For Immortals Fenyx Rising (the new name for Gods & Monsters), Ubisoft is aiming to tell a story that doesn’t have you exploring the world in a linear manner. Coming off the heels of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the team behind Fenyx Rising wants the player to have agency in how they explore the world, choosing where to go and when to do so right from the start of the game.
“I would say this is quite a bit different from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” Immortals Fenyx Rising game director Scott Phillips told me. “We present the entire world to the player. We give them their main quests right from the beginning, and let them go free. We didn’t want to level restrict. We didn’t want to guide you through the world as we did on Odyssey, where we sort of said, ‘Okay, go to Argolis, and then go to Phocis, and then go to this other area.’ We wanted to be much more like, ‘Here’s four giant regions. Here’s four gods you need to go save. Go for it, and figure out how you want to approach that.'”
Frankly, it all feels very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With only a general idea of where you need to go, it’s largely up to you in how you get there. Protagonist Fenyx can climb practically anything, sprint, tame wild horses for fast transportation, and jump from cliffs and glide. The only thing limiting your progress is your stamina, which you can improve by completing combat and puzzle challenges hidden in small tombs scattered across the map. Nothing is revealed to you until you actually see it, so you can’t just climb a tower and get a bunch of markers added to your map in traditional Ubisoft open-world style.
“It’s a bit of a different mechanic for us,” Phillips admitted. “It’s more on the player to explore the world and to find these things rather than us necessarily, on the game side, pushing them to the player. We wanted to push them to the player in a more visual way, because we have this fantastical mythological setting. We’re able to call out more often with visuals, using distinct, non-realistic places to create interest. Like for instance, in Hephaestus’ region, you might’ve seen, or nearby actually, there’s a giant snake or a dragon skeleton. So that’s the sort of thing where it’s a really interesting, unique thing that you’re going to see in the distance. And when you go there, you’re going to find multiple things to do. And that’s the sort of loop that we wanted, where you see an interesting thing from a high point, and then you go and explore there, and you’re going to find something fun to do.”
Each of the four regions you explore present different types of topography, encouraging you to explore in new ways and regularly return to old areas with the new skills and strategies you develop as the game goes on. “Aphrodite’s region tends to be the flatter area, for example,” Phillips said. “And Hephaestus’ region tends to be one of the more vertical areas, because it has these sort of caverns or areas down below closer to the underworld.”
He continued: “It’s really up to [the players], but the challenge will come from not being able to get to every place right from the beginning. So while you do have the base set of tools to go everywhere, there are some limitations–certain skills you might need, certain places you can’t get too early on with the stamina you have. So we wanted to have ‘comeback later moments’ in the combat, the puzzles, and in the exploration across the entire world.”
As mentioned before, Fenyx Rising won’t restrict your progress through your level. Instead, each region has different types of mythological creatures that scale to your level. So, for example, if you struggle against a certain monster’s attack pattern, you can decide to come back to its home region later, without worry that you’ll return and just steamroll through the monster. You might have new attacks and abilities that make the monster easier to deal with, but you’ll still have a satisfying challenge to overcome because enemy attack damage and health scale to you. Likewise, those who are skilled enough to keep pressing onwards can do just that and the game will reward your skill by allowing you to keep going.
“We consciously made the decision not to put, ‘This is a level 10 quest,’ or, ‘This is a level 10 location. You’re only level five, so don’t try it,'” Phillips said. “We wanted it to be more uncertain in a way. We wanted it to be something that the player needs to sort of develop their own mental map of like, ‘Okay, what is too difficult? Can I climb that? I’m not totally sure. Can I fight that enemy? Well, maybe, but in this group of enemies, I’m not totally sure.’ But then we also wanted to have legendary enemies, things that you can take on right from the beginning, but you might run into some trouble, suggesting that maybe you should try again later.”
Phillips did add that there are hard locks in the game, but that they’re “few and far between.” Most of them are endgame challenges, requiring you to have unlocked specific abilities in order to complete. So there are a few points on the map that you’ll be able to reach, but you might not be able to access the location if you don’t have specific abilities. You’ll have to make a mental note to come back later. According to Phillips, these endgame challenges are optional, designed for “those players that really want to push themselves.”
But regardless of how your journey unfolds, Ubisoft wants to stress that Fenyx Rising allows you to shape your own story and make your own adventure based on what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you want to get there. “Whichever region you go to first, it’s all open to you,” Phillips said. “You can go wherever you want and the game will respond to that.”
Immortals Fenyx Rising is scheduled to launch on December 3.
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