Colours never look that rich when Fimbul is running.
As with Vane, the artistically interesting but significantly flawed platformer we reviewed back in January, Fimbul ended up on our radars thanks to a snow-filled trailer that showed ample amounts of hacking combat and Norse mythology. While Vane fell short of our hopes, Fimbul hoped to avoid that fate and deliver a worthwhile experience.
Fimbul favours a familiar approach to combat, offering light and heavy attacks for offense, and a roll and block for defense. You can also switch weapons via the d-pad between sword, axe and (when you’ve picked one up) spear. Your shield will also degrade and break, meaning you’ll need to pick up new ones from defeated foes.
As you progress you’ll unlock various special abilities, earned by pulling off uninterrupted strikes, that can allow for single-hit kills, an area of effect attack and healing. You’ll end up using the last one by far the most, since the game offers no other means of regaining lost health. Eventually you’ll unlock the ability to become a giant, which is pretty cool, though it happens late and there are few chances to use it.
While it’s fundamentally solid, it fails in the details, at least on the Switch. Rather than using the comparatively large triggers, Fimbul maps blocking and special abilities to the narrow shoulder buttons. It felt weird from the get go, and the inability to remap the controls means you’re stuck with it. Cycling through targets with your spear is awkward, too, which is a problem since pretty much every boss is felled by timed throws of said spear.
There’s a certain charm to Fimbul‘s snow-covered world, but much of that gets buried under an avalanche of pop in, wonky camera changes and a flurry of loading prompts (OK, OK, no more snow puns, we promise). The latter is so rampant that it’s not unusual to have sections in which you’ll run for a few seconds, get a loading prompt, then run for a few more seconds followed by another one. It really kills any momentum the game might’ve generated.
A decent soundtrack and basic sound effects make up a mostly nondescript audio side with only the sound of the horn that blows when you heal sticking out as memorable.
Set in the winter before Ragnarok, Fimbul casts you as Kveldulver, who after being murdered by his estranged brother, is sent back to Midgard to try to stave off the end of the world. Along the way you’ll need to kill roving packs of vikings and defeat trolls and Jotuns (giants). Each boss battle is accompanied by the choice to kill or spare your vanquished foe, and the game’s “thread of life” will branch based on those decisions.
Theoretically, that provides some replay value for the short campaign — it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete — but it’s debatable how much you’ll want to revisit the combat given how similar one fight feels to the next. This extends to the boss fights as well, which all seem to revolve around skewering the mammoth trolls with spears whenever the button prompt appears on the screen. The battles are equal parts competent and forgettable.
It’d be easier to green-light additional trips through the game were it not for the litany of technical issues that currently infest it. Although the graphical problems represent the bulk of it, they’re so common it often makes advancement an exercise in frustration. Beyond that, we also encountered instances when the camera adjustment didn’t trigger, leaving us to be killed by unseen foes and have to restart a section.
Fimbul isn’t a completely lost cause, though, and with some patches it might be worth nabbing at a discount sometime in the future if the combination of Norse mythology and melee combat moves the needle for you. It also can’t be discounted that the game may perform better on other platforms. Then again, nothing on here looks like it should overpower the Switch, so we’d imagine the issues likely persist across the spectrum.
There’s some potential at the conceptual level with Fimbul, and the gameplay never dips below competent, but it runs as poorly as any game we’ve reviewed in recent memory.