Dark Souls fundamentally changed mainstream action games upon arrival as both its unforgiving combat and minimalistic narrative became trends in the genre. These techniques have slipped into several notable releases in the past few years, from both AAA and independent markets. Jotun, now in closed beta development after a successful Kickstarter campaign, fits all of the above descriptions.
You play as Thora, a viking warrior who died an inglorious death and must traverse the challenges of Norse realms in an attempt to prove herself and enter Vallhalla. The entire game draws from Norse mythology and, combined with the hand-drawn aesthetic of the art style, makes for a beautiful presentation. Much of the gameplay comes from exploring the desolate environments set before Thora, solving puzzles and finding runes to advance to the next level. Each realm has a unique puzzle or enemy to conquer, so the game never feels stale or repetitive.
Armed with only a two-handed axe, the tasks set before you can seem daunting at times. Actual combat encounters are a rarity in the game, as most of the gameplay is based around platforming and puzzle solving. Still, when confronted with enemies, they will prove ruthless and tough to conquer. Each realm has a massive boss waiting at the end to test your might. Only the cave and winter realms of Jotun are available at the moment, but they show off a great mix of what the final game will have to offer. The boss encounters are frightening, frenetic, and most of all, fun.
When fighting a boss, Thora has two attack options: a standard swing and a longer, more drawn-out heavy attack. It will take quick reflexes and careful planning to learn the right patterns to succeed in combat. One of the most important parts of Jotun is figuring out how to control Thora’s movement and positioning. Whether you are trying to evade an army of dwarves or avoid harsh weather, how you control the character is key.
Jotun features fast-paced action, a beautiful art style and a unique take on the action/adventure genre. If you are a fan of the Souls series, or intense action games in general, it should be on your radar. The game is set to launch on PC in September, with a possible console release to follow.
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