When it comes to Ubisoft’s catalog of games, they are united by animation and design that aims towards realism. And when you look at their various franchises like Tom Clancy, Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs alone, Ubisoft games aren’t known for their lightness. Instead, these titles are known for their violence, assassinations, shooting mechanics, and while they all carry their own beauty and lore, Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a unique IP to the mix.
An open-world action-adventure game with RPG elements, Immortals Fenyx Rising comes from Ubisoft Quebec and is set in Greek Mythology. Coming after Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a game set in historical Greece, Immortals Fenyx Rising is different. During a roundtable for the game, Game Director Scott Phillips explained how they had to do something different than what Odyssey did. Where Odyssey offers up history, this new IP offers up mythology in spades. And boy does the game deliver.
In Immortals Fenyx Rising, you play as Fenyx, a shipwrecked storyteller and shieldbearer who is thrust into a war between the titan Typhon and the gods. Now, Fenyx, a character you create, has to work to save humanity and the gods with virtually no experience outside of the stories she tells. Washed up on the Golden Isle, the home of the gods, you work your way through individual zones crafted to reflect the gods that call them home. And as the home of the gods, every piece of land, step, treasure chest, line of dialogue, and star in the night sky is inspired by and imbued with mythology.
Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t just a new IP that detaches completely from reality, it’s also a game that pushes the artistic envelope by daring to be different with its hyper-stylized animation and vibrant color palette. Truly, this game stands out from the rest of Ubisoft games over the past decade. This sharp departure from the usual realistic art style was intentional not only to create something entirely new but to create a game for all ages. Phillips explained that the team wanted Immortals Fenyx Rising to be accessible to not only people never before exposed to Greek Mythology, but to younger audiences as well; a demographic that isn’t the prime target for the vast majority of Ubisoft’s IPs.
At the same roundtable, Thierry Dansereau, the game’s Art Director, explained that the game’s map is built out like a theme park with each area tied to a different god. The Valley of Eternal Spring is Aphrodite’s home, War’s Den is obviously Ares’ domain, the Forge Lands belong to the blacksmith of the gods Hephaestus, the Grove of Kleos is the olive-tree filled home to the goddess of wisdom Athena, King’s Peak is home to Zeus and the Fates, and the Gates of Tartarus where Typhon resides. The lands each fit their respective deities. The flora, fauna, the creatures, and of course the color palette are all combined to create clearly defined zones with a variety of quests and scenery to keep you busy. The art is lush and colorful, even in the darker and more treacherous areas of the Golden Isle.
Every bit of the game is magical. The art differentiates the gods from the humans both in size and by having constellations mapped on their skin. Additionally, the narration from Prometheus and Zeus walks the players through the world guiding them with game suggestions but also the mythology of the gods that you’re trying to save. Immortals Fenyx Rising takes time to immerse the player in a vibrant world not just in art style, but also in a world shaped by Greek mythology. The size of everything is set to the scale of the gods. The size of the furniture, the doorways, everything reminds the player that they’re in a world that isn’t built for them but for the gods in the stories they hear.
Through Fenyx’s position as a storyteller, you get to experience the wonder of a person meeting their heroes. The awe with which Fenyx meets the gods is showcased on their faces. Multiple times Fenyx exclaims: “I’ve told your story” or “I know this story” or some variant of that sentiment.
Another element of the series that separates it and creates a stunningly new IP is its gameplay. Filled with puzzles in both designated areas where you collect quest items called the Vaults of Tartarus, and spread throughout the world, as a player you’re not only allowed but encouraged to deviate from the main path. But beyond that, the Vaults of Tartarus’s level design and mechanics are oriented to test different levels of gameplay. While one vault may focus on the flight mechanic with the Wings of Daedalus, another vault may deal exclusively in utilizing the Strength of Herakles to move boxes, and another still may push your skill with Apollo’s arrows.
This allows the player to explore them with a new context that pushes the player to utilize new combos. While this is a new element for Ubisoft to tackle right now, it’s also unique amongst other AAA titles. In the vein of Banjo Kazooie and Jack and Daxter, Immortals Fenyx Rising aims to make the “journey as rewarding as the adventure,” Phillips explained. The way puzzles utilize dynamic traversal helps ensure that every road you take offers something new, keeping you immersed in the entire open-world and not just your questline.
Beyond that though, the game also offers up a story steeped in humor. In and of itself, a humorous take on Greek mythology stands out against the more mature and violent landscape that we see from the majority of media based on it. As Yohalem explained, “laughter is something that we can all relate to and is the quickest way to make us relate to our audience.” Additionally, Yohalem explained how the Greek myths told were meant as entertainment and that its tragedy was balanced with its humor, something that is often forgotten when used in media.
Phillips added that one of the game’s inspirations was Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a humorous superhero film that manages to showcase extremely high stakes but doesn’t use doom and gloom to confront them. The comparison is an apt one. Immortals Fenyx Rising is vibrant and hilarious and it also gives us a compelling hero who is confronting the literal end of humanity and deities.
Finally, Immortals Fenyx Rising also offers up a character creation system that allows players to create Fenyx in their image or one that will help immerse them in the game. None of the customizable choices are locked by gender. While you’ve been able to customize your characters in Ubisoft games for a long time, the majority of those choices in the customization have been locked by gender. This means you can choose a male presenting body with a female voice, or create a female character with facial hair, just as a few examples.
This open choice allows players to play their way. Now, the character creation isn’t as robust as a game like Baldur’s Gate 3 but is wide enough to allow you to customize your version of Fenyx to a character that you can bond with. Immortals Fenyx Rising joins Watch Dogs Legion in allowing for customization of your character unrestricted to gender. This is a more inclusive move for character creation and one that is beyond welcomed for non-binary and trans players. On the topic of Fenyx, Pillips said, “To help people relate to their hero we wanted to give them options so that the player could put themselves into the game and let them be a part of the game. Video games are special because you can actually put yourself into it and we need to take advantage of that.”
Every element of the game is remarkably different than the Ubisoft games that came before it. Immortals Fenyx Rising is as beautiful as it is challenging. The art is vibrant and welcoming while the puzzles fill your time, integrated both into the landscape and questlines, and the game’s humor is second to none. The game beautifully shakes up Ubisoft games and as a brand new IP, everything about the new path it’s paving is exciting and inviting.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is available on December 3, 2020 on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia, Playstation4|5, and PC.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.