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When tapping Greek mythology for inspiration, modern games have a tendency to swing more toward tragedy than comedy. All too often, we’re inundated with stark back stories, bleak worldbuilding, violence and broken heroes who have no time for a smile. So, what happens when developers decide to break convention and give players the chance to view the Greek pantheon through a more lighthearted lens?

The answer is something like Immortals Fenyx Rising, Ubisoft Quebec’s new open-world sandbox adventure that follows a customizable Greek soldier aptly named Fenyx. The fledgling adventurer is tasked with rescuing the Greek deities from the monster Typhon, all throughout a series of comedic battles and exploration segments.

With the fate of the Golden Isle hanging in the balance, Fenyx must delve into Tartaros, the underworld in which souls are judged after death, to restore the gods to their former glory. Meanwhile, Prometheus, champion of humanity, and Titan, god of fire, narrate Fenyx’s journey. Zeus, king of all gods, also chimes in as a rowdy, unreliable narrator. The result is a hilarious mix of goofy running commentary meant to elicit giggles between (and during) the action.

“Greek mythology has a lot of humorous elements to it that are often overlooked in adaptations,” Immortals Fenyx Rising narrative director Jeffrey Yohalem tells VENN. “The Greeks were all about balance and their characters being funny, but also dramatic, dark, and light. So this felt like the right universe to do something lighter in.”

It’s a setting that most developers would be keen on continuing to inundate with darkness, given the Greek gods’ penchant for what many would label disturbing behavior. That’s why the Fenyx Rising team’s decision to take inspiration from comedy throughout the years is such a refreshing change of pace. And the classical works in which the staff found said inspiration are legends all their own.

“When I played [the game] with early animations, there were several that were very slapsticky. They made me laugh and reminded me of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which is a comedy that was recently revived with Nathan Lane and Whoopi Goldberg playing the title character,” Yohalem says.

“It’s this slapstick Vaudeville musical about Rome. That led me to thinking about The Princess BrideRobin Hood: Men in Tights, and other Mel Brooks movies as well as the Naked Gun films in terms of verbal humor. I really wanted to create that tone in a game,” he says.

This type of humorous tone can be seen rippling throughout every area of the game, from its animations to its score.

“The animation is quite humorous,” says audio director Lydia Andrew. “You’ve got these huge mythical creatures that you’re fighting. Some of them already look quite ridiculous or they come at [Fenyx] with this larger-than-life attitude. They’ve got great personalities and are quite humorous themselves. As [the script] started to unfold, we worked with the music to bring out the gods’ personalities to underscore the actions you take while interacting with them. There’s humor running everywhere: throughout the audio, throughout the music, and everywhere when it comes to illustrating the gods in terms of musicality.”

But just like many games tend to gravitate toward the dark and gritty side of things, so can humor. Sarcasm and “punching down” often permeates particular brands of comedy, but such jokes can also divide an audience. The Fenyx Rising team wanted to avoid this to ensure a more diverse player base could appreciate it.

“It was very important to me that the humor was inclusive,” Yohalem said. “This is not about ‘punching down’ or attacking people who don’t have a voice. I wanted to make sure the tone was always punching up. There is some edgy humor, but at the same time it’s supposed to be warm-hearted. This is not cynical. It’s the opposite.”

Despite the modern twists on humor, Yohalem and the team also kept a firm foot rooted in the historical. “If you don’t know anything about mythology, the humor is very accessible,” he says. “Plus, there’s a lot of jumping off points for you to go research. The idea was to stay true to the values and characters and spirit of the original mythology.”

Immortals Fenyx Rising offers a unique riff on a setting that’s been done to death in recent years. Whether you’re listening to the banter between Prometheus and Zeus, freeing the gods who suddenly need help from a mere Greek soldier, or taking in the landscape, the development team aimed to create an experience that offers a fun, bright spot in a world where things can be decidedly bleak at the moment.

“In the world right now, it feels like things are very dark. Even before COVID, it felt like there was this darkness looming,” Yohalem says. “It struck me that people need to laugh. They need an escape and they need to feel like things are going to be alright. Now, I think that’s [especially] true.”

Immortals Fenyx Rising is available on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Stadia and Amazon Luna.


Photo courtesy of Ubisoft