Jotun weaves Norse mythology into a tale about a young female warrior, Thora, who finds herself in a beautiful land after drowning. Thora discovers she’s in the void of Ginnungagap, which is essentially purgatory. She must collect runes and slay giants in order to impress the Gods and make it into Valhalla. The story is told through Thora’s narrations as she explores the world along with a mysterious voice from above to explain the mythos around them. It was like an interactive documentary about Norse legends without a reason to care about Thora’s quest. As beautiful as the game was I never felt engaged in what was going on.
As simple as the story is, playing the game is equally straightforward. The easiest way I can describe Jotun would be to call it a 2D Shadow of the Colossus. Thora is armed with her trusty axe given to her by her father. She can slash, or build up power for a heavy attack. Magical abilities unlock throughout the adventure first of which, thankfully, is a healing spell. Each skill has two casts and will replenish after getting to a checkpoint in the guise of a giant fountain, or by death. The only other gatherable item in the game is apples that extend life.
The goal is to gather the aforementioned runes found throughout nine levels in order to face off against the ultimate test: Jotun. Past the starting area, there are four other realms to explore, each with two altering paths. Each level consists of some minor puzzles in some form along with very, VERY minor enemy encounters. After completing both roads per area, it’ll unlock a boss battle. Once all runes and bosses are defeated, Jotun is open for business.
Unfortunately as beautiful as the game is, and it is stunningly jaw dropping, Jotun feels hollow. It suffers from poor level design that amounts to padding to elongate the game from its main course, the bosses, of which are fantastic and frightening. Now I would argue that Shadow of the Colossus also lacked some direction from boss to boss, but the world felt more alive in it’s deep ambiance. While the ruins of greater things did have me question a greater society in Jotun, levels dragged on too long for me to care. I would have preferred a more linear, fleeting glimpse at its world.
Jotun was a tough battle for me. I think it’s one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played. As a fan of animation the fluidity in the art and how it translates to gameplay still mesmerizes me. The bosses were also enjoyable and I would have loved more, but for as high as my highs were, the lows I felt during my journey were crushing. It pains me to land on my final score, but by and by, as cool as some points were in Jotun, I just didn’t have that much fun. It’s a worthy experience for sure, but a good game it is not.