In my very first moments of Jotun, I was immediately overtaken by the wondrous mood of Thunder Lotus Games’ impressive world. This journey through the legends of Norse mythology is supported by utterly beautiful hand-drawn animation and a rousing soundtrack that all comes together to create a place steeped in mysticism and reverence.As Thora, the battle-hardened viking warrior who unceremoniously drowns one stormy night at sea, you’re given a second chance to prove your courage to the gods. And even while the larger story of a battle against elemental giants called Jotuns unfolds, Thora’s backstory and stoic personality shine through in her narration, fantastically delivered in her strong voice and native language.For most of the game, that cunning involves mastery of the environment. Jotun’s six stages, which can be tackled in any order, are impeccably designed. They are deceptively linear, laid out in such a way that gives the impression of vast, stunning tableaus in places dwarfed in size by your typical Diablo IIIdungeon. The illusion works. Grand, breathtaking vistas are the norm in Jotun, and they often serve as a wicked distraction from the dangers mere inches away. They’re also often rather desolate places, dark locales that no mortal has tread upon in ages. The game isn’t swarming with enemies, except for one particular stage that sends a veritable legion of dwarves your way. This bolsters the comparisons to Shadow of the Colossus, where the loneliness of what Thora has to do makes the sheer distance between each new obstacle feel like a greater journey. The real problem with that desolation is that more than a few times, you’ll need to backtrack through some of these areas to find much needed power ups, or because you’ve missed a crucial switch in order to get to said power ups, or because you’ve ended up in an area and the game’s obtuse pause screen map didn’t help you.
The main events of the game, however, are the Jotun themselves as bosses. The Jotun are simply awe-inspiring enemy design, taking the rather threadbare descriptions from Norse lore, and extrapolating them to the nth degree, with each one several times Thora’s size onscreen.At the end of my journey through Jotun, I was left wanting more of the excellent mythological world to explore and experience. Despite very minor frame rate dips and the occasional glitchy element, the beauty and wonder of Jotun unfolds like a storybook and deserves attention.The PS4 and Xbox One ports of Jotun are very much on par with the PC version. The only major difference is the addition of Valhalla Mode, a boss rush that opens up after you beat the campaign. Aside from expanded health bars, an extra element of danger has been added to each boss battle taken from the campaign, forcing you to alter your attack strategy. The first stage’s plant boss now has poisonous spores surrounding her weak points, making it a game of hit and run rather than patient strikes. Alternately, a sword-wielding forge boss has a much shorter window in which to strike. Valhalla Mode is a small addition, but a welcome one.Jotun is a short game, and good players can probably plow through it in about 3 or 4 hours, but even with the ending behind me, I find myself dying to witness some images again and wanting to try different strategies. I want to hear Thora tell her tale again. Any good bedtime story that makes you want to hear it again right after it’s over is one for the ages.