Jotun /// Valhalla Edition

I started playing Jotun, a game that is based on Norse mythology. You play Thora, a dead viking, who must prove herself to the gods so she can enter Valhalla. Doing this means exploring the Nine Realms, finding runes, and defeating giants.

Jotun opens with Thora falling to the depths of the ocean and waking up in Purgatory. She now has to prove herself to the gods in order to enter Valhalla. To do this, she must collect the runes scattered around the realms, and defeat the Jotun, giants of Norse myth.

Much of the art in the game are hand drawn, which makes it feel like you are playing an animated movie. The artwork is based on Nordic myth and, to complete the style, the voiceover is in Icelandic with subtitles. Brought together with an enthralling and dark soundtrack, you feel like you are wandering around the world of the Old Norse.

As you play through the game you will learn the stories behind the gods of old. Each realm will tell you its origin, how the gods and the frost giants came about, and how Midgar (our world) was born. Often the camera will zoom out to reveal a large statue or structure, giving you more insight into the old Norse religion.

Jotun feels a bit like a Metroidvania. However, unlike most Metroidvanias you have access to all areas from the start. You complete each area by finding its rune, and collecting runes unlocks Jotuns. In each area you can also find a new God Power, as well as a Golden Apple that will increase your maximum health.

Jotun is not about combat. Some levels will have more combat than others, but many levels have you navigate environmental hazards instead. You may have to cut down trees to progress, avoid lightning bolts or lava bursting out of the ground, among several other themed obstacles.

I haven’t defeated any of the bosses yet. They are more challenging than the bosses in Haiku, The Robot. The best strategy seems to be to find all the runes first, and with them the extra health and abilities. Once you have all those, you can start to take out the Jotun one by one.

There are many puzzles in the game, but none are too hard to solve. There are no traditional hints, other than the occasional camera zoom to show you where certain items can be found. Solving these little puzzles always feels satisfying, and the reward is always a new ability or some much needed health which motivates you to find everything.

In many ways the gameplay feels secondary to the story, and especially to the art. Many times when the camera zooms out it will reveal amazing details in the background. Playing this game can sometimes feel closer to wandering an art exhibit, as the enjoyment comes from the art itself.

This is definitely a game I want to finish. I’m loving every detail of it so far, even if I can’t beat the first boss. I’ll get there though.

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