We sat down with Ubisoft to talk about the Vaults and puzzles in Immortals Fenyx Rising.
Following a delay, Gods & Monsters was renamed Immortals Fenyx Rising and revealed again during the September 2020 Ubisoft Forward. Comparisons were immediately made to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild--especially in regards to Immortals' self-contained, puzzle-focused Vaults, which operate similarly to Breath of the Wild's Shrines. However, whereas most of Breath of the Wild's Shrines are optional ways of improving your stamina and health, Immortals' Vaults do occasionally tie into the game's story.
In Immortals, protagonist Fenyx must save the Golden Isle from Typhon, one of the Titans imprisoned by Zeus, who has escaped his capture and defeated the Greek pantheon of gods, stripping Zeus of his lightning and Aphrodite, Ares, Hephestus, and Athena of their essence. Following the prologue, your first goal in the game is to reunite the family of gods with their respective essences, allowing them to aid you in your fight against Typhon. You can also discover pieces of Zeus's lightning in Vaults scattered throughout the map--collecting them allows you to increase Fenyx's stamina.
I recently had the chance to play through the opening four hours of Immortals Fenyx Rising, which allowed me to see the prologue and almost the entirety of the story arc for reuniting Aphrodite with her essence. At least in these first four hours, Immortals has a real forward momentum to its plot. Following the acquisition of Fenyx's initial powers and weapons, you glide from the prologue area into the main crux of the game and are heavily encouraged to make your way to the Hall of the Gods, the hub. From there, the story opens up; though, landmarks and Vault placements seem to guide Fenyx towards helping Aphrodite first. After my hands-on, I sat down with narrative director Jeffrey Yohalem and associate game director Julien Galloudec to talk about Immortals Fenyx Rising's Vaults and puzzles, and how the game handles progression.
How linear is Immortals Fenyx Rising? Will the story change depending on the order that you save the gods?
Yohalem: You can do it in any order that you want. [The story] is fairly linear, but I wouldn't call [the campaign] linear. It's in the sense that you're putting together a piece of music in whatever order you want to do it, but then the piece as it's finished is a whole piece. I don't know if you've played Outer Wilds, but that's a great example. I wouldn't call that game linear, but whatever order you do everything in, it comes out the same.
But you can also miss a lot of it. So the music that you get may be very different from someone else's because you didn't see all the stuff that they did.
So are there any narrative implications to the Vaults or are they strictly optional puzzles?
Yohalem: So this is again what I was talking about with the idea, like in Outer Wilds, that there's things that you can miss. There are some narratives attached to different parts of the world, a lot of narrative actually. When you reference, again, all of the other myths that are not a part of the game, I'd say almost all, I mean, all is a lot, so I'm sure you could point to some story that was left out, but a lot of mythology is referenced or a part of the different puzzles or vaults, or are things that you do in the world scattered around and there are secrets associated with them.
Galloudec: So some of the Vaults are a part of storylines, and actually with Aphrodite, you have to do three of them. And so some of them are integrated [into the campaign] and then all the other ones are either side quests or tied to stamina progression. But obviously, you don't need to fully maximize your stamina to finish the game. But if you want to progress at certain points and complete specific challenges, you will need a bit more stamina, so you will need to do some of them. So again, most of them are optional in the sense that you don't need them in terms of story, but you will need some of them for campaign progression.
Why small, puzzle-filled Vaults as opposed to longer, dungeon-like labyrinths of several puzzles?
Galloudec: Actually we have both in the game. So what we wanted at the start is to have part of the game taking place in Tartarus, that is the underworld of Greek mythology. And that is kind of important for the game because it used to be the prison of Typhon. So that's where Zeus imprisoned Typhon after the previous battle. And we really liked the idea that--during all this time in this prison--Typhon kind of used it to build these small vaults and small dungeons to later use them against the gods.
And so we decided to use [those Vaults] as a pace breaker in the experience because in the overworld, you're always in danger. You have monsters, you have traversal, you have exploration--it can be a bit intense. And we wanted a place where the pace is different, and also where--in terms of travel design--we can try crazy stuff because we have different constraints in comparison to the more open overworld.
So that's why we went with the smaller Vaults. But in each region, we also have one epic Vault that is related to a god and is usually introduced between the middle and the end of the quest line for each of the gods. And those ones are much bigger, with several steps, several puzzles, and also a unique ingredient that you will find only within that dungeon.
Okay. I think I actually was able to reach that in the preview build I played. After doing most of Aphrodite's quests, I was told that I only had 15 minutes left to play and I thought, "Oh, I have only one more thing. It'll be fine." And then I got thrown into this really long dungeon where I had to shoot a bunch of plants with fire arrows.
Galloudec: Yeah. That's Aphrodite's one. So that is a god's dungeon. And in that one, the unique mechanics are corrupted seeds, poison, and fire. Each god has their own god Vault and each one has a unique mechanic and a unique ingredient in it.
So that god Vault included a lot of puzzles that built off of prior experience--they relied on knowledge of what you'd already done in other Vaults or the overworld to solve it. Are any of the smaller Vaults like that or is every regular Vault a self-contained puzzle?
Galloudec: So for the level of design we really wanted--and this is true for the whole game--to let the player learn and master a set of abilities and tools. So that is fixed. We challenged ourselves with the level design. We combined those tools and those ingredients together to create a new challenge in each Vault. But we have a couple of what we call the Mastery Vaults. And for those, you will need specific abilities and you will need to know how to use them in a certain way to complete the Vault.
For example, we have what we call the "triple jump." So you can use Ares Wrath with a double jump--you can use it to perform three jumps. And then if you have enough stamina you can use another ability that you can unlock for the Bracers of Hercules that sends you even higher in the air and that will allow you to reach higher ground and higher platforms. And so we have a couple of vaults that use those skills in a platforming way. And you need to know that trick to progress in the Vault.
So will you be allowed to even go into that Vault if you don't have those abilities or will those be locked off until the player has everything that they need to actually solve them?
Galloudec: So if you need an ability to actually solve a Vault, that Vault will be gated. But then in some of the regular ones, you have the optional chest that you probably have seen in every Vault. And for those chests, sometimes you will need an ability that is not required for the core gameplay of the Vault, or maybe the knowledge of how to use existing skills in new ways with the addition of a new ability. And so you'll have to come back later when you have those abilities, and when you understand how to combine them with something else to solve the challenge.
I didn't quite beat Aphrodite's section of the game in the four hours I had, but I got pretty close. Is 4-5 hours about how long each god's arc is if you mostly book it through the campaign?
Galloudec: So Aphrodite is probably the most straightforward one. It's probably the one that players will start with most of the time because the other gods [quests] are probably a bit longer with more steps, or [inaccessible] Vault that are integrated within the main path. And also because their regions can be a bit more challenging to navigate. There are different monsters, and you have terrain that is a bit more challenging, where you need to climb and glide [more often] and really understand how to navigate. They're probably closer to five to six hours [each] if you just want to complete the quest.
How much of the game does the player have to complete before they take on Typhon?
Galloudec: So I try to explain that without spoiling too much about the game. So you can actually go into the Typhon region at the center. And obviously, it's a very challenging region where you will have the higher tiers of monsters. You can still go there and try to get some resources and maybe complete some challenges, but you won't be able to access the Typhon volcano--the big rift that acts as a transfer to his lair. There is a reason behind that and you will need the help of a specific god within the story. So the story is kind of built around that and you will need to reach that point in the story. That is a very important bit in the game. And then it will unlock your access to Typhon's lair.
Editor's Note: The transcript of this interview was altered for better readability.