Myths of the Eastern Realm is the second DLC pack for Immortals Fenyx Rising, but it really feels more like a direct-to-VOD adaptation. The DLC pack tells vaguely the same story, in the same way, while giving you the same powers, but it feels significantly worse. It’s not just that it’s shorter or that I’ve done it all before either – it feels like it resents the base game, or at the very least doesn’t understand it.
The DLC wasn’t made by the same devs who worked on the original, Ubisoft Quebec, but instead by its Chinese cousins in Chengdu. It’s essentially the base game retold with Chinese myths, accelerated into a quarter of the runtime. It’s a good idea; outsourcing the DLC to a different studio so it can retell the story from its own perspective. It’s like a cover version, and could have been similar to Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt – the same thing, but reinvented with new context. Outsourcing DLC is not an entirely new idea, but doing it in this ‘cover version’ style seems fresh. Unfortunately, it’s more like Duran Duran covering Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is a bit of an odd game to begin with. I played it at launch and really enjoyed it, but I’d struggle to explain exactly why. I think for the most part it’s because it’s incredibly aware of what it is. The humour is a weird mix of Nickelodeon, Family Guy, and slapstick, but it works because everyone (especially female Fenyx, Zeus, and Hermes) lean in and chew the scenery. Everyone in Myths, most notably the lead character Ku, plays it straight. The story is nowhere good enough to sustain this sort of performance, and any quirkiness the game might have had gets lost.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. While Immortals had some janky, cartoonish character models, the world itself looked exquisite thanks to the bold colouration, and that carries over to the DLC. The tones of Myths of the Eastern Realm are much warmer than the base game, with a lot of fuzzy oranges and soft yellows in place of Immortals’ penchant for icy blues and vibrant greens. It’s here, rather than in the narrative or gameplay, that Ubisoft Chengdu really makes the game its own. The jank remains too, and I’ll leave it up to you whether that’s good or bad.
Meanwhile, the combat is exactly how you remember it from the base game… and I mean exactly. You start with every power unlocked bar a couple of specific story ones, but within an hour you get them too. I like the combat of the original, and I wouldn’t usually expect it to change in a DLC, but in a new, self-contained story like this, it feels odd that there’s very little to separate Ku’s combat style from Fenyx’s. If you complete the Myth Challenges, you get some upgrades to make yourself more powerful, and there are rewards for chaining attacks without getting hit, but these changes don’t noticeably influence the game. We don’t get our bird companion of Phosphor itself, but we do get a different magical burning bird companion. The names change, but the street stays the same.
There also appears to be no mounts (I didn’t come across one in the ten hours it took me to complete the game and some side activities), but the map is smaller and separated by a canyon, so I don’t think one is even needed. There’s still an inventory slot for mounts, but it’s locked – the fact that it’s there at all suggests Ubisoft Chengdu needed to follow the original formula incredibly closely.
This is evident in the map design too. There are only two regions, rather than four main ones and two extras in the base game, and there’s an attempt to make them visually distinct, but there’s nothing as grand as the split between the Forgelands and the Valley of Eternal Spring. There is, however, a literal split down the middle of the map, which feels like clever design at first (the whole map looks like a yin-yang symbol), but the game never makes it clear when it’s time to cross into the other half.
As far as the smaller parts of the map design goes, there are similar Myth Challenges, Vaults, and Epic Chests to find, and they’re all patrolled by the same creatures as the base game. I’ve taken some shots at Myths of the Eastern Realm for not changing the game up, but I think sticking to the established activities in the wider world is the right way to go.
Speaking of Vaults, Myths of the Eastern Realm’s interpretation of them is much better for the most part, but let down by one big clunker. There’s fewer of them (yay), they’re shorter (yay), and they’re lit much more softly (yay). There are a lot of things to like about the Vaults, which now have an ethereal Heavenly feel rather than the inky skies of the base game. The only issue is one vault asks you to pick up four gold boxes, then throw or drop them, while riding on a cloud – and if the box brushes near the cloud, you fall to your death. This comes at the end of a longer Vault, after you’ve already completed a bit of a maze, and death takes you back to the maze’s start. The controls just aren’t precise enough for it. It feels like the game has cheated you, and it’s more frustrating than listening to the cast of Myths crack jokes – which can be excruciating.
This shrinking of the Vaults can be detrimental too, partly because it seems like the difficulty was artificially inflated with the gold boxes, and partly because it’s anticlimactic. I fought one boss in a vault, then as I defeated it, immediately healed up for the second stage, only to be greeted by a cutscene that informed me of my ultimate victory. Against Typhon, the Gods helped you out, everyone contributed, and it felt like a worthy ending because you had to adapt constantly to a new battle style. Not so here.
But then, would I even want these Gods to help? They’re so dull and poorly defined. It kind of sets one up as a betrayer, but then nothing comes of that. Ku doesn’t feel as involved in the business of the Gods as Fenyx did, the dark forces in the game are vague and bland, and literally none of the jokes land. The battle might have been longer from a gameplay perspective, but in all honesty I was glad when it ended.
If you liked Immortals, this is basically the same game again, but shorter and with Chinese myths. It’s a shame that a different studio couldn’t, for whatever reason, make its DLC distinct from the base game, but if you want to experience a little bit more of Immortals Fenyx Rising, Myths of the Eastern Realm has you covered. It’s a disappointment, but it’s not a disaster.
A PC copy of Immortals Fenyx Rising – Myths of the Eastern Realm was provided to TheGamer.com by the publisher.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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