Jotun: Valhalla Edition (Wii U) Review

By Nikola Suprak 16.11.2016

Review for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on Wii U

It's always difficult to trust what's coming out of Kickstarter. There have been some absolutely amazing titles that started as Kickstarter projects, some of which can be held up as examples as some of the best games of this generation—and yet, for every success there seems to be four or five absolute dumpster fires that either fail to deliver on lofty promises or never even get a release. Jotun: Valhalla Edition certainly looked promising on its Kickstarter page, but then again, basically everything always does. Appearances can be deceiving, so the question remained as to how this Norse mythology inspired adventure would fare.

Dying in Norse mythology was rough stuff, and not just because of that whole "dying" thing. It wasn't enough to die to move on in the afterlife. It was all about how the death occurred. Dying of old age, surrounded by loved ones as you peacefully move on to whatever waits beyond this mortal realm? BORING. Impaled by six different spears as you simultaneously get set on fire and eaten by a rabid pack of starving alligators? Now we're talking. In order to get into Valhalla, someone needed to die a warrior's death that would impress the gods, and unfortunately for Thora, the heroine of Jotun: Valhalla Edition, she dies at sea. However, she is given a second chance to impress the gods by defeating a series of jotun, or mythical Norse elementals. By doing so, she can prove herself worthy to the gods and get the good ending to her life.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on Wii U

The story itself is fairly forgettable, but what is engrossing is the job that is done weaving Norse mythology into the game. The plot is simple and there aren't really any interesting twists or characters, but the voice acting is done entirely in Icelandic. It adds a level of authenticity to it, and the strong Nordic imagery really makes the game feel alive. Jotun: Valhalla Edition does a lot with a very little, and the story and imagery have a much greater impact than some games that actually tell a more complex or interesting story. The imagery is great, and the story is absolutely drenching with Norse mythology. A simple tale, but a rewarding one, and it helps make the journey worthwhile even if you find more interesting plots elsewhere.

Jotun: Valhalla Edition bills itself as an action-exploration game, but it is really best divided up as "incredible fights against enormous boss monsters" and "boredom". The boss fights here are incredible, both in terms of design and scope. There is a definite Shadow of the Colossus vibe here, and each of these enormous foes absolutely dwarfs the poor Thora. The screen zooms out to show the scope of the creature before her, and suddenly her odds of impressing the gods feel like they drop to the negative. The jotun that need to be tackled always take on the form of some elemental, with that power feeding into the way the creature attacks you. The enormous earth elemental for instance sprouts vines from the ground that can cause damage, and her appearance is sort of reminiscent of an evil tree. Each of these foes have very deliberate attacks that can cause massive damage, and it is incredibly likely that Thora will fall once or twice getting used to the basic attack patterns. It feels rewarding when one of these monsters is finally dispatched, and the difficulty is in that perfect range of challenging but reasonable that makes all of these encounters genuinely entertaining.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on Wii U

Outside of the big boss battles, the game is a little bit of a drag. In order to actually go and fight the jotun, first Thora must make her way through some levels finding various trinkets to open up the boss door in addition to finding things like health power ups. There are baddies here to fight as well, but these fights are far less entertaining. Groups of bad guys rush Thora, she bonks them over the head with her axe, and this continues until the game gets tired of throwing bad guys her way. The combat system isn't good enough that it is entertaining when the big, fun spectacle of the boss fights is removed making the rest of the combat feel pretty generic and reliant on button mashing. Beyond that though, the gameplay mostly boils down to wandering around and finding whatever needs to be found. The levels are fairly straightforward, although there are some interesting secrets once in a while. The contrast between this nice, more relaxing experience and the hectic terror that accompanies the boss fights is a great one, but it doesn't really make the slow wandering around any more fun.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on Wii U

The controls also feel a bit more awkward than they should. There are some basic attacks and a dodge manoeuvre, but combat here is definitely not fluid. It feels like Thora is this little robot that always takes a little longer to perform these attacks than she actually should. There is also this brief delay at the end of some of these skills that makes it feel like Thora is always moving around in peanut butter. An adjustment to this clunkiness can easily be made to prepare yourself for battle, but a better designed game wouldn't require an adjustment of this nature. Thora also can pick up some skills at certain points in the game which allow her to gain an edge in battle. For example, one skill allows her to send out a fake duplicate for baddies to beat up on while she can either escape or get some free hits in. The skills are well varied and really help to add some much-needed strategy to the fights so she isn't just standing there whacking away at foes over and over. There is enough here to make combat enjoyable, but it is admittedly held back slightly as a result of some unneeded stickiness of the controls.

A major selling point to the game was its hand drawn art style, and the aesthetic here certainly has its fair share of charm. It is visually striking at the very least, and gives the title a very unique and immediately identifiably style. However, something about it feels slightly off. It looks like one of those rip-off eastern European Disney movies that can be found in the bargain bin at Walmart. The hand drawn art style gives the game more soul that other similar titles, but the quality could have been better. The jotun themselves are impressive both in scale and design, but a lot of the levels leave much to be desired. Every now and then the game will pan away to show off some beautiful background features the animators clearly spent a lot of time on. Beyond that though, things can feel a little generic particularly in terms of the actual level design. It feels like an indie game here at times, with more work needed in polishing up what at times looks and feels a bit amateurish.

Screenshot for Jotun: Valhalla Edition on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

This is one of those games where there is almost an equal amount to love and hate, so depending on what people prioritise this could either be a great experience or a dreadfully dull one. The boss fights are incredible, the world feels alive, and there is something soothing to the exploration. At the same time, though, the exploration segments tend to carry on for too long and without much interesting happening along the way, so a lot of the game feels like padding. By the end, some players may be desperately trying to rush on through just to get to the next boss, because that is really the only part the game does exceptionally well. Jotun: Valhalla Edition might not be entirely heavenly, but there is certainly enough here to keep it away from damnation.

Developer

Thunder Lotus Games

Publisher

Thunder Lotus Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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