By Odin’s Wolves! (Actual Line.)
HIGH A moody soundtrack.
LOW A repetitive slog of a final battle.
WTF The achievements give away the entire plot.
Fimbul is the latest continuation of the industry’s love affair with Norse mythology, which means that it’s snowy, dreary, and full of names like “Eymdargrim” and “Akraspillir.” Just once I’d like to see a game where the Vikings get lost at sea and wind up in the Bahamas or something. Maybe some relaxation in the sun would help them stop being so damn somber all the time.
But no, this is yet another self-serious trek through Midgard, featuring a warrior named “Kveldulver” who is tasked with – what else? – preventing Ragnarok. His story is told via comic book panels, which is a creative choice that falls disappointingly flat. The art is both basic and unstylish, depicting characters almost exclusively in head-on shots, and the dialogue is purely functional. It’s an uninteresting plot presented in an uninteresting manner.
It’s a shame that the comic book angle doesn’t land, because it’s the only intriguing idea in an otherwise forgettable game. Put simply, Fimbul is an action romp in which the combat kinda blows. It’s sluggish, clunky and unresponsive, and the over-elaborate animations bear little relation to which attacks are actually connecting. It’s obviously intended to feel heavy and impactful – the kind of thing that could be called “realistic” if there weren’t giants and trolls marching around – but the hit detection is so unreliable that Fimbul feels floaty regardless.
Players can fight with swords, axes and spears. The latter can be thrown, assuming Fimbul’s awful targeting system cooperates (On a related note, the right analog stick goes completely unused.) By landing successive attacks without taking damage, players can build up a special meter used to either heal or launch finishers. Players are also locked into combat zones until all enemies are cleared, which gets a little disorienting when the AI gets stuck somewhere offscreen.
Though the campaign lasts no more than three hours, it quickly grows tiresome, thanks in no small part to the pitiful enemy variety. It’s either ‘guys with shields’ or ‘guys without shields,’ and the only real difference in defeating them is how many times I need to mash the X button before they go down. Fimbul has one or two easy stealth sections (in which Kveldulver outmaneuvers giants with spotlight-eyes) but for the most part, we’re either fighting or walking to the next fight.
The only significant variations in combat are the occasional bosses, which are hardly an improvement. They’re total damage sponges that take ages to bring down — a problem exacerbated by the fact that, for some reason, Fimbul switches to slow motion every single time one of these giants or trolls uses a ground pound attack. It’s mildly cool-looking the first time it happens, but then it just brings battles to a halt. In a climactic encounter when we’re fighting multiple giants at once, the brakes are pumped so often that Fimbul comes off looking like a parody of a Zack Snyder movie.
If I have anything positive to say about Fimbul, it’s that the soundtrack, full of droning strings and thundering drums, is tense and moody. And while the comic art is a letdown, the in-engine graphics are sharp and attractive, but only when the automated (and possibly drunk) camera isn’t merrily clipping through objects in the foreground. I know that developer Zaxis realized that this was an issue, because the characters get vague outlines whenever our view of them is obscured, which is quite frequently.
Fimbul has very little going for it, even on paper. Its protagonist’s stoic journey through Jotunheim is well-trodden territory, and its combat is so thin that Zaxis runs out of ideas long before the brief campaign reaches its conclusion. Without the dignity of even being a curious failure, Fimbul is both bad and uncreative, leaving me no reason to recommend it.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Zaxis and published by Wind River Games. It is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately three hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains Blood and Gore, Mild Language and Violence. A lot of blood gets sprayed in combat, but I didn’t notice dismemberments or anything particularly extreme. Profanity is minimal.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is purely text-based and sound cues never play an important role. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Using an Xbox controller, the X and Y buttons are used for quick and strong attacks (respectively), A is used to roll, and B is used to interact. The right bumper is held to initiate special attacks, and the left bumper is used for blocking.
He was born and raised in Amish country and has yet to escape, despite a brief stint in Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University. He took a one-credit course there called "Career Opportunities for English Majors," which painted a bleak picture for prospective writers. Mike remains steadfast in his ongoing role as a video game critic, however, and has recently written for GamesRadar. Most of his work can be found on HonestGamers, where he has contributed over 200 reviews to date.
When not playing games or writing about them, Mike is a rabid indie music fan and ardent concertgoer. He doesn't read as much as he probably should, but his current favorite author is Alastair Reynolds.
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