PAX Indie Spotlight: Jotun

PAX Indie Spotlight: Jotun

 

Jotun was the very first game and development team we met with on the PAX East weekend, and it was a good start. Jotun is a hand-animated adventure game that feels like The Banner Saga and The Shadow of the Colossus combined into one. Beautiful art and environments set the stage for massive battles that do actually feel massive. Good use of scale and punishing enemy attacks makes the game feel epic in scale, even if there are a few minor things that I feel could be improved upon.

 

Jotun was started by a team of 4 people. It’s been under development since January of last year, and was Kickstarted in July of 2014, raising $64,000 ($14,000 over their goal). this lead to the team working full time on Jotun starting in November. The team grew and now Jotun is getting closer and closer to the reality of being a successfully crowd funded game. It’s by no means done yet, but Alpha is planned for April of this year, and release is planned for Fall of 2015.

 

There’s a wonderful drive to story telling and narrative with out actually telling you much in Jotun, or at least what has been shown of Jotun. It oozes with epic scale and heroic glory, and it is both unsurprising and fantastic to hear that the game took direct creative inspiration from the Norse poems and epics. *Psst* There’s a reason these stories have been around for so long!

” Norse mythology is really bad ass, and that’s what drew us there. But we’ve always loved really old stories, like Beowulf and The Divine Comedy, really  epic stories. That was the first step. Once we looked into Norse mythology deeper, we found it was so rich, and in a way underrepresented in culture and in games. Once we started reading the poems, really awesome stuff, we know we had to go there.” –  William Dubé, Creator of Jotun

However, Jotun does have some rough edges. There’s no doubt it looks incredibly beautiful, and the sound design and musical direction are phenomenal, but controls feel a bit sluggish. The swings of your axe and the dodges you perform as Thora feel a little slow. Granted you are a Norse warrior maiden and you are swinging a giant two-handed axe, but I still wish things were a little more responsive and quick. If the team was going for that feeling of slow momentum, then they certainly succeeded, but it still felt a little too slow to me.

This leads me into my second concern, and perhaps the second concern explains the first. There’s no diversity in the types of weapons you can wield in Jotun: You start with a two-handed axe and (presumably) you’ll end with a two handed axe. I wouldn’t be as concerned with the sluggishness of the movement if you had a couple options: A sword and a Shield, or perhaps a spear. I would also be remiss if I also didn’t say, however, that this decision to have only one, rather slow weapon does make the game more difficult. This is of course, one of the goals of the game, to be punishing and hard, and I can’t fault the development team if this is one way they are hoping to achieve that.

 

Jotun is a moving image, a tapestry of some epic tale told by Norse bards long ago. Sure, there are a few frays in the edges of the tapestry, but that isn’t going to stop you from enjoying the entire piece, and who knows: they might even have been patched up by the time the tapestry is finished.

 

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Written by
Editor-in-Chief of IndieHangover.com. With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.