Review: Fimbul (Switch)

Developer: Zaxis
Publisher: Wild River Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action Adventure
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $29.99

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King are a few video games I have not played in a very long time. I would love to play them, but they are sadly trapped on the consoles they first appeared on. I have fond memories of running through the cinematic environments slaying Orcs and Uruk-Hai and doing so cooperatively with my brother. If I was to play those now, they would likely not hold up to those memories; when I started up Fimbul for the first time, I did not expect it to take me back to that style of gameplay.

Though Fimbul did give me a dose of nostalgia, it also brought back some less than stellar memories of an adaptation of the movie 300 that I played on the PSP called 300: March to Glory. Seemingly inspired by those LoTR games, it lacked polish and had a handful of other issues that made it not nearly as good. Fimbul feels much closer to the latter, but in my experience, I did find some redeemable qualities that keep it from becoming a product that completely resembles the Ragnarok that you are trying to prevent in the story.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Fimbul is based on the beliefs and practices of Norse culture and religion. Players will encounter fantastical trolls and giants called Jotun that appear throughout Norse mythology. The story involves a group of Jotun that is trying to bring about the Nordic version of the apocalypse known as Ragnarok with an amulet that has great power. The Norns appear periodically in cutscenes; they closely resemble the “Sisters of Fate” from Greek mythology and are known the be the controllers of man’s destiny.

Violence: Players will be engaging in melee combat with swords, axes, and spears against other vikings and creatures that are present in the world. Splashes of blood can be seen as characters take damage and cry in pain as they are being hit. Thrown spears can also be seen sticking out of the larger enemies. Some of this is also depicted in comic strip still images in which players are given the choice to either kill or spare some enemies. One particular scene shows victims hung up on trees as you are passing through the area.

Language: While there is no official rating on the ESRB site, the listing on the Nintendo eShop shows a rating of T for Teen that includes “Mild Language”. I personally do not recall any language of the sort, but it is likely that this language appears in dialogue within the alternate choices that I did not make during my playthrough. Mild language usually comes up when words like “d*mn” or “hell” are used. Though I did not personally catch it, it is my job to tell you when this type of content can still be found in the product.

Review

First of all, Fimbul is a concept that is right up my alley. It is an action-adventure centered around vikings and Norse mythology. You have a presentation that has clearly taken inspiration from comics within the cutscenes and down to the art style. This is sadly the part of the $30 package that needs more work, and the combat and gameplay mechanics are what kept me pushing forward into the final battle.

Fimbul puts you in the shoes of an old viking warrior that is on a quest to find out why the Jotun are trapping the people of Midgard in their own land. The story takes place during what is referred to as the “Fimbulwinter,” the harsh and final winter that takes place before the events of the Nordic version of the apocalypse called “Ragnarok”. We spend our time trudging through snow-covered forests, villages, and mountains with cell-shaded graphics that emulate a comic book.

Fimbul feels like a video that is stuck between console generations. I honestly can’t decide if that cell-shading helps or hinders the visual experience that it is meant to be.  The characters and environment look so jagged at times that they bring me back to the days of the first PlayStation; while, at the same time, there are some moments where I see the beauty of the set pieces that they are aiming for. I understand that I am adventuring through the winter of all winters, but the environment layered in white doesn’t change much at all. It is also worth noting that the resolution does change whether you are playing in handheld or in docked mode, and it does look significantly better enough that I’d recommend playing on your television.

Despite the game’s dated look and a framerate that clearly dropped below 30 FPS at times, I greatly enjoyed the combat. I spent my time taking out rival viking clans and trolls. The arsenal consists of shields, swords, axes, and spears. The sword is a basic quicker weapon as the ax is meant to break enemy shields and helmets. You also have the option of picking up shields and helmets that help with blocking and defense; these can break, but do happen to be plentiful. The spears are also disposable and can be thrown into your enemies from a distance and work great against larger enemies.

Thankfully, players have more than just weapons that they can utilize. There is a special meter that can be seen right under your health bar, which can be used up by holding the R button and pushing the face button for the ability you want, such as the healing banner or knockdown, for example. Though I was sometimes overwhelmed by a skirmish of enemies, these abilities helped to even the odds.

That comic art style continues in between the gameplay, and this is the biggest area in which I see the influence of the 300 graphic novel comic. It seems as though the artist was going for something very similar, and it works very well for this particular setting. Watching these scenes play out reminds me of the handful of times that I dabbled in reading digital comics on my phone; although, the biggest feature of these scenes is making choices within a few of the panels. Your decisions usually involve choosing whether someone lives or dies, but how your choices come into play during the final moments of the game are quite unique. I was initially skeptical about this feature, because it has gotten tossed into many video games over the years and ends up being meaningless.

The story itself was decent for the short five-hour length—like spending an afternoon with a good book. I can’t say any of the characters were particularly memorable, but the finale of the game wrapped up in such a way that it was satisfying to see my choices and prior events play out in those final moments. If you choose to do so, you can get some more playtime by going to back to those chapters that involve the decision making and see what it is like to go the other route.

Fimbul is in many ways a beautiful mess—a happy little accident in the execution of a visual style that should be a mistake. The visual style can be messy, but some memorable moments such as slaying 20-foot Jotuns and trolls can be found here. Playing Fimbul brought me the nostalgia of playing those Lord of the Rings games back in the day while tapping into my love for art and comics; I can’t say I would’ve made the purchase at $30, but I knew this game was made for me when I first gazed upon it. I can’t say I completely recommend it, but playing on PC or one of the stronger consoles will likely be where to find the definitive experience if you do decide to make the purchase.

The Bottom Line

 

 

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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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