I’ve always had an interest in Greek mythology, but I’ve recently taken more and more to Norse mythology. Strong, preferably bearded vikings determined to win glory in battle just draw me in, especially compared to knights and samurai. Jotun, a game about battling Norse gods, released a while ago but fell off my radar. A tweet about the developer’s next game, Sundered, reminded me to go back and play Jotun. If you enjoy hand-drawn games or fantastic boss battles, you should follow suit. Better late than never!
- TL;DR: Beautiful, hand-drawn visuals and challenging boss battles form a well crafted, tightly executed experience
- Platform: PC. PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Wii U
- Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
- Time Played: 4:45
- What I Played: Campaign on normal, tried a few bosses in Valhalla Mode
Thora, a female viking warrior, has died an inglorious death which is no way to get into Valhalla. Thankfully, she is offered an opportunity to take on the gods, or jotun, in combat to earn her way in.
Jotun is broken up into five realms, each with two zones and a boss. The runes at the end of each zone are required to unlock the boss door so don’t think about skipping. Combat is about as simple as can be – you can light attack, heavy attack, and roll to dodge. There’s nothing in the line of experience, gear, or combos.
This isn’t a game centered around action, though. Jotun is primarily about exploration which is cool by me because damnnn. I took a load of screenshots especially for a game that can be completed in about five hours. Thunder Lotus Games took the time to draw each and every beautiful detail of Jotun by hand. If there’s one thing that Jotun really nails, it’s a sense of scale. The size of each jotun and the wide panning shots drive home the fact that Thora is an outsider in this world of gods. You’ll be navigating the old school way with a map and landmarks, which I didn’t mind one bit since the world looks as good as it does. I could get lost in here for a while.
Levels and their accompanying bosses walk you through Norse mythology and lore. It’s one hell of a strange trip. Refreshing your health is done at the Well of Mimir, a disembodied (or is it?) head in a well that gives you a pretty nasty side eye. Statues depicting various gods give Thora new powers when discovered. Loki, the god of deception and treachery, empowers you to summon a shadow that draws fire away from Thora while her namesake, the thunder god Thor, charges her attacks for a short time. Each level takes you through another portion of Norse lore with my favorite being the Roots of Yggdrassil that takes place on the roots of the life-giving tree, complete with a huge serpent watching in the background. The Northern Sky is literal in that you are in the sky walking amongst stars and constellations. The varying settings and color schemes of each level make each one feel special.
Fighting the massive jotun is really what Jotun is all about (obviously). Each one is so large that the camera has to zoom out until Thora is hardly visible. Jotun have huge health bars that you slowly whack away at but each fight is both challenging and unique. Jera from the forest realm is stationary but uses vines and toxic gas to pester you. On the opposite end, the lightning-charged Hagalaz will teleport away from you and summon copies of himself. The best fight is with Kaunan, the fifth jotun, which takes place in a hellish forge. His flaming sword and ground-splitting attacks make the fight feel more like a duel than the others. Defeating each of these giant beings gives you a great sense of power and accomplishment.
Jotun is a truly wonderful game. It may not be the longest, taking only about five hours to complete, but every moment is focused and meaningful. Combat isn’t overly complex but you have to be smart about when to attack, when to dodge, and how to use your powers effectively. If you’re looking for replayability, you can hunt trophies like beating each boss without taking damage or without using abilities. The updated Valhalla Edition includes a boss rush mode featuring stronger versions of each jotun. Thunder Lotus Games made a fantastic debut with Jotun and I’m definitely looking forward to Sundered later this year.