Videogames based on ancient mythology, like the Greeks or Romans, tend to have a more serious tone. Games like God of War and Assassin’s Creed come to mind, but Ubisoft’s Immortals Fenyx Rising seems to break the mold.
With Fenyx Rising, players explore the mythological world of Tartaros as Fenyx, a Greek soldier whose mission is to save the world and the gods from a terrible Titan called Typhon. This may sound serious, but in Fenyx Rising there is actually a lot of frivolity, which was not the original intention of the game.
” At first, the project was imagined to be much more serious,” Jeffrey Yohalem, Narrative Director of Immortals Fenyx Rising told Washington Newsday. “There were some early animations, and there’s that moment when Fenyx lands in Tartaros and falls flat on her face, spins around and throws a kiss to the camera, which was kind of a bayonetta allusion in its own boiling, crazy way. When I experienced this moment, I thought, ‘Oh, what if the whole game was like this?
Yohalem, who worked on Assassin’s Creed in the past, thinks that video games have become “incredibly serious and dark”, but Fenyx Rising could be something else.
“What I loved as a kid was The Princess Bride or The Naked Gun, which commented on the world but was also incredibly funny,” Yohalem added. “At the same time, the Marvel films revitalized comedy by having extreme stakes, but also being funny. What if we did that in a video game?”
With that thought in mind. Yohalem and the rest of the team were trying to create a narrative set in ancient Greece that has stakes but doesn’t take itself too seriously. In a game the length of Fenyx Rising, Yohalem knows that not every joke will land, but he hopes that many will enjoy the witty banter between Zeus and Prometheus.
Both characters will tell their journey through Tartaros, which gives the authors more opportunities to stretch their comedic muscles, which do not occur when a story has no narrator.
“In a video game, when the main character encounters things like blocked doors and other situations, the character talks to himself,” explained Yohalem. “This is an opportunity for the narrators to respond to everything the player does and add a joke so that everything they do is funny in some way because of the narrators and there are additional dimensions to the story.
Yohalem says that when you watch robbery movies or comedies with narrators, the narrator becomes part of the story, and Fenyx Rising was a chance for this “multi-layered narrative” that has several main characters in several time periods, which increases the fun of the game and gives players that sense of fun between Zeus and Prometheus.
The narrative director describes Zeus in Fenyx Rising as an amalgam of Mel Brooks, Larry David, and a “little piece” of Scrooge from a Christmas carol. Unlike many other media portrayals of the most famous name of the Greek pantheon, however, in Fenyx Rising Zeus will be closer to his mythological origins, i.e. he is a giant idiot.
“I have a feeling that many people who tend to adapt the material seem to sweep humor and even old-fashioned elements under the carpet because our society has evolved so much since that period that it might offend us today,” Yohalem said. “So instead of sweeping it under the carpet, we should comment on these things in a modern way and publish it so that people can research it and find out what they think about it and make fun of it, update it and make it modern.
Prometheus, who is the main narrator of the story, is there to balance the colorful language and naive nature of Zeus.
“Every crazy, comedic character needs a serious foil, and Prometheus is perfect for that because he’s pretty much the original nerd,” Yohalem explained. “He fought with Zeus against the Titans. [Prometheus] was the main Titan who fought his brothers and helped Zeus, but Prometheus fell in love with humanity and decided to help them in any way he could.
Prometheus would help mankind by introducing them to fire, and Zeus punished him for this by chaining him to a rock for all eternity and making eagles eat his liver every day. The two immortals are great friends and cousins, but when the game starts they are frenemies, which adds to the dynamic of their strange couple.
“Prometheus defends humanity and Zeus is so against everything that there is a challenge between the two. Are the humans worth it? Are they worth saving, or are they doomed to perdition? This theme fits very well with a story about Fenyx, a human trying to save the gods,” Yohalem added.
Yohalem studied Greek mythology in college, so he is very familiar with the stories and the history of the gods. He hopes that the Fenyx Uprising will teach players about the characters and stories that dominated in ancient times. From the exploits of Achilles to the not very child-friendly story of Aphrodite’s birth.
“I’ve worked on Assassin’s Creed before and we had this great idea that everything is historically correct and if you google something, the first or second hit should lead to a ton of information about it,” Yohalem explained. “This is the same principle I’ve been following here. There’s a lot of it in this game, and we encourage players to explore it.
With so many characters from Greek mythology to choose from, Yohalem explains that the characters from Fenyx’s Immortal Revolt are the ones he was determined to use in the story. But more will appear in the future in the form of DLC.
But whatever the DLC for “Fenyx Rising” may be, there will definitely be more comedy to enjoy.
“I have the feeling that mythology has a lot of humor in it. We take religion very seriously these days and it’s all about morality and how to behave, but the Greeks saw their religion much more as entertainment,” Yohalem said. “They were analogies of themselves and were more like a soap opera or a reality TV show, when you sit on the edge of your seat to see what fallible things Zeus will do next, what people will do next. I think you’re making a drama with the gods, which reinforces that comedic aspect”.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is now available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia and PC.