Following my recent venture into Norse mythology and Viking lore I was delighted to be invited to an event for Immortals Fenyx Rising! This upcoming adventure game is set in a world of Greek myth and legends. As a self-professed legend myself I was keen to learn more!
Creating an Iconic IP
The first panel was about creating an iconic IP. Game Director Scott Philips, Associate Game Director Julien Galloudec and Art Director Thierry Dansereau discussed this topic together. They mentioned how additional production time has given them the freedom to greatly expand the initial scope of the game and provided a first, in-depth look.
The game beings with the hero, Fenyx washing up on the shores of the Golden Isles following a shipwreck. You meet Hermes, the messenger of the Gods who delivers the prophecy that you’ll defeat Typhon, the deadliest of the Titans. Meanwhile, Zeus and fire-thief Prometheus are narrating your adventure, squabbling over whether a mere mortal can save the world or not.
The Journey of Immortals Fenyx Rising
Fenyx is a totally customisable character with a wide array of styles and options. As you unlock abilities like the Wings of Daedalus (thankfully not Icarus) your transport options will open up, allowing you to explore freely.
The Golden Isle is overrun with mythic beasts from the Underworld. They inhabit the different regions of the island, each ruled by a different God and featuring different biomes and themes. You’re free to explore in any direction as soon as the adventure begins, an especially tantalising feature for fans of the latest Legend of Zelda title.
Development began near the end of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The team wanted the freedom to explore Greek legends without being tethered to an existing franchise. They also wanted more inviting graphics, gameplay and a narrative for a broader audience. They were determined to make the journey of Fenyx as rewarding and challenging as the destination.
With the art-style, they wanted to leave their comfort zone. They were inspired by Studio Ghibli films and older platformers like Jak and Daxter and Banjo and Kazooie for the different homes of the Gods. Balancing combat and puzzles was a difficult task as well as amping up the freeform exploration to set it apart from the Assassin’s Creed games.
To get the greenlight on such a puzzle focused title, the team assembled numerous prototypes to pitch to the head honchos in Paris. They wanted a wide variety, with vaults that challenge your memory, logic and even music challenges or guiding arrows through multiple hoops. Making puzzles easily identifiable was half the battle, a task the art team took to heart.
Imagining a Hero for all Heroes at Heart
The second panel was all about creating the hero, Fenyx. Inspired by Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Narrative Director Jeffrey Yolahem’s sister it was crucial to the team to make a relatable, flawed hero. Cinematic Team Lead Michelle Plourd elaborated on this, detailing how the cinematography was crucial for making the story connect with audiences. Nailing the comedic beats was another camera challenge, crucial for their lighthearted tale.
Music and Sounds: The Heart of a Hero
Next, the audio was the main topic. Composer Gareth Coker and Audio Director Lydia Andrew. Coker used the game’s unique art-style as his primary inspiration with unique tracks to cover action, conversations or puzzles. He wanted a balance between lighthearted and epic simultaneously, inspired by how Pixar create films which nail that balance. He acquired various Aeolus a Greek woodwind instrument as well as Lyres to create the specific Grecian sound.
Andrew described how creating unique sounds of mythological creatures was a fun challenge. To help, they pitched each monster in terms of personality to sell them to the audio team. Her favourite sound in the game is a very cute and specific crab scuttle. Coker’s favourite theme was composed for an in-game chicken!
Myths and Legends in Immortals Fenyx Rising
Following this, we enjoyed a talk about Greek Mythology. The developers were attracted to how flawed the pantheon of Olympus is, seeing them as relatable in their idiosyncrasies. Joined again by Scott Philips and Jeffrey Yohalem they relayed how Greek myths are less morality tales than views on how to deal with failures and hardships.
Their frame of reference for the tales tone was very unexpected. Guardians of the Galaxy but with Greek gods! The team also went to see a classic Greek play for research. They were surprised by how crude and funny it was, their inspiration for the humour of the adventure. The Titanomachy was another influence, a lost epic poem about how Zeus fought Cronus and the Titans. The updated characterisations and over the top action will help to bring back the humour that has been lost from such adaptations of the centuries. Kratos’ scowling won’t be tolerated here!
Unique and Accomplished Artstyle
The final panel was all about the art-style. Art Director Thierry Dansereau and Cinematic Team Lead Michelle Plourd returned for this talk. They wanted a look that was the complete opposite of Assassin’s Creed. An emphasis on vibrant colours, again inspired by the films of Miyazaki. They designed the world like a theme-park, each God’s environment has a specific look and theme. With no adherence to realism, they used Pixar for character design inspiration, balancing comedy and their epic stature simultaneously.
Thus ended the panel, the Pantheon of dedicated developers having given their last divine message for the day.