Because I’m a curious busybody, and haven’t got anything else to do in my life, the first thing I did before playing this game was to look up the word, Fimbul. It turns out it’s from Norse legend, where the best legends come from, covering the long winter before the end of the world.
Thankfully I know all about long winters because we had a day of snow last year in South London and the bus was delayed for 20 minutes, so I can certainly relate. But no, seriously, Fimbul takes you to the world of Norse legend with giant trolls, heroic warriors and beautiful snowy worlds. And that combination seems hugely appealing.
The game follows Kveldulver, a grey-haired Viking warrior who at the start of the game is killed by his treacherous and evil brother. The three ladies of fate bring back Kveldulver from the dead and we begin to follow him as he goes on a revenge-driven rampage through villages and forests, finally rocking up in the valley of the giants themselves. The story itself is told through a series of comic book type cutscenes, and these work brilliantly well with solid characters and a great narrative drive. The Norse world is always a fascinating one to cover, and it has been well used in games over the last few years, but I still managed to find this piece of storytelling refreshing and compelling.
The gameplay however is a different kettle of fish. You play through Fimbul like a hack and slash beat em up, utilising a light attack, heavy attack, and a roll. There are a few special options too, including the useful health banner and knockdown that you need to fill a hit counter to use. Further included are also different weapons to pick up and use; a sword, an axe, and a spear for throwing from a distance, and these will need to be handled well as most battles involve a horde of warriors coming at you, leaving you to fend them off in their droves.
Problems arise though when there are loads of enemies on screen, with some warrior friends helping you out – you won’t know what in the name of Odin’s missing eye is going on. It’s a blur of bodies and magical attacks, turning Fimbul into complete and utter chaos. Sometimes due to the camera being high above the action, the best thing to do is run away, circling, just to see where you are and what is happening. But it is then when it becomes like a strange dance, with you running around and a whole bunch of enemies running after you. That said though, there are also times when the enemies just seem to get bored, and wander off to the corner, waiting for you to find them.
There are a number of boss fights included in Fimbul, which are straightforward enough affairs in where you learn attacks and then trying to counter, heal and attack. This is fine, at least to begin with, but the later collection of more frequent bosses starts to get a bit dull.
You can also add in the fact that there are some moments which require a bit of stealth – especially towards the beginning and end of the game – which work okay, but with the strange camera angles taking you temporarily away from the action, there is a sense that this section of the game isn’t been truly explored enough.
The visual look of Fimbul on Xbox One is however something I have really enjoyed though. The comic book cutscenes work extremely well within the game, and if the developers released these separately to buy I’m sure the comics would do very well indeed. The game itself is very nicely designed with sprawling wintery landscapes populating a world that is breaking down, with ruins, villages on fire, and boats lying broken by the waterside. The characters that you will come across on your journey are a good range of thugs, trolls, monsters, and creatures hiding in the darkness – all well created and with a place in the overall experience. Yes, there is the odd glitch and stutter that affects the visuals, but overall I really enjoyed spending time in this bleak world, especially when you consider the soundtrack which provides an atmospheric, haunting melody and mood that absolutely works with the world and the gameplay.
Fimbul is a tricky one to really sum up because on one hand we have a brilliant atmosphere, a strong narrative and some lovely visuals tones. But on the other, the biggest problem is that it doesn’t quite feel properly finished, with glitches and sections that don’t feel fully explored or developed. The combat elements – which are the meat and drink of the gameplay – are not as good as they should be, and it consistently struggles to feel intriguing or complex enough to keep the interest up, especially as you head to the latter stages of the game.
I really do feel there is something great hidden amongst Fimbul though, and I am really interested to see what the development team do next. But for now, I would say the price is a bit too high for what is on offer and I would highly recommend waiting for the sales if you want to take a chance on this intriguing promise.