It seems like many developers want to get on the epic feels train of gaming. What with Ori and the Blind Forest making such an impact on how music and visuals can encourage and well-meaning narrative and energetic gameplay, it looks as though many are branching out to other themes and styles. Jotun is bringing Vikings, beauty and awesome boss fights onto consoles.
Jotun is a tale of a Viking warrior named Thora, who dies during her travels onboard a ship as it hits a deadly storm. Her life is taken rather unfairly and held back from going to Valhalla as her death was not noble enough. Even though she was a pretty impressive warrior who lived by honor and loyalty it seems. Thora emerges into a strange world, the void of life in-between Earth and Valhalla. She is told by Odin himself that she may past onto the next life if she impresses the Gods. In order to do so, she must fight and defeat several “Jotuns” who are essentially giant monsters that plague the Viking world.
Jotun is crafted with a mixture of digital painting and hand drawn animations. The overall visual effects and aesthetics are stunningly beautiful. It’s impressive to see the slick, smooth animations of various NPCs as objects and the bosses look just amazing! Not to mention the wonderful soundtrack does play a big part in submerging you into this brilliant adventure. The game is a pure delight to play just for the visuals and soundtrack even with some very minor animation flaws.
The game is easy to integrate into with simple mechanics while reframing a decent sense of challenge when it comes to larger battles and exploration. For the most part, combat takes a back seat while exploration and puzzles are more the focus. Some of the more engaging elements for combat are the terrific and gigantic boss battles. Jotun is elegantly paced as it switches between melee combat and going up against environmental hazards, which often plays more the antagonising forces between bosses. However, this can make many of the levels feel a little empty when they depend on environmental hazards. Some present a decent challenge and are, again, epic, like the giant beast under the frozen lake. There are many others which pose no threat and feel like a mild inconvenience.
There is a great sense of exploration as the worlds are interesting to traverse. They’re beautifully designed and offer some fantastic points of gravitas. The game immerses and does such a good job as you may find yourself just peering over the landscape and admiring the wonder. But exploration does well to reward keen explorers and even certain rewards require lateral thinking to obtain them.
The bosses are all on a grand scale; they are truly epic. They all feel like a theatrical spectacle. As Thora enters the stage you hear subtle noises or see visual cues that build the tension nicely. Then, as the camera pans out, you see what you’re facing against and this just sets the mood for the epic battles coming up so well. On a plus note, the camerawork of these gigantic battles are fantastically done, never making you feel lost as the arena expands.
The main issue I have with Jotun is that, to me, it’s rather easy and those who’ve played Volgarr the Viking or dabbed in Dark Souls may feel the same. This isn’t to say the game won’t be easy for all, but more hard-core gamers might pass through this without too much trouble. Again, this may be due to the fact that that many levels are uninhabited and rely a little too much on environmental hazards, which can work if they’re challenging, yet many are just a walk in the park.
The only real essence of challenge comes from the epic boss battles. As grand and entertaining as they are, most won’t pose much trouble for many gamers. It’s only a few bosses that really make the experience tense and yet, after a few rounds and having learned the tricks, you’ll just overcome it. Even the last boss was disappointing. Its lack of enemy opposition, for the most part, makes the progression a little too smooth and left unchallenged for large chunks. But there are moments where you can fight NPCs and usually these moments are frantic and very entertaining, such as fighting the Dwarf hordes and the giant bolder-throwing fire ogres. Overall, the game does offer some fantastic pacing that keeps you engaged.
The game itself will last around 6 hours. Plus, there is the Valhalla Mode, where you can battle all of the bosses again only this time they’re much tougher.
Jotun is a masterful experience for aesthetics, flawless pacing and a fantastic exercise of big boss battles. I feel this game was held back by its lack of challenge through most of the game and some minor hiccups with the animation. Having said that, this is a fantastic game that should be played by anyone who loved games like Ori and the Blind Forest.
An Xbox One Review Code for Jotun was provided by Thunder Lotus Games for the purpose of this review