Jotun: Valhalla Edition (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 08.09.2016

Review for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on PlayStation 4

Kickstarter has been a welcome crowd funding tool in getting gaming concepts off the ground. It has worked with many games in the past, and Jotun: Valhalla Edition is no exception. Developed by Thunder Lotus Games for PC in September of 2015, the action-adventure title can now be experienced on consoles. Play as a Viking warrior called Thora, who, after succumbing to death, must please the Gods by slaying the five Jotuns in order to be welcomed into Valhalla. Can this latest journey into the world of Norse mythology be a positive addition to the PlayStation 4 library?

Jotun: Valhalla Edition is a beautiful and alluring adventure. The hand drawn art style is mesmerising, and the crisp animation is almost seamless, except for a few graphical hiccups that happen along the way. This is a world built upon lots of history, with a sense of mystery around every corner that is rewarded with scenes of wonder and awe.

Set in the heart of Norse mythology, Jotun: Valhalla Edition recreates the various locations from the mythos. The main location that acts as a hub world is the primordial void of chaos, Ginnungagap, where the first Jotun, Ymir was created. Brokkr's Forge is a dark and grimy stage that is significant due to Thor's hammer having been created there, while the Northern Sky requires Thora to light up pylons in the shape of constellations. Traverse Jormungandr's Lake where the son of Loki, the Midgard Serpent, is constantly at her heels.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on PlayStation 4

Each stage is beautifully envisioned in the art style, with the same amount of love and care going into every single world. Stages contain stunning vistas that sometimes serve as the background or focal point of that stage. The panoramic background shots do a perfect job in illustrating the scale of the locations, while showing how small Thora is the grand scheme of things. However, the most important part of the stage designs is that they actually look like they have lived the history of the mythology.

The stages are split into five different themed worlds that centre on nature, caves, ice, clouds and fire. The open-world maps require Thora to explore every nook and cranny, as she searches for Ithunn's Apples, which increase her life bar each time, while paying her respects at the shrines of the Gods grant her the use of their respective God powers. Thora must find the Runes, which allows her passage to fight each of the world's bosses, the Jotun, while Mimir's well serves as a one-time healing point for Thora.

Each stage is heavily centred on drawing inspiration from the source material of Norse mythology, and it is filled with clever ways of translating them into challenges that Thora must overcome. For instance, as previously mentioned, The Northern Sky stage requires for the constellations to be recreated by hitting the correct electricity pylons, while the Roots of Yggdrasil has a certain snakes-and-ladders vibe that requires sliding down slopes while riding up elevators. Jormungandr's Lake features the Midgard Serpent, as he constantly threatens Thora from below the ice that she walks on, while discovering the three Disirs (ghosts) unlock the door guarded by a Draugr (undead creature). If a lot of the terminology sounds very foreign, upon completing this game, they won't be.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on PlayStation 4

However, all those stage features simply serve as a wallpaper to hide the cracks. The gameplay itself seems very slow, from the way Thora moves to the way she swings her axe. While evading is a great way to escape the clutches of evil, most of the time it barely works, as evading still causes her to get hit, while the recovery time after an axe swing seems like forever. The stages themselves are also quite repetitive; however, this is contrasted by the boss battles where Jotun: Valhalla Edition really comes to life.

The five boss battles are the exact opposite of each stage that precedes it in terms of pace and repetitiveness. While Thora's still slow and sluggish at times, the boss fights are fast-paced and action packed. Jera, the Nature Jotun looks like an octopus with her tree-like tentacles, as she unleashes her poisonous spores when she's not pounding the ground with her roots, while Hagalaz, the Wind Jotun, splits herself into two, while she calls lightning from the skies that must be avoided. Kaunan, the Fire Jotun, swings his impressive blade, while creating shockwaves of flame and lava. The bosses look amazing and are imposing, and they fight equally as impressive, and is where most of the fun in Jotun: Valhalla Edition derives from.

To make Thora's experience with the boss fights easier, she can earn God-like powers along the way. Thor's Hammer grants Thora an increase in her heavy attack damage, while Freya gives her the ability to move faster, Loki's power is that of deception causing Thora's enemies to fight each other, Frigg's power can heal a portion of Thora's life back, Heimdall's Shield grant a temporary invincibility from attacks, while Odin's Spear is an arced range attack that causes massive damage. Each power can be used a finite amount of times, with Mimir's well serving as a way to replenish the powers.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on PlayStation 4

The stages can be completed in any order, with no real sense of linearity in terms of level selection. However, the stages don't do a good job in making the following levels easier, nor are they harder if they had been played first. The God powers are only really needed in the boss fights, and while collectively they do make the battles easier, the challenges are still based on the basic skills that Thora has at her disposal from the beginning of the game. While it is fun to try out the abilities, Thor's Hammer and Frigg's Healing are the only two powers that are constantly used. Loki's Deception only works in the two stages that have a large group of enemies, but are redundant for the boss fights, while Heimdall's Shield barely serves its purpose, as Thora is constantly killed mere seconds from activating it.

Thora narrates much of the context around the game in her native tongue. She is strong-willed and battle-hardened by her experiences, and this seeps through in the voice acting as she delivers a strong performance. The story of the circumstances around her death is uncovered throughout the heart-breaking journey, as Thora seeks to claim her place in Valhalla. Though it is a simplistic story, it definitely comes to a satisfying conclusion, and it properly ends in a fulfilling way.

However, Valhalla Edition contains its newest feature to Jotun: Valhalla Mode. Upon completing the game, the stage bosses can be fought again, with a fully upgraded Thora, while new challenges are thrown into the mix. For purists who wish to seek out an even greater challenge, this is a rewarding experience that provides further gratification upon felling these commanding giants.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The haunting music serves as a grimy backdrop to what is otherwise a very beautiful-looking game. Each stage is a perfect illustration on the sources they are based on in Norse mythology, with splendid vistas that are equally as impressive. While the gameplay and stages can be slow going at times, or downright frustrating due to constant backtracking in order to discover all the secrets in every stage, the fights against the five Jotuns are the true meat of this game. Jotun: Valhalla Edition contains a Boss Rush mode at the completion of the adventure, which allows for a greater challenge at defeating these bosses, while Thora's journey to reach Valhalla is a satisfying one thanks to a strong acting performance given by Viking warrior.

Developer

Thunder Lotus Games

Publisher

Thunder Lotus Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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