There are two things you need to know about Jotun: one, you’re probably going to die—a lot; two, the art and story and epic scale boss battles make it worth the agony of repeated death.
Meet Thora, a recently deceased Viking warrior girl with an axe and a chance to please the gods to earn her way into Valhalla. Throughout the course of the game, the player learns what lead to Thora’s death, as well as what caused her to become a warrior. While hearing her narrative is certainly a more personal touch and a nice addition to the game, it does not seem to have more merit than a passing mention. And as someone who becomes very attached to characters in RPGs, I felt like there could have been more personal background involvement throughout the game.
In terms of controls, they are relatively simple and easy to master. However, this is soundly misleading because the rest of the game is anything but easy: action timing (such as dodging), god skill acquisiton, and learning when to use your skills for the highest level of efficency is what will keep you alive. For me, the big boss fights were repeated lessons in agony of what I was doing wrong, but in turn it forced me to learn new strategies and ways of approaching the problem. In short: get good—fast. In between boss battles, there isn’t much in the form of combat. Navigating through levels consists of some puzzle solving with rewards for exploration (such as expanded life from Ithunn’s apples), which adds a nice, if expected, dynamic.
The Norse mythology aspect, however, is what truly brings Jotun to life. Whether familiar or new to the stories of the Aesir and Vanir, the art, the skills, and the runes paint a beautiful picture of the cosmology of the Scandinavian peoples. The entire game is artfully done in a hand-drawn 2D style, which helps to evoke a sense of awe when seeing such huge figures from mythology such as Nidhogg—the serpent which chews on the roots of Yggdrasil. The game even goes to such depth as to reference less popular points in Norse myth, such as Loki’s god skill stone being in Brokkr’s Forge, where he was the one to initiate the forging of weapons such as Thor’s hammer Mjolnir or Odin’s spear Gungnir via a bet with the dwarves. As an added bonus, this particular statue is shown with its lips sewn shut, demonstrating that Loki had lost the bet; his lips were sewn shut as punishment.
The game, while relatively short, does not offer much in the way of replayability. The story is straightforward with no options for alternate endings, and the boss fights remain challenging but are markedly less so once strategies are mastered. These things certainly do not detract from the enjoyment of exploration and puzzle solving, as well as the triumphant feeling when the player finally conquers a Jotun. If you are looking for a game that offers challenging boss battles, beautiful art, and an engaging story, then I highly recommend Jotun. While it does not offer a sprawling narrative that seems to inherently go hand in hand with the Norse myths, Jotun is a worthwhile short adventure into the stories of the past.