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.

25 Comments

  1. pepperfez says:

    I wonder what it is about Norse mythology that puts people in mind of Rankin and Bass animation. If they can get the music right in one of these games, it’ll be perfect.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Are you suggesting that the music in the Banner Saga is not right? Because if you are…

  2. EhexT says:

    Best Enormous Enemies? The Lucifer and Sathanas from Freespace, all of Shadow of the Colossus.

    • Geebs says:

      That giant dude in Forgotten Worlds.

      Oh, and the spaceship boss in R-Type. God, that game got ripped off so badly.

      • bills6693 says:

        Probably doesn’t count but in Freelancer **spoiler** the alien world at the end. When you are entering the world, flying along its external frame and down into its structure (star-wars style) gives an epic sense of scale and proportion, especially when you have been flying around with much smaller celestial bodies and constructions beforehand.

        (with a sense of scale, probably affected by the fact that actual planets are in fact tiny in-game objects compared to a realistic scale)

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Many of the bosses in Bayonetta are amazing as well, and God of War, obviously.

  3. Hex says:

    Oh goodie, they made Thor a woman. How clever.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Thora/Tora is actually a scandinavian name, you know. There is nothing to indicate the character is meant to be a female version of the norse god.

      • Hex says:

        You’re right, how silly of me. Her name is Thora and she fights frost giants.

        Couldn’t be further from the myth.

        • Beva says:

          As horrible as this must be for you right now, rest safe in the knowledge that one day soon you’ll get over it.

    • King Rhirid says:

      She’s just not supposed to be Thor – she’s not a god, just a dead warrior in purgatory. They picked the name poorly so people assume she is supposed to be Thor, which is a shame.

    • welverin says:

      What ever you do, don’t pick up a recent Thor comic from Marvel.

  4. grom.5 says:

    Best one is indubitably Shadow of the colossus. These are really strength of nature, almost god that you want to kill for not a good reason. It was impressive.

    Monster from Monster Hunter could be quite nice for the sensation you fight something greater than yourself. The climax boss, the celadeus, from MH3 made me feel also something.

    Hum… On another type, I guess killing the metal gear ray in reveangeance was something. Bayonneta could also fit. But it’s more like, “I’m maybe small, but I can give you a world of pain” feeling.

  5. willjotun says:

    Hey,

    The original video had an audio error and I had to re-upload it. Here is the link to the fixed video. Sorry about the trouble.

    • Frank says:

      Thanks for posting it here. I was going to whine about the broken embed.

      Looks like it’s coming along great!

  6. Zanchito says:

    I love, love, love hand drawn animation of all kinds, I’m happy it’s being used again at least in videogames. Also, the Banner Saga was a perfect storm of styling, lore, mood, writing, drama and MUSIC. Hope this one is good too!

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Agree 100%. Can’t wait for Banner Saga part 2. This looks lovely as well.

  7. welverin says:

    The Colossus in God of War 2, Poseidon in God of War 3, every other boss fight in any of the God of War games really.

    I mention GoW3, and forget the whole first level is a boss fight where the boss is the level!

  8. iamgenestarwind says:

    not to be rude but i didnt really like the banner saga very much why because after the first few fights it felt like it was impossable to win the monsters had better armor more hit points and did more damage i know you are thinking well you played the game wrong nope i tried it many times and my characters died every time after some time i could bored of losing and quit
    i tried putting the characters in different spots didnt hlep tried useing their special attacks didnt help time and time again the monster would A, kill my ranged guy or B, kill my fighter/tank after that things just went downhill fast :(
    any tips on how not to die and why should i buy this game will it be better easyer ?
    please NO tips saying you are dumb thanks

    • Serenegoose says:

      Well, first I’d say these games only look similar graphically. One being a turn based, party based strategy game, and this one not being.

      But as for banner saga tips… The key in my opinion is to pay close attention to the enemies attack order. The dredge in particular often can’t move very far, and so it’s often possible to weaken the smaller dredge units that don’t have so much armour whilst moving back to avoid the big ones. Additionally, looking at the attack order lets you prioritise enemies that are going to hit first. If you have a little dredge in reach of say, one of your big varl hitters, you can take half his health off with a big hit (ignore his armour) and when his attack comes round, he’ll not be able to do much with it. Additionally, killing enemies in the banner saga is not always the best idea. Because both sides take alternating turns, and because your health pool -is- your damage pool, having the enemy wasting turns moving 1hp monsters that can’t hurt you and take up a tile that stop bigger monsters that CAN hurt you makes the fights a lot easier. Once everyone’s softened up, you can start taking them out.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I have a couple tips for you:
      1) Most tactics games share something essential with chess: positioning is everything! Think very well about each and every move, and what the consequences will or could be. I’m no tactician, so I used to spend a very, very long time with each battle because I stopped to think everything through. Of course, it took me like a month and a bit to get to the end, but it felt great to suffer so little from the wound downtime and all that. So, in short, never make a move that hasn’t been thoroughly considered.
      2) Always know what you’re up against. Look at the dredges’ stats, learn what their specials do. One of the keys to winning those battles where you’re very outnumbered is to get them to trip over themselves. Your units are either much more agile or a bit more agile, so use that as much as you can to draw the dredge into clumps for shattering damage, as well as making them waste their turns trying to move around their own units. This way, it’s easier to whittle them down and try Senegoose’s method, or picking them off one by one.

      Hope that helps!

    • Hex says:

      Another suggestion is to check out The Banner Saga: Factions. TBS:F is the head-to-head multiplayer version of the game, in which players make teams using only human and varl, and can duke it out. It’s a great way to get a good handle on the basics of the game.

      And it’s free!