Set in Norse mythology, Jotun spans sprawling regions of various weather types, landscapes, and architecture. You play as Thora, a Viking warrior who dies an inglorious death and gets a second chance to prove her might to the gods and enter Valhalla, the equivalent of Norse heaven. In your quest to achieve the thumbs up from the gods, you search for hidden runes across the game to awakenSet in Norse mythology, Jotun spans sprawling regions of various weather types, landscapes, and architecture. You play as Thora, a Viking warrior who dies an inglorious death and gets a second chance to prove her might to the gods and enter Valhalla, the equivalent of Norse heaven. In your quest to achieve the thumbs up from the gods, you search for hidden runes across the game to awaken the five Jotuns, giant Norse elementals, in which you battle for glory. If you enjoy Norse mythology or mediums that implement this rich history, then Jotun will feel like your childhood dream coming to life. Voiceovers are spoken in Icelandic, allowing your experience as Thora to feel richly authentic and vibrant.
Navigating through Jotun is an absolutely gorgeous expedition. You enter Yggdrasil, the connector of the nine worlds, aka the nine zones, in which you spend your journey exploring. The hand-drawn animations are incredibly detailed, from Thora’s cloak waving behind as you run around, to the top-down view of the environment below. Every detail is executed with finesse and is seamlessly attractive to watch; like little screen shakes as Thora smashes her axe to the ground or subtle flashes when a Jotun receives damage. Each of the nine worlds feels distinct and unique, able to hold its own beauty. I enjoyed running through lush twigs and giant mushrooms, or carefully tiptoeing around glowing red cracks that bubbled with lava underneath. There is always something new to discover in Jotun‘s rich world and is worth staring at with awe. These subtle details also stress urgency when highly stressful situations arise; like a shadow looming from the thin ice below and suddenly, a giant sea serpent smashes through the ice. Shadows are also cleverly used throughout Jotun to indicate safe zones or the size and width of the Jotun’s attack, making combat especially easier to plan. As you wander around, I notice that Thora is very small in scale in comparison to the rest of her world. This reminds me that there is a universe far bigger than ourselves. It’s refreshing to be able to surrender your control to the forces of nature. Plus, Jotun does a great job of adding the David versus Goliath element throughout your gameplay.
But despite its attention to visual detail and its smooth animations, I struggled with Jotun‘s lack of clear level objectives. Yes, searching for the hidden runes are made known thanks to the early narration in the game, but even as I marvel at the world around me, each zone feels slow and unmotivating. This could be due to a very obtuse map, which took me a couple of zones to figure out what each legend means and where my location corresponds with the map’s design. I spent most of Jotun aimlessly running around trying to find a landmark that would indicate some vague idea of my whereabouts. Thankfully, you can explore each of the nine worlds in any order you choose, so I was able to leave and enter as I pleased. It made my exploration feel a little less repetitive, and if one zone felt too tedious, I could easily access another zone. One of the major landmarks to locate are statues dedicated to different Norse gods, and when discovered, you gain a special ability or a ‘blessing’ to use in your brawls against the Jotuns. There are also golden apples lying around that when consumed, extends your health bar. Despite such bait for upgrades, Jotun feels like a sluggish tenth round of hide-and-seek and takes some time to get used to.
Jotun is a visual masterpiece, flaunting its fluidity through humble hand-drawn animations and sweeping palettes. Its combat is one of the most exciting I’ve played through, leaving me with memorable victories and a sense of pride that’s sure to last. Jotun poetically combines the rich and ancient history of Norse mythology and the creativity of somehow allowing this mythology to be your own. Despite some issues with pacing and an unclear map, Jotun offers players a satisfying journey, a call to impress the gods and enter Valhalla for yourself – an achievement worth dying for.… Expand