Friday, April 27

Review: Jotun [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When it comes to existing interesting characters and stories I’m always a bit surprised that the various gods and mythological creatures of the classical eras aren’t mined more often. While everyone may not be familiar with them their typical ties to the elements and nature, not even getting to what you would imagine would be their impressive power, gives them qualities that seem well-geared for games. Fully embracing this idea is Jotun, a title that casts you as a fallen warrior who must fight through Purgatory, and a collection of giant elementals (the Jotun), in order to reach Valhalla.


Starting with the visuals the hand-drawn animation in the game is impressive at every turn and for the most part the game looks like you’re playing in a cartoon. The Jotun, in particular, are very detailed and their scale is often impressive. It’s not just that they have great attack animations, for me their various expressions over the course of battle are almost distractingly cool. To go with the elemental nature of the Jotun there’s a nice variety of environments and ecosystems as well that each have a distinct look and feel. While I normally don’t go on about the looks of games it’s hard not to be impressed by this one.


For the most part in terms of play the game breaks down into 2 major components: The times when you’re collecting runes that will help you progress and then the impressive and challenging boss fights against the Jotun themselves. Each time you set off to collect runes the nature of your journey will vary. For the most part this pulls from natural elements that are tied to each of the Jotun, and each time your tasks will be different, but they’re also a mixed bag. As you accomplish these tasks you’ll also tend to be imbued with a new godly power you can wield to help you get out of tough spots. Speaking of tough spots your battles against the Jotun themselves can pose a pretty serious challenge. Just in terms of their size relative to you they can be quite intimidating and you’ll find that through their multi-phase attacks as you wear them down that you need to keep moving and alert to stay alive. These boss fights are really what helps the title step out from the competition and they are generally quite memorable.

Unfortunately scaling can be one of the game’s bigger issues as well. Since the Jotun are so much bigger than you these battle require the camera to be pulled out quite a bit so you can see everything. This introduces 2 issues that vary in their severity depending on the battle. The first is that in general critical details like shadows that show where attacks are about to hit can be tough to see, leading to some frustration and visual confusion at times. This problem is then further exacerbated if you typically choose to play in handheld mode, where the scale of your character can get to be tough to deal with in places. The only additional notes I’d have are that overall your characters move and attack set are quite limited, though your heavenly powers do help, so movement and combat aren’t terribly varied, mostly boiling down to dodge roll, and attack, dodge roll, and attack or some variation on that. It requires some skill and timing but it can also get to be a bit bland. A final note is that some of the load times can feel a bit long, which is always a bit of a bummer since they remove you from the action.


All in all Jotun is a gorgeous and well-made game that plays quite well as a boss battle challenge with decent elements in-between. The scale of those fights is absolutely memorable, and while they can be challenging I’d say that for the most part they’re also fair. If you are in the mood to take down some giant bosses it’s an enjoyable ride.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Incredible hand-drawn art and animations
  • Epic and memorable boss fights
  • Varied environments and challenges along the way

Cons:
  • When the camera pulls out for big battles some finer details can be tougher to see
  • Handheld mode may present some scaling challenges at times
  • Your core moveset is relatively limited, making combat a bit repetitive overall at the core