Make the gods proud
Jotun: Valhalla Edition is an excellent hand-drawn action/exploration game. Combining a beautiful world with challenging boss battles and Norse mythology, Jotun is an experience well worth your time. You know a game has immersed you in its world when you continually stop playing and simply marvel at your gorgeous surroundings. Finding the forge that made Mjolnir’s hammer was a great moment, even though it was irrelevant to my overall purpose.
You play as the Viking warrior, Thora, who is not allowed to enter Valhalla because she died ingloriously. In order to enter Valhalla, Thora must prove her worth by defeating five Jotun. Jotun are massive elemental Norse giants. These Jotun are the highlight of the game. Each boss battle is unique, massive, and challenging. All the bosses are significantly larger than you and I often found myself struggling to even see my character; especially when a boss would summon hordes of minions to pester you. The bosses are difficult, but never unfair. Each has three or four major moves and a transformation midway through the fight. While there were a few moments when I wanted to fling my controller against the wall, the boss battles were easily the best part of the game.
The game takes a small step backwards, when you’re not fighting bosses. Most games have levels best with minor enemies to prepare you for a boss encounter. But not Jotun. Each of the five areas have two small levels within them. You need to find a runestone in each level, in order to activate the boss battle. Hidden within the levels are statues that grant you a god’s power or can increase your overall health. The levels have little to no enemies within then, though you can be killed by the environment (rockslides etc) if you’re not careful. It’s strange not fighting enemies or having any real challenges while you’re exploring these areas.
However, the lack of enemies allows you to soak yourself in the beautiful setting. The hand drawn artwork is gorgeous and the creator’s love for Norse mythology is very clear. The game also adds a few twists to keep you from getting bored. One of my favorite levels was surfing down massive roots while avoiding falling rocks. Finding the hidden Norse secrets in each level can be breathtaking. The forge that created Mjolnir, and the various shrines to the gods are all awesome things you can find. Just look at the picture below. While this is a great game, it’s not without flaws. It is fairly short. It didn’t take me more than six hours to complete the main game. Jotun has a satisfying and simple story, so it doesn’t need to be as long as The Witcher. It’s a fairly standard story: There are monsters, only you can kill monsters, so go out and kill monsters. I was still a little jarred when the final boss appeared and I glanced up at the clock in mild disbelief.
Jotun‘s biggest flaw is its lack of replayability. Once the game ends there isn’t much motivation to play through it again. Yes, ending the game unlocks a challenge boss run, but I wasn’t hugely interested in that. Certain games, like Dark Souls or Skyrim, encourage replayability by offering multiple play styles. You can play through it as a pure strength character, or a nimble backstabbing thief, or a mage, or a hybrid of any of those. Other games, like Telltale games and The Witcher 3, encourage multiple playthroughs through divergent story paths and multiple endings. Jotun doesn’t offer any of those. You can’t customize your character, fighting style, dialogue, or anything really. While this makes sense from a story perspective, it hurts the gameplay aspect. By knowing the story and that I have no ability to alter it, I don’t have any reason to play through it again.
Jotun: Valhalla Edition is a game well worth your time. The boss battles are fun, challenging, and memorable. The gorgeous art style and hand drawn setting will draw you in. The deep Norse lore makes you want to explore the beautiful environments. Thora’s story is engaging and having her speak in actual Icelandic adds to the immersion. Even though the game is short and doesn’t offer a lot of replay value, it’s easily worth fifteen dollars.