This Norse tale is depressing for all the wrong reasons.
The trend for Norse mythology inspired games continues. Fimbul, from developer Zaxis Games, follows on from the likes of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Jotun, The Banner Saga trilogy, and of course God Of War – all of which are vastly superior games.
Fimbul is a pretty simplistic revenge tale, as your Viking warrior seeks vengeance against his brother and the Jotun (giants) in order to prevent the dreaded Ragnarok. It’s bleak and morbid, with a script and story that references plenty of well-known gods and figures, though it maintains a gritty, raw human edge. Typical Norse stuff, then.
The gameplay is also simplistic. Fimbul is a hack and slash game, with brutal yet clunky combat that’s tiringly repetitive. Your warrior hero can equip three different weapons – sword, axe and spear – as well as breakable shields and helmets that can be acquired from downed enemies. The right bumper provides access to four special abilities such as healing yourself and executing enemies – useful, sure, but hardly exciting. To perform these moves you’ll need to fill your combo meter by attacking enemies. Get hit and the meter will drop.
There’s not much depth to it and the waves of similar enemies do little to shake up strategy. Spears can also be thrown to interrupt the heavily telegraphed attacks of larger enemies – killing the bosses requires little more than dodging and throwing when prompted. Combat feels chunky but laborious and the game does nothing else, unless you count activating runes to unlock blocked pathways or the odd bit of lazy stealth.
The major problem, though, is the experience is marred by horrendous technical issues on the Switch. The frame rate chugs and judders at even the barest moments, while some fights and boss battles are nigh-on unplayable as the action jerks. Textures pop in and out frequently, and simply wandering around causes loading pauses every few seconds, making it impossible to truly absorb yourself in the game world.
Not that you’d want to, even with these issues fixed. This is an ugly-looking game. Sure, the flat textures are a stylistic choice but the world lacks detail and at times looks more akin to a PS1 tech demo. It’s framed terribly too, with a camera that swings more wildly than your axe, hiding behind trees and mountains or panning out to an excessive degree. The odd bit of atmospheric lighting is nice enough, but overall it’s aesthetically bland.
Your hero’s journey takes you from snowy wilderness to snowy wilderness. The whole colour palette is shades of white and washed-out colour and the character designs lack the grandeur or creativity of other Norse games. The music too is dreary sound design and war drums that don’t add any sort of rich atmosphere. Where’s the sense of wonder? The might of the gods? Any sense of life or interest? Fimbul is depressing for all the wrong reasons.
There’s not a lot of characterisation here, either. Your hero is a blank old warrior who simply slaughters everyone and there’s no voice acting to add to the drama. You’re given a smattering of choices at certain points in the story that do have gameplay consequences, but the plot is rigid and dull. Then again, it’s so short that there’s not much room for character development anyway – you’ll easily finish this in one sitting.
The story itself is told through comic book panels that do inject a bit of colour and personality into the game, but it’s not enough. This is soulless, empty and unpolished – a total whiteout.
In old Norse ‘fimbul’ translates as mighty or great. But this particular Fimbul is anything but.