IntroductionJotun: Valhalla Edition, developed by Thunder Lotus Games, depicts a world of Norse mythology through beautifully hand-drawn environments and characters, and a tale larger than life. You'll control Thora, a Norse warrior who has met her untimely death by drowning, and thrown into one last test in order to enter Valhalla with the favor of the Gods. Travel gorgeous and intimidating lands full of threats around every corner, defeat the Jotuns, and let your soul reside in Valhalla in peace. You can buy the game on Steam, Xbox Marketplace, or PlayStation Store for $14.99.
StoryThe game begins as Thora is out at sea for an unknown reason. A storm begins to crash down on top of the ship she is traveling in, ultimately throwing her into the water. As she sinks closer to the goddess of the sea kingdom, her life nears the end. Her strong "warrior's soul" cannot change the outcome of inevitable death, and she accepts the fate that lays before her. But to her surprise. she wakes up in Yggdrasil; the connector of the 9 worlds. Armed with her battle axe and learned knowledge throughout life, this is where her test to prove herself to the Gods begins. Emerge victorious against the Jotuns and you'll hopefully find accepted passage into Valhalla.
GameplayThe premise of the adventure is to find runes throughout the realms, which will then be used to access the battles against Jotuns. Each realm, designed according to the lore, offer mixed varieties of enemies and traps. The first level, for example, you will be traversing a land full of trees in search of the Rune of Jera (a rune signifying harvest, fertility, and earth). While you won't find a population of opposing warriors in this first section, you'll need to navigate your way past poisonous-gas releasing plants.
The poison effects last until you walk near a blue healing plant. Also, thorn-covered vines will raise from the ground and will try to crush you when you come within proximity of them (dodging roll is helpful). Cutting them will multiply their spawning of replacements, almost like when Hercules fought the Lernean Hydra in the classic Disney movie. The encounters with these vines carry true all the way through the first Jotun fight where you will battle a humongous tree resembling creature, known as Jera. Occasionally you'll battle foes that will act as mini-bosses throughout the levels. The first one, halfway through the act of Jera, you'll battle an ancient warrior, who as you deplete his health, will grow in size.
Upon defeating a Jotun, you'll be brought back to the void where you'll find a large map design on a galaxy backdrop. All of the Jotuns are symbolized here with the relevant environment maps, below their pictures, showing discoveries you have found and can go back to finish. There are gateway portals surrounding it that allow access to each of the worlds that you'll need to traverse and conquer.
Controls are simple to remember but slightly tricky at first to master. The camera angle makes movements a learned endeavor. Combat is executed with a series of simple hacks and slashes, and charged swings of the weapon, with a significant importance on dodge rolling from enemy attacks. As you progress through the game, and unlock more abilities, you'll be granted extra powers that allow attacks of god-like proportions.
Sound and GraphicsBoasting with historic accuracy and immersion into the game, the voices found within are completely spoken in the Icelandic language. Subtitles are provided, of course, and although reading texts instead of listening to voices tell a story sounds troublesome and annoying on paper, the game makes it feel like you couldn't play without it. It works perfectly with the theme. Music provides the triumphant tempo to the game, similar to the way Skyrim's did for it, and magnifies the heavy influence of Jotun battles. The Gods' attacks hit with ground-rattling power, and carry the massive sound effects accordingly.
The game is hand drawn from characters to environments, and they developers did this exceptionally well. Colors pop, the outlines of trees, ice, rocks, bridges, plants, and everything else are sharp. While I think a nice black outline to everything would have been even more sharpening of everything, the lack of such makes things mesh perfectly without causing confusion and distortion throughout the gameplay. The game runs very smooth, but you'll find that things move with a small amount of intention glitching (not really glitching though). It's an artistic choice, and after you recognize it as such, it's a beautiful presentation meant to look like a moving novel rather than character engine models flowing with 60 frames-per-second.
ConclusionJotun Valhalla Edition makes for a grand adventure through accurate depictions of Norse mythology and the Gods found within. The sense of pure historical presentation is found through not only the mythology, but in the Icelandic voiceovers, and the attention to details regarding everything within the 9 worlds you'll traverse. A huge aesthetic plus to the game, aside from the bright and colorful visually appealing illustrations, is the way the camera helps provide the larger than life feeling when it zooms out to show the massiveness of every Jotun and other foes you'll encounter. The game lasts roughly 10-12 hours, and replay value is found with the Valhalla Boss Rush mode, so if the theme and presentation hit a cord with you as a gamer, you'll find it to be a great experience.
|+ Beautifully hand-drawn environments/characters||- Gameplay can feel slow when traversing|
|+ Interesting mythology and lore||- Maps are occasionally difficult to navigate|
|+ Narration in authentic Icelandic language|
|+ Valhalla mode (boss rush)|