Thunder Lotus Games originally brought wind of Jotun to the public via Kickstarter in 2014 where it was successfully funded by about $50,000. Jotun was originally released on PC a year ago and now console gamers can try to impress the gods as well with Jotun: Valhalla Edition.
You play as Thora: a mighty warrior who’s seen her share of grief and after a close graze with death, she’s given the chance to redeem herself and enter Valhalla. The game is so immensely rich with Norse mythology that you probably wouldn’t have guessed Thunder Lotus Games is actually a small team based out of Montreal, Canada. The game has captions on by default and it’s very much appreciated in this instance. I would have never guessed how some of the names and locations from Norse lore were spelled on my own.
Here's what I liked:
Favored by the gods – Norse mythology is both vast and underutiized in video games. While Sony has decided to take their Triple A God of War franchise in this direction, Jotun is a much more humble yet very interesting presentation of the material. The hand-drawn animation style is both charming and vibrant – from the cartoon aspects of Thora's design to the crude sculpting of the first boss Vera.
Like pen to paper– Jotun's animation style has to be acknowledged as a great feature in its own right. More and more, companies want to push high-end graphics and framerates but games like Jotun prove that isn't necessary for a game to make you actively stop playing in the middle just to appreciate the attention to detail. The color pallet brings out the Earthy tones that build up the catalog of Norse locations and characters. The top-down view of the world was a great choice to emphasize the detail of the environment around you.
Steady goes it – The boss battles in Jotun require quick reflexes and active knowledge of the god powers you take on throughout your progress. Sometimes there's more ways than one to take them down. This hectic action is balanced out by the calmer exploration of the five realms. Whenever you walk up to a giant, like the frozen Isa, their massive scale puts joking emphasis on how you thought you were pretty big and tough chopping up ice to get to him just a second ago.
Here's what I didn't like:
Where am I? – The maps provided are helpful to an extent. However, most landmarks are not lit until you stumble upon them. You character's placement on the map is never shown so you have to feel your way around the randomly-generated levels. Beyond the boss fights, this is a very slow moving game in terms of exploration. As much as an argument can be made that there is too much hand-holding for some in today's gaming era, the lack of guidance and pacing was little frustrating at times.It would be appreciated if Thora's dodge-roll helped her move a little faster because you will be walking around a lot whenever you're not facing a Jotun.
Chop! Chop! – You're limited to just a heavy attack, light attack, and dodge as far as your actual movements in combat. You inherit god powers throughout the game however, they never make combat more fluid. The combat feels a little clunky and inelegant, but then again, Thora is a formidable Norse warrior who's built like an ox.
The game is a rather short one clocking in at around six hours but it's a fun experience. The puzzles aren't too tough and the game shines when you're taking on the giants. The console edition also has a boss rush mode as well. The lore in itself is fascinating even though all the names of places and characters the game throws at you may be a bit overwhelming. While it's not perfect, it should be enjoyable to some.
Score: Reader's Choice
Jotun: Valhalla Edidtion was developed and published by Thunder Lotus Games. It was released on the Xbox One on September 9, 2016 and is priced at $14.99. A copy was provided by Thunder Lotus Games for review purposes.