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Norse Code: Jotun's Cold Colossi

Jotun’s [official site] combination of Norse mythology, impressive hand-drawn animation and enormous boss battles brings The Banner Saga and Shadow of the Colossus to mind. Alice spotted the game when it was frozen in the purgatory of a Kickstarter campaign, creeping toward its funding goal. Having squeaked past the $60,000 target, the team have been working hard and recently went on tour, showing their vision of frosty boss battles to the masses. Below, you can see footage of a typical fight between the player character and an enormous Winter Jotun.

For a better understanding of what’s happening there – beyond giant-biffing – read these thoughts from the developers. A recent post-mortem about the design of the fight in the video goes into the elements that worked and the elements that needed more work. On the good side:

The feeling of scale in the boss fights. Thora feels tiny. The jotun feels like an insurmountable mountain. A true david versus goliath with impossible odds.

They’re also pleased with the art, music and sound effects, as well as the iterative design process that allows them to experiment with pacing and abilities before locking down time-consuming assets. And that brings us to the things that weren’t quite right in the initial design:

Early gameplay wasn’t super exciting. It felt like we were always just chipping away at the jotun’s feet. Adding additional depth to the fight with icebergs and God powers really helped push us in the right direction.

Because the winter jotun only has melee attacks, you tend to stay very close, making his ranged attacks kind of irrelevant. We’ll definitely be taking this into consideration with the other jotuns who aren’t only melee focused.

Communicating scale through graphics is all well and good, but sometimes larger enemies just become damage-sponges trapped inside an enormous hitbox. The Shadow of the Colossus approach, to treat the enemy as an interactive object that is almost part of the terrain, is one possible approach, and location-sensitive damage can also work. For some reason I’m thinking of blowing specific guns off a tank in what was possible a Metal Slug game, but there are probably better examples.

Best enormous enemy in a game? My favourite is probably some kind of spaceship.

PAX East and SXSW Gaming are the next stops on Jotun’s tour. Kick a giant’s toe if you find yourself in the vicinity. A backer alpha is due toward the end of April and the game is still on track for a September release.

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