INTERVIEW: “Myths of the Eastern Realm” with Ubisoft Chengdu Associate Game Director Jiang An Qi

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Myths of the Eastern Realm

Immortals Fenyx Rising is Ubisoft’s latest open-world adventure. Centered on Greek mythology, you play as Fenyx as they work to save the world and the gods, in the process. While the game has expanded in small ways like the inclusion of new quests around Netflix’s Blood of Zeus and even a new god for the pantheon, it’s the game’s latest DLC that showcases its true range. Launched at the end of last month “Myths of the Eastern Realm” is the game’s second piece of DLC and brings players into entirely new mythology and has them become a new hero as well.

In “Myths of the Eastern Realm,” a new hero named Ku embarks on a journey inspired by a popular Chinese myth, Nuwa Mends the Heavens. Ku’s mission is to help the goddess Nuwa restore the fractured sky and save humanity. Encounter legendary Chinese deities, battle monstrous new enemies using a unique fighting style based on Chinese martial arts and test your logic with new puzzles. Led by the Ubisoft Chengdu studio, this exciting new open-world provides players an enriching experience, taking place between the sky and the earth. The world remains true to its cultural origins and features a Chinese architectural style with tall, jagged peaks found in traditional Chinese scrolls and art. In a lot of ways, this DLC feels like an entirely new game. While players still have their wit, agility, and logic challenged by the puzzles, this time it happens in the Ruins of Heaven. And with that comes new gameplay elements, like morph cubes, clouds, bamboo, wind controller and air rings, players can unlock new abilities, such as Nuwa’s Agility, Blades of Huang Di, and the Axe of Yan Di.

We got the chance to talk with Associate Game Director Jiang An Qi from Ubisoft Chengdu about “Myths of the Eastern Realm” and what it means to the developers and what they hope it inspires in fans.

BUT WHY THO: What drove the decision to introduce entirely new mythology instead of just expanding the Greek pantheon with more new gods?

JIANG AN QING: We wanted to offer an extension of the main game and give players more of what they love about Fenyx’s adventure, but in a new light, with a different setting, hero, and storyline based on Chinese mythology. Our goal was to extend the Immortals Fenyx Rising universe and explore a new mythology, while serving our players a fresh and captivating adventure that gathered all the gameplay ingredients they loved in the base game.

BUT WHY THO:  Myths of the Eastern Realm feels like an entirely new game, with new monsters, a new hero, and new gods, what led to the choice to create an entirely new story within an existing game

JIANG AN QING: The myths of China are intimately important to us and there are so many amazing mythos and folktales just waiting to be brought to games. We created a game and a story based on a cultural understanding that is something we’ve lived through and shaped how we view the world, and the myths we’ve collected in the game are an expression of that.

The myth of Nuwa patching the skies exists in multiple forms and versions, all amounting to basically a few paragraph’s worth of text. Similar to Greek mythology, the flow of Chinese myths can be divided into two periods: the age of myth, where events and individuals are more idealized and abstract, then the age of heroes, where stories become more grounded and tied to the historiography of Chinese history. We chose the earlier age of myth in Chinese mythology, as it is mostly unexplored territory and it granted us freedom to provide our interpretation of the myths, while allowing us to pay respect to the key foundations of these tales.

BUT WHY THO: It’s ambitious to ask players to step into the role of a new hero after they’ve spent so much time with Fenyx. What elements like mechanics did you aim to keep from Fenyx’s character and what were some steps that the team took to make Ku fully realized and unique in their own way?

JIANG AN QING: Due to the new setting and mythology, we wanted to introduce a character who wasn’t an outsider while still making him familiar and relatable. Although Ku is a product of the Chinese mythological world, in some ways he shares similarities with Fenyx. Both heroes are good-hearted and fascinated by the myths, and both have something to prove.

Myths of the Eastern Realm

BUT WHY THO: How did the teamwork on creating a unique story for Myths of the Eastern Realm while also keeping it in line with what Immortal Fenyx has already established?

JIANG AN QING: As a DLC, our aim was to build off of the key pillars from the main game—combat, exploration, and puzzles—while bringing something new to the table in a way that would allow us to express iconic or symbolic aspects of Chinese culture. For example, when tackling combat, we tweaked the timing and animation of our hero’s attacks to better match Wushu style, reworked the Godly Powers with a Chinese myth framing, and introduced the God Seal system to give players already familiar with the main game an additional parameter to consider combat. Our puzzles also adopted a similar approach, such as the Bagua puzzles, in which we reconfigured the constellation puzzles, but with a thematic focus on Chinese philosophy on the natural world over astrology.

BUT WHY THO: Nuwa isn’t a goddess that many in the West may be familiar with, what went into her character design? How did you adapt her mythological identity with Immortal Fenyx’s unique hyper-stylized art?

JIANG AN QING: Nuwa is a beloved goddess in Chinese culture, primarily known as a guardian and creator of humankind. We chose to focus on the motherly aspect of Nuwa and present her as a godly creator who is a perfectionist and tends to be overprotective of her creations. In keeping with this duality, we gave Nuwa elegant white robes with serpent-like features (referencing some versions of Nuwa as a half-serpent humanoid) while keeping the craftsman aspect of her identity intact.

BUT WHY THO: In the Immortals Fenyx base game, the gods’ identities are woven through each area of the Golden Isle, what are some of your favorite ways that Chinese mythology was woven into the new areas?

JIANG AN QING: Part of giving our entire world its more uniquely Chinese identity was to mimic watercolor paintings of mountain ranges and situate both Nuwa and Gong Gong’s regions on mountaintops. Peng Lai, Nuwa’s region, is itself a fabled place in Chinese mythology as this sort of paradise on earth, so we incorporated not only Nuwa’s mythical identity into Peng Lai but also elements of early Chinese myth such as the Jian Mu Tree to symbolize Nuwa as the bridge between humankind and the gods.

BUT WHY THO: Can players expect this DLC to see more added to it over time? New gods maybe?

JIANG AN QING: We’re currently focused on making Immortals Fenyx Rising and its post-launch content the best possible. What the future holds: we don’t know yet.

Are you ready to jump into a new adventure? Then you can pick up the “Myths of the Eastern Realm” DLC on its own for $14.99USD or pick up the Season Pass for Immortals Fenyx Rising for $39.99USD on the Ubisoft Store. With a whole new world and a new hero, it’s well worth the purchase.

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