Let’s go impress some Gods
Jotun: Valhalla Edition, from Thunder Lotus Games, starts with a death. Your death to be exact and it’s a bit of an inglorious one. You find yourself being dragged towards the Goddess of the Sea’s kingdom when your ship sinks. Instead of ending up in a palace full of bones you awake to find yourself overlooking Yggdrasil, a great ash tree located at the centre of the universe that connects nine worlds in Norse mythology.
You are Thora, a Viking warrior, and armed with your massive two-handed axe you must make your way across these nine worlds looking for runes so that you can summon five massive Norse elementals known at Jotun. Only by defeating these Jotuns will you impress the Gods and earn your way into Valhalla. Each Jotun represents an element or aspect of nature and one of the things that you will notice when you encounter the first Jotun is just how underprepared you are for the fight.
This first Jotun is called Jera and is a large (think Titan Souls bosses only bigger!) tree-like elemental that attacks you with her huge roots, emits a poisonous cloud and unleashes attacking vines. It’s better to back away from her and go exploring, live to fight another day and all that. Thankfully there are a few things in each of the nine worlds to help you with your quest; these are God Shrines and apple trees. Each apple tree contains one of Ithunn’s Apples, which permanently increases your health. The God Shrines are great, and you should definitely be on the lookout for them, because they bestow God Powers upon you. The powers of Thor’s Hammer, Freya’s Speed, Loki’s Decoy, Odin’s Spear, Frigg’s Healing and Heimdall’s Shield can all be yours (temporarily) should you find them. While the powers don’t grant you instant victories against the Jotun they do make the battle a little less one sided.
The game is all open from the beginning so you if you find yourself struggling to defeat a Jotun you can go to Ginnungagap, a void that acts as a central hub, at any time then head to any of the worlds in search of the runes, shrines and apples before facing off against the Jotun again. No matter in which order you defeat them all of the Jotun need to be conquered before you can face Odin, the Allfather, in your final confrontation. If you manage to defeat Odin you not only prove yourself worthy enough to enter Valhalla, but you unlock a new game mode: Valhalla Mode. This is a replayable boss rush mode with fiercer versions of the already hard-to-beat jotun.
Graphically Jotun: Valhalla Edition looks simply breathtaking. Now that might sound like a bold statement, but everything in this 2D hand-drawn world looks nothing short of brilliant. All the characters and locations look impressive, Thunder Lotus Games are definitely telling the story through visuals, even when the game pans out (which gives it an amazing sense of size and grandeur) you can still clearly see a very detailed Thora. If I were to compare its visuals to any other game I’d say it is similar to the Banner Saga, but without the restrictions of tile based movements.
The audio in the game also excels. For starters all the vocals in Jotun are in Icelandic (with subtitles for non-native speakers). This helps to add authenticity to the title and lets you learn more about Thora’s life and death. Then there’s a fantastic soundtrack, it’s an epic orchestral affair from Max LL. Each track is different and perfectly complements each of the regions of Norse purgatory. An indication of just how good a soundtrack is in any game is how unnoticed it goes and in Jotun: Valhalla Edition the audio blends in so well that you won’t really appreciate it unless you stop and take a moment to soak it all in.
Trophy-wise Jotun: Valhalla Edition demands that you have the powers of the Gods themselves if you are to pop its platinum. There are 37 trophies to obtain and the majority of these are confined to the main story, with individual trophies for not only defeating the Jotuns, but also doing so without taking damage, or using God Powers and even beating them in a set time. There are also Jotun specific trophies like defeating Odin without destroying his spears. Obtaining the platinum will depend heavily on how formidable you are in Valhalla Mode. That is because there are three trophies in here and they require you to deal with the Jotun the same as you did in the main game (without using any powers or losing any health) but the Jotuns are much tougher and fiercer in this mode. Chances are you will disgrace yourself in front of the Gods many, many times before finally conquering Valhalla Mode.
Set within the realms of Norse mythology, Jotun: Valhalla Edition is a visual delight and a truly beautiful game. There may be little to do in each region apart from search for runes, apples and shrines, but they are like the calm before the storms that are the epic battles against the gigantic Norse elementals. Kratos may be heading Norse-wards soon but he’s in for an easy ride because Thora is already there defeating the Jotuns and impressing the Gods.
NelMaNo Rating – 9/10