Jotun: Valhalla Edition

The Jotun: name given to the man-eating giants from Norse Mythology, giants who opposed the Gods. Thanks to the devs at Thunder Lotus, you play as Thora, a Viking warrior who died in an inglorious way, but youíre given the chance to prove yourself to the Gods to see if youíre worthy to enter Valhalla. To achieve this, you must fight the Jotun. This is an isometric, hand-drawn animated, with water colored landscapes, action-adventure game with a strong Shadow of the Colossus/ Titan Souls vibe, but with a lot more unique elements.

The aim of the game is pretty straightforward. It is repeated almost constantly in fact: ďIMPRESS THE GODSĒ. How do you manage to do so? You have to deal with the challenge of defeating the 5 Jotun, each with their respective area. Now set off to this adventure cause itís quite the challenging one!

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THE LORE, BASICALLY

Never have I realized how bad Iíve pronounced almost every word in this game. Fortunately, Thora narrates the game in Icelandic (and subtitles of the language of your choosing). Any who! As Thora youíre stuck in Norse Purgatory, also known by the game as Ginnunangap, which basically works as the gameís central hub. This place has up to 5 different routes, each unlocking after itís previous is cleared. Each of these routes is a world from Norse Mythology, having itís own climates and unique landscapes, and of course a Jotun waiting to be awakened. After defeating the powerful gigantic creatures, youíre given the opportunity to return to Ginnunangap, where Thora narrates a new segment of her past and how her purpose to reach Valhalla grows every time she nears the end of her journey.

LETíS GO GET SOME JOTUN!

Your movements is strictly running and rolling, Thora is also armed with her beloved double-handed axe, which you can use for quick attacks or one heavy attack (that has quite the delay but mostly worth it).

Each of the 5 areas is unique, as I mentioned before. As far as I could tell, there is almost no repetitive content, gameplay wise. Each route includes 2 zones, from which each has a special key word (or symbol) required to open the routeís big boss door. Each of these areas is completely different, in the sense of exploration, challenges, puzzles and some even treat you with very interesting lore.

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These levels offer a variety of enemies, whether they are scenario hazards, or straight up giants who throw boulders at you (yes, Iím looking at you, lava level). The levels also include one checkpoint that heals you completely, however there is only ONE of them in the entire zone, sometimes forcing you to backtrack a lot of progress if you get defeated.

I do have to mention how wonderfully rewarding this game is: the game rewards your persistence (which is phenomenal for this genre) and your exploration. Exploring will grant you hidden health upgrades, God powers/upgrades, and in some cases short lore stories.

WAIT, DID YOU SAY GOD POWERS?!

Yes, when Thora reaches a statue/shrine of a Norse God, she will be granted a God Power. You can unlock a healing power (itís kind of like Dark Soulís Estus Flasks), a Loki aggro shadow that explodes after a while, and a melee buff bestowed to your double-handed axe thanks to the might of Thor. Further upgrades can increase the amount of times you can use these powers every time youíre freshened up.

ALL RIGHT, VIKING. HOW WELL DO YOU CONTROL?

As mentioned before, you can only run and roll accordingly to the situation. Many Jotun have very different attack patters and projectiles were you have to tell by their starting animation how will you evade them (or repel them).

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Each Jotun has a particular gimmick. Some you basically can just kite around and read their moves and follow ups, while others you can aid yourself with whatever is on the environment. Sometimes you can even use the Jotunís attack against them, making your fight a lot easier. However I will admit that 40% of my total game time was dedicated to the gameís last boss, either itís just that hard of a challenge, or I struggled to be worthy to enter Valhalla. All in all I did managed to do it, with a bit of patience, persistence, and a 5-minute break. Itís just a curious thought how you can manage to deal with every boss, but the last one is overwhelmingly different.

THE VISUALS:

The game simply looks amazing. The water colored landscapes and hand-drawned animations and sprites look incredible and fluid. Each zone has its art direction according to the personalities of the Jotun, giving the game a wide and interesting color palette.

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Most of the game is simple-shaded, which is not exactly bad, Itís a nice aesthetic that gives the game a more unique image. Nevertheless I did felt it a bit flat in some occasions. For a game with giants you would expect a little bit more of a sense of depth. Donít get me wrong; there are levels that manage this wonderfully!

THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK:

Something I find outstanding in most gameís sound design is their sense of scaling. In a game like Jotun, the biggest climax lies at the remaining 25% health of the boss. The well mixed acoustics and percussion blend in and pump up the adrenaline without you even noticing, increasing the tension of battle, and making you feel how every move you do will now either help you or get you killed. When defeating a boss, youíre sense of accomplishment will be gratified.

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EXPERIENCE AND THOUGHTS:

Jotun: Valhalla Edition is the latest version of the game, now available for Xbox One and PS4. It allows you to test your might with a feature that didn't exactly needed but now the game feels more whole, boss rush mode. This is the type of game aimed for players looking for a challenge and also for people who are interested in Norse Mythology, voiced and visually narrated amazingly. Itís a game that might not be for all, as it requires my favorite word in this review: persistence.

Just relax and venture forward, because what lies ahead, are a bunch of Jotun blocking your way to Valhalla. Fight on and reach your goal!

5

In Short

  • + Very challening and rewarding
    + Great visual and sound narration
    + Unique level designs and variety
    + Visually appealing with great dedication to the art
    + Well implemented soundtrack

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