Publisher: Wild River Games
Review Context: This my first time playing a game in the Norse universe. I am always drawn to games that tell the story in an interesting way, and especially attracted to cel-shaded games.
Date of Playthrough: March 2, 2019
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy.
Fimbul, developed by Zaxis, is a game that has escaped much attention, but caught my eye as I was searching for indie games due to the cel-shaded art style. Fimbul is a game based on the Norse mythology, set in the final winter before Ragnarok. As someone who is generally clueless about the Norse universe, I was not intimidated to step into this universe because the story premise was intriguing enough to get me excited.
In Fimbul you play as Kveldulver, an old berserk who is trying to save Midgard by preventing the Jotun from acquiring a special artifact piece. It is his journey to Jotunheim that ultimately plays out for the duration of the game. I found the story to be interesting, with some of the names being somewhat confusing in how they were presented. The comic book style of storytelling added a special feel to the game that I’ve rarely experienced before. Since Fimbul is not a text-based game or an interactive story like we’re used to, the inclusion of comic book style dialogue in place of voice acted cutscenes made the storytelling unique in between gameplay action because we are used to see text boxes in-game among NPCs. It isn’t just the comic book style of dialogue, but the actual illustrations that help convey the emotions of the characters to the player that are probably harder to get across if cutscenes were in te game.
The storytelling of Fimbul is probably one of the best I’ve ever experienced, because the gameplay meshes very well with the story being told in the comic book strips. The gameplay is essential action adventure combat, as you fight vikings with a shield, axe, sword, and spears during the course of the entire game. The 3D combat is easy to get used, as you can easily hack-n-slash enemies, while also having the ability to dodge roll out of the way. The combat doesn’t require precision like Dark Souls, but the you can be taken down for chunks of health if you aren’t careful. You also have some special abilities that can be triggered by using some of your combo points. The game’s combat while simple, is also a great storytelling device because you are just slashing away enemies by the hoards. When playing you do feel like the way you are walking and fighting in a living-breathing comic book. You are fighting hoards of enemies at a time, with little variety of vikings, but unlike other games I care less about this obvious observation.
As you journey your way to Jotunheim, you will be making some story choices that do have consequences by the end. The entire journey is chronicled in your “Life String,” a menu selection that has every event from prologue to epilogue horizontally scrollable, also allowing you to replay events and try different choices easily. Fighting jotuns and trolls are the highlight of the game, as you will come across multiple boss encounters, which is where the game shines the most in presentation. While I am forgiving of the lack of viking variety in combat encounters, the boss fights could have used a bit more variety of how to beat them. The boss encounters, especially after the first one, do require solid movement, as a poor decision can easily cause you to die. It’s after the boss encounters where you can make key story decisions (a few other times also), so choice wisely. The only disappointment is that all the post-boss decisions are essentially the same kind.
During your journey you will be treated to interesting camera angles that showcase the winter setting, giving the game excellent art direction to go along with a decent soundtrack. The environment around you is much more well done than the character models, but it all meshes well in the end. Although you are on a generally lineal walking path in the game, it isn’t necessarily just a straight line, but more of a curvy splintered line. I’ve never really played a game like this where the camera angles do a lot of the work telling the story, especially when surrounded by jotuns, you feel really small compared to them. Towards of the game you experience the best graphics and camera angles, plus great environmental shadows and lighting. Jotunheim and beyond is where the story is at its best, as you can’t wait to see what happens next. It is soon after that point that something happens to you that adds some fun gameplay to your character, even if it is for a short period of time. In the end, I was very satisfied by my ending, as it made the whole experience feel complete.
Fimbul was a fun experience, completely surprised me in a good way, but I just wish it was longer than a few hours. Although I walked into this experience with little knowledge of this Norse universe, I was still able to follow along and enjoy it. The comic book storytelling, along with the action-adventure combat gameplay, provided a great combination to keep your attention for a fun story experience.
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