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Jotun: Valhalla Edition (Switch) Review

Thanks to ThunderLotus for providing a copy of the game for review purposes.

PhantomZ2 takes on Odin’s challenge in Jotun: Valhalla Edition. Will this game impress the Gods or will it fall into darkness?

When you’re at your life’s end and given another chance to reclaim what you’ve lost, would you take it? Well, if you plan on traversing through treacherous lands and harsh weather conditions for that goal – Jotun: Valhalla Edition for Nintendo Switch just might be the game for you. Emphasis on might, as that’s why I’m here – PhantomZ2 – to help guide you through this review! Also, great thanks to ThunderLotus Games for providing SourceGaming with a review code! Now, let’s find out if Jotun is good enough to impress the gods!

Story:
The story begins with the redheaded Thora, a Norse warrior sailing through treacherous seas and strong winds with her men – until her ship crashes and sinks, not only killing her men but her as well. However, as she descends into the seas and is almost swallowed by the Goddess of the Sea – she awakens with her axe in The Barrow Mound of Yggdrasil – The World Tree. Now its up to her to travel through several regions across several worlds. She’ll gather runes across each world to release its Jotun – elemental giants, that Thora will need to defeat in order to impress the Gods and rise up to Odin’s challenge, allowing her to gain a second chance at life.

The story expands itself not just while you progress through the game, but also within each level. There are traces of statues, scenery, and illustrations that further elaborate on the lore and world of Jotun. However, after you’ve defeated a Jotun and are transported back to The Void, essentially you’re the hub – Thora elaborates on her personal life before death, allowing the player to build a connection with her and figure out why her trials and tribulations are so important.

Although I don’t want to spoil it, I will say the secrets hidden within Thora’s past are very engaging and interesting. The world building is also cleverly done, as its integration with the tasks that levels have you perform in order to reach the runes.

The only issues I have with regards to the story is that the storytelling isn’t in English. Its supposedly in Icelandic, which is very interesting as it tries to keep true to the Nordic backgrounds – however, having to read subtitles is a bit distracting during gameplay. Also, when returning to a level you’ve completed – dialogue will repeat, which can be annoying since there isn’t a way to skip it.

Gameplay:
The gameplay is very simple. You move around with the control stick or d-pad, and you can perform a dodge roll with the B-Button. It doesn’t grant you a lot of distance, but it does help in some avoiding close attacks. You can perform light axe swings with the Y button and a heavy overhead swing with the X button. Combine the roll with a light swing and you can perform a Roll Slash.

Now as these are the basic controls for you to traverse across rivers, land, and through other areas – you’ll also be fighting against other warriors, nature, and having to traverse around some lava, harsh winters, and other natural hazards. The regions are as such, Nature as your starting area; and then 4 other regions that you’re able to travel through any way that you want: the Caves, Winter Region, Storm Region, and Fire Region – each with two levels. Once you’ve found the two runes of each region – the gates to that region’s specific Jotun are open. But, when it comes to fighting the Jotun – you’re axe will not be enough.

Throughout each level are not only the runes, but God Shrines, Ithunn’s Apple, and Mimir’s Well. Ithunn’s Apple increases your max health and Mimir’s Wells are able to be found within levels and before bosses, acting as checkpoints and healing you and your God Powers completely – and that’s where the gameplay evolves. Within each region is a respective God Power that can grant Thora limited use of special abilities. Some of these abilities include creating decoy’s with Loki’s Decoy, increasing your speed with Freya’s Speed, or regaining some health with Frigg’s Healing. You can cycle left and right through your powers with all 4 triggers and activate the ability using the A button. During bosses it is important to use these strategically – or else you’ll end up hurting your chances of success.

The way that I played through was Nature and then fought against Jera, its Jotun – the Caves and then against its Jotun: Fé – and then I completed the Storm, Ice, and Fire regions and then took on each of their Jotun’s after finding all of the God Powers – except one that I didn’t even realize I missed: Heimdall’s Shield.

As I love the freedom of choice this game gives you, there are also some glaring issues in regards to gameplay. One issue being that some areas of levels are so hidden, that it’s almost impossible to realize it even after you’ve passed by those areas several times. With Mimir’s Well, there are some instances where you’ll pass by it – but not need to use it. However, if you die in a stage – you start from the beginning of the level. If you don’t want to do all of that again, now you’ll have to activate Mimir – even when you may most likely need it for later, when you’re actually in danger because once you use a Mimir, it can’t be reused until you’ve left the area and come back.

But, one major issue stems from combat because Thora doesn’t have invincibility frames. Now although having Heimdall’s Shield does make Thora invulnerable for a few seconds – that’s only as a momentary ability. When Thora gets hit, she tends to bounce off in another direction and I’ve had so many deaths due to being pushed into another hazard or enemy’s attack. This will tend to happen in some boss battles, causing some battles to feel very unfair and unfun.

But, as this is the Valhalla Edition – once you’ve beaten the game, Valhalla mode: a boss rush mode is unlocked. Although that may sound like the ultimate challenge for someone who has mastered this game, I’m nowhere near close to being good enough for that.

Presentation:
As soon as you’re treated to the overview of the first level, I think anyone will be mesmerized by how beautiful this game truly is. Almost about everything was hand drawn. The animations, the scenery, the designs of the Jotun, especially the Storm Jotun: Hagalaz, are a spectacle to look at. The world and visuals keep my eyes open, especially with very subtle music tracks and sound effects that build upon the ambience and loneliness of the story.

The music doesn’t do much for me personally, but its nothing that I dislike or that bothers me when hearing it.

However, the only issue I have in this area is the camera. When the camera zooms out and provides you with the scenery of the vast areas of you to explore – it can be mesmerizing. But, during certain battles and in certain areas – the camera can zoom out so hard that it becomes difficult to see Thora. This, in turn, can make playing in docked more a bit more difficult compared to Handheld mode.

Final Verdict:
Jotun is an amazing experience, with a bit of issue. However, those issues aren’t always present and don’t always hinder the overall gameplay. Aside from gameplay, just the art that’s presented further influenced me to continue the game, even when I wanted to quit. For these reasons, I can definitely see Jotun: Valhalla Edition impresses the Gods – which is why I’m giving it 3.5 stars out of 5.

I’m PhantomZ2 and again – I’d like to thank the team from ThunderLotus for providing us with the review code. Tell us what you think about Jotun: Valhalla Edition down in the comments below. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can click that lovely red button below the video and if you’re feeling generous, you can head on over to sourcegaming.info and click the donate tab to be taken to the Patreon page. As always, remember to return to the Source for more reviews and information ya can’t get from anywhere else. Thanks for watching!