Following my four-hour hands-on preview with the game, I was a bit surprised to see just how narrative-driven Immortals Fenyx Rising is. The opening hours of the game set up a young hero striving to find their worth in their older brother’s shadow, four siblings stripped of their individuality, and two father figures sitting down to see how the whole story will play out. Like narrative director Jeffrey Yohalem told me, “This game is about a family.”
This is why Immortals largely focuses on Zues, Aphrodite, Athena, Ares, Hermes, and Hephaestus–the six represent a single family unit within the much larger Greek pantheon. “All of [them] are the direct family members of Zeus except for Aphrodite, but she’s a daughter-in-law and kind of an adopted daughter,” Yohalem said. “For me, this encapsulated that idea of family, with Zeus as the head.”
It’s not unheard of for video games to use the drama-filled mythology of the Greek gods to explore themes of familial bonds–Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Hades, among others, have done it before. But you’re usually a member of that Greek family in those games. Immortals puts you into the role of an outsider, Fenyx, who is there to help talk the gods through their subconscious desires and unspoken issues to grow stronger as a family.
I saw a bit of this in my hands-on, with Aphrodite wanting to remain separated from her true essence, ensuring she’d be a purely selfless individual who forever gives her love to everyone for all eternity. As you learn over the course of her quest, Zeus’ heavy-handed approach to raising Aphrodite and telling her who she should be has convinced her that no one actually likes her true self. It’s only through Fenyx that the goddess learns that it’s sometimes okay to want to be loved and seek out others’ affection, not just offer love to others, even if that makes her act vain or petty at times. It’s a somewhat serious deconstruction of how Greek mythology commonly portrays Zeus as a notoriously bad parent and Aphrodite as an occasionally unhealthy lover, though Immortals uses humor to keep the narrative from becoming too glum.
“I feel like the story of the Greek gods is not like our modern religion where we’re looking at it as a moral compass, where it’s this very serious ‘here’s how you should behave as human beings,'” Yohalem said. “For the Greeks, I feel like the gods were their soap opera, their reality TV, so they’re very human. I think a lot of the serious work about Greek mythology has swept that under the rug–all of the terrible things that Zeus did, and the potential slapstick that’s there.”
So as Fenyx saves the gods, they’re building out this TV show–reuniting a troubled family. “The whole interaction through the gods is like a gigantic reality TV show, and as you’re bringing different elements [to the hub]–different people from the Pantheon home–then those interactions escalate into some really funny comic bits. The Hall of the Gods is reacting to the people that are there, so it’s like you’re building your own reality TV show.”
Immortals Fenyx Rising is scheduled to release for Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Google Stadia on December 3. If you have a Gmail account, you can play a free demo on Google Stadia right now.
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