Last night, I stumbled upon a puzzle in Immortals Fenyx Rising that can only be described as “pinball, but Ancient Greek.” It’s cool as Hades, and I love it. I also hate it with the fire of the Phlegethon. You should definitely check it out.
The pinball game in question is the crux of Aiolos’ Strength, a vault in War’s Den, the eastern region of Immortals Fenyx Rising’s open world. Aiolos’ Strength isn’t easy to find. Even if you mark the vault with your Far Sight ability, tracking down the exact entrance is kind of a pain. It’s tucked away in a cave, on the side of a plateau, surrounded by four rivers of lava, accessible most prominently via a labyrinthine network of narrow slate pathways.
Truth be told, I found Aiolos’ Strength completely by accident. As I’ve made my way through the various regions of the Golden Isle, I’ve hewed to a three-step formula. Step one: Climb the god statue, scout the region. Step two: Find the wraith—those powerful, irritating, region-specific enemies that “randomly” show up at the worst possible moments, until you defeat them—and kill it. Step three: Start having fun. While hunting for Herakles, the wraith of War’s Den, I—much as it pains me to admit—got lost. Here’s the cave where Aiolos’ Strength is tucked away:
And here’s the vault where you can find Herakles’ lair, precisely one 180º turn to the left or, unless you’re not an ambi-turner, right:
Years of internalized video game deduction led me to believe that Herakles lived in the cave. Not quite.
Once you pop into Aiolos’ Strength, you’ll have to use a series of air currents to glide to a platform. On the platform, you’ll see two pedestals—each with a switch—and a lever. Walk up to them and the camera pans out, showing a sloped, rectangular board with three borders and two triangular contraptions on an unbordered bottom. Pull a lever, and you’ll launch a large, flaming sphere onto the board. Hit the right switch, and the right-hand triangle will flick upward. You probably don’t need me to tell you what the left switch does.
Your goal is to use those switches to sink the sphere smack into the center of the board. On each wall, there are panels that will bounce the sphere some errant direction on the board. If the sphere rolls between those two triangular contraptions at the bottom, you’ll have to pull the lever again to summon a new one. A secondary challenge introduces a more complex board, and forces you to juggle multiple spheres.
In other words: pinball.
The degree to which Immortals captures pinball’s infuriating, intoxicating spirit is nothing short of impressive. It’s also enough to drive a guy mad.
See, in the real world, I’m just absolutely rubbish at pinball. Once, during a round of Lord of the Rings pinball, I lost all of my balls before the theme song could finish. At a bar in Toronto, I spent more money than I care to admit on a pinball drinking game—something I’ll chalk up to misunderstanding the exchange rate—that really was nothing more than an exercise in tequila-fueled obstinacy. I won nothing, and lost everything (a couple rounds of drinks for my friends).
Given that Immortals grants you all sorts of magical abilities—flying, double-jumping, summoning purple unicorns with a snap—I figured pinball, of all things, would be a breeze. But no amount of otherworldly powers, it seems, can cure an inherent lack of skill at history’s most basic arcade game. I’d flick the sphere up, only to have it fall just short of the goal. I’d stand by the right-side switch, only for the ball to roll over to the left at the last second. Round after round after round, the sphere would simply roll between the flippers, while I stood there, feckless.
But, as bad as I am at pinball—both in the real world and in Immortals Fenyx Rising’s take on Ancient Greece—I still enjoy it. You needn’t be skilled at something to enjoy yourself. And hey, Immortals, by and large, hasn’t been terribly difficult, so the challenge was much appreciated. (No, I’m not telling you how long it took me to beat Aiolos’ Strength.)
I’m taking my time with Immortals, combing over the map at a glacial pace, exploring every cel-shaded nook and cranny, hitting every optional objective I can find. Many of the Vaults of Tartaros have contained some fascinating puzzles—Zelda-style physics problems, intricate obstacle courses—but none, so far, have fascinated me as much as this pinball mini-game. I’m just glad it didn’t require any quarters.