re also not required. What presents as a result is a game-world you can either wholly invest in, or just play through to its base level (or narrative). The point is, the choice is entirely yours, but that doesn’t mean this is a survival game or a game where every component is important to completion, it just means everything you do is your choice but, as good game design suggests, the more you invest, the more you get out of it.

"We also fell in love with the mythology of the time period, and these stories inspired us to build something totally new, which brought Immortals Fenyx Rising to life...”



“We were given a lot of creative freedom to dream up our next project and chose to focus on developing a new IP,” Scott reveals when we asked about adding something new to an already large and robust stable. “Throughout the development of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, our minds lingered on another aspect of Greek history -- mythology. The stories of the Greek gods and heroes have existed through generations of storytellers and have transformed into the tales we know and love today.

“We also fell in love with the mythology of the time period, and these stories inspired us to build something totally new, which brought Immortals Fenyx Rising to life.”



There’s fluidity to how all of the dot points above gel as well. And I’ll get to combat more specifically shortly, but for now know that at its entry-level, it’s super-easy to get the hang of. More specifically, that game-world traversal I also mentioned earlier, it’s important in the grand scheme because these seven islands, even in isolation each, are pretty bloody big. The themes also means there’s little-to-no repetition beyond combat itself and that traversal I’m throwing plaudits at. Puzzles, missions and characters will help keep the ginormous journey ahead of you interesting and evergreen, all at once. This is a game that has been borne of experience and passion, and it’s rare for a new IP to show so much confidence out of the gate in terms of its world, narrative and systems. But Immortals has that in philosophic spades.

"It’s in handling a more heavy lean on the mythology of Greece’s past that the game is a shining light, because it’s fun. Dad jokes and banter abound by way of the game’s narrators -- Zeus and Prometheus...”



“The development of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was an incredible experience that the entire team learnt a lot from,” Scott enthuses. “And we have taken that with us into Immortals Fenyx Rising, as we have with all our previous projects. We also fell in love with the mythology of the time period, and that’s where Immortals Fenyx Rising comes from.”



But mythology and history can be disparate, and it’s in handling a more heavy lean on the mythology of Greece’s past that the game is a shining light, because it’s fun. Dad jokes and banter abound by way of the game’s narrators -- Zeus and Prometheus, who don’t hold back in offering up hot-takes, quick quips and some hidden slices of information for the player. They’re gods watching your story unfold. In some ways, and it pains me to even make the reference, this is god Gogglebox storytelling.

“Humor is a key element of Immortals Fenyx Rising, because it was so important to the original myths,” Scott explains. “These were the Greeks’ Reality TV shows and Soap Operas; a break from everyday life. We wanted to bring that same feeling to modern audiences.

"And guess who sentenced him? His fellow narrator, Zeus. So, they’re kind of an odd pair. Let’s just call it a love/hate relationship...”



“[So] the game is narrated by Zeus and Prometheus, who are cousins,” he continues. “Prometheus is serving an eternal sentence chained to a rock while an eagle eats his liver for bringing fire to mortals. And guess who sentenced him? His fellow narrator, Zeus. So, they’re kind of an odd pair. Let’s just call it a love/hate relationship.



“As with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey before it, we aim to make players smile, but with Immortals Fenyx Rising we are taking more creative liberties with mythology, delivering a fresh take on the Greek gods that has a modern spin.”

As we finish up, it’s important to truly explain the game’s two strongest elements outside of “The Pitch” above: combat and traversal. We’ve touched on it already, but the game has immediate flow and this is based around a fairly intuitive input system. Design-wise, you could liken the combat as Souls-lite, while traversal is very Breath of the Wild-based. In this way, Immortals has a slight leg up on its main inspiration (particularly in combat), but the world itself; its enemies and impediments and puzzles are all from a thematic place.

"In fact, there are many references to obscure facts for mythology fans but our main story is a new original tale inspired by the landscape of Greek mythology...”



“We are quite accurate when it comes to the original myths and the backstories of the gods,” Scott boasts. “In fact, there are many references to obscure facts for mythology fans but our main story is a new original tale inspired by the landscape of Greek mythology.

“Our world was built on the same philosophies as a theme park, creating strong iconic thematisations for all regions and biomes,” he concludes when asked about world design in relation to the game’s mythological roots and foundation. “As you noticed, each region is inspired by a Greek god and everything in that region is specifically built to support the mythology of that god. From the scarred battlefields of Ares the (original) god of War to the lush paradise lands of Aphrodite -- the goddess of Love, players will encounter a huge and detailed world to explore.



“The land of the gods is full of varied terrains, monsters and challenges. Each enemy encounter, puzzle and quest location is tailored to bring a unique aspect of the story, a myth and a gameplay feature to light. Some terrain is more acclimated to gliding or focused on climbing, while other areas are larger and more open, perfect for a mount – so players will never tire of traversing the world.”

I know I didn’t, and we can’t wait to see and play more of this hidden gem. Immortals Fenyx Rising it out this December for all platforms. Stay tuned for more from us as we’re handed access to the game and studio in the build up to its release.

Read more about Immortals Fenyx Rising on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!



Latest Comments
trog
Posted 12:07pm 22/9/20
Phoenix, Pheonix, Fenyx?!
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:34pm 22/9/20
Fixed. Except for Fenyx... that's Ubi's spelling :P
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