Mythology is a passion of mine. I can sit and research for hours upon hours, and have even written short stories based on various ages of mythology. So, playing through this game is an exciting concept before I’ve even started it. Coupled with the Norse mythology is the fact that the protagonist and hero we play as is female. She’s formidable as a warrior, but has been given the task of impressing the gods enough to be allowed entrance to Valhalla after dying in an undignified way, rather than in battle.
There are five levels to complete, all of which have different and interesting settings, and a boss to defeat. There are items and powers to collect, as a reward for your exploration. To explore is the main aim of the game. Without it, you can complete the game quickly, but it’s going to be super tough, and you’ll miss out on so much. It’s worth your time to scout every inch of the levels.
Be patient. Animations take time, but are stunning. The artwork is the game’s main selling point, for sure, with an almost Studio Ghibli aesthetic. Everything is hand drawn and painted, and it shows. There is no slow down, and the reams of enemies stay on screen even once defeated, thanks to it being an animation rather than physics. The quality is outstanding, and coupled with the contemporary yet historically appropriate music, the whole game is an utter joy for the senses.
Gameplay wise, those of us who enjoy fast-paced combat might start off a little frustrated with how slow things move. The first boss can be a chore, until you figure out your pattern and stick to it. The heavy axe chop attack takes a long three seconds to charge, so use it wisely.
There isn’t much in the way of a tutorial, but it’s not really necessary. The mechanics and items that are important to know about are explained in the story, and combat buttons are simple. As I said, it’s all about exploration and making sure you’ve covered the map. The five levels are all part of the larger story, and there’s an overworld of sorts, meaning you can choose which order you’d like to complete the levels. There are also maps of each area, detailing the discoveries you have made, and the ones you are yet to find.
Coming into this game, I was aware that it would be a serious take on the story, and it’s evident that great care and love has gone into making it believable and enthralling. Part of the way Thunder Lotus Games has done this is to have the voice acting done in Icelandic, despite their roots lying in Canada. It’s a pretty bold move – reading subtitles might put some people off – but it only adds to the feel of the whole game. It’s hard to find Old Norse speakers who can also deliver lines with the emotion and beauty that Jotun has; though I can’t state that for a fact, as I’ve never tried to find someone who can speak Old Norse in such a good way. Icelandic or Faroese is the closest language to Old Norse according to Wikipedia, but regardless of citation, it sounds wonderful. It’s almost like a hand drawn Shadow of the Colossus. It manages to feel as epic whilst being a 2D top-down affair, and draws me in in just the same way.
I had to consult my encyclopaedia to make sure the lore was top notch, and it is.
Grab this gorgeous indie action-exploration game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and Steam