Developed by the team behind Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Immortals Fenyx Rising is scheduled to release on December 3. The game was previously known as Gods & Monsters, which, yeah, is quite the name change.
Now look, I love the new name. I’m happy for the change to such an unusual combination of words. Google is an unholy beast that I repeatedly try and fail to understand–it’s hard to come up with that perfect headline that accurately advertises what my article is going to be about, catches the eye of a reader who’s looking through a sea of search results, and is promoted thanks to Google’s ever-changing parameters of ideal search terms. So it helps when I’m writing about something that doesn’t have a name that’s already similar to something else. And do you know how many games, books, movies, and TV series already have some variation of “gods and monsters” in their title? Far more than “immortals fenyx rising,” that’s for sure.
But, my very specific use case aside, there’s still the question of why Ubisoft made the change in the first place. The developer probably doesn’t care about my Google-related woes. So after playing through a two-hour demo of Immortals Fenyx Rising, I sat down with game director Scott Phillips to ask him about the new name. Turns out, Immortals Fenyx Rising represents a shift in narrative focus that occurred over the past year.
“At the end of 2019, we got the chance to have more time with the game,” Phillips told me. “So all the directors, all the team, we got together, played through the entire game, looked at, ‘Okay, what do we want to do narratively? What do we want to do visually, artistically? And what do we want to do gameplay wise?’ So as we developed that, as we figured out where we wanted to go, narratively, one of the things we wanted to do was put a bigger emphasis on Fenyx and Fenyx’s journey through this adventure, and Fenyx’s interaction with the gods, and the gods as sort of this meta context of the unreliable narrators on top of it. And so we really wanted to make that the centerpiece of the game.”
As the centerpiece for the game, Fenyx is presented as more than a blank slate protagonist. I didn’t get to see much of who they are in the demo, but Phillips filled me in on their backstory and motivations.
“Early on in the game and the adventure, as Prometheus is telling the story of Fenyx, Fenyx is on a ship full of soldiers coming from Margolis,” Phillips said. “They’re shipwrecked. They’re lost on the coast of this Golden Isle, this mysterious island, and early on Fenyx encounters Hermes, one of the Greek gods. And Hermes conjures this prophecy that says that Fenyx will be the only person that can save the Greek gods from the destruction of Typhon, their ultimate enemy.”
He continued: “Fenyx goes on a journey and I don’t want to spoil too much, but essentially Fenyx starts off as what’s called a sword bearer–sort of the lowest rung of soldiers who really just carry gear rather than being a big warrior. But throughout the course of this game, Fenyx begins to accept this prophecy and has his or her own challenges with how they come to terms with being this hero, and how the gods see Fenyx as this hero. Initially [the gods] are sort of doubtful, saying, ‘Oh, this is a human. How can they possibly help us?’ But obviously Fenyx will, through the course of the journey, prove their worth.”
Not one to pass up on the obvious, I did ask if Fenyx’s name (which is pronounced like “phoenix”) has any bearing on this prophecy and thus the plot of the game. Do they gain the ability to rise from the dead? Is Fenyx the reincarnated form of a god? Though he did laugh, Phillips wasn’t able to answer my question. All he said was: “That’s something I wouldn’t want to get into in terms of spoiler-y territory, but something like that would make sense.” So I feel like there could be something there, but I don’t know for sure. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Phillips was far more forthcoming in terms of how players will be able to customize Fenyx. Similar to Eivor in Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Fenyx can be played as either male or female. You get a bit more agency in how they look, though, being able to choose Fenyx’s body type, voice, facial hair, as well as skin, eye, and hair color. You can get pretty creative with it too–Phillips threw out blue and green skin colors as an example.
You won’t be stuck with your choices at the start either; Fenyx Rising allows you to adjust Fenyx’s appearance whenever you want. “You’ll be able to re-customize your look in the Barber Chair of the Gods, where you’ll get to change your full look,” Phillips said. “Hermes gives you a nice little explanation of what [the chair] is used for–it’s for how the gods transformed themselves to look like other things when they rip their skin off, and change the way they look. So, he sort of introduces it in this lighthearted, but also a bit grotesque way of how you’re customizing yourself.”
He continued: “So Fenyx is definitely a presence in the narrative herself or himself, since it’s a fully customizable player character. You will interact with multiple gods throughout the course of the game. There are NPCs in the world, but they’re limited. And they’re not necessarily a part of your main quest. This is a story really about Fenyx, and the gods, and their connection. So while Prometheus and Zeus provide the overall context and the narrative–this is a story being told by Prometheus to Zeus–you will journey as Fenyx through this. And then these two contexts do meet at a later point in the game, and really connect and wrap things together.”
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