It’s hard to know where to start with Fimbul. This Norse action-adventure takes place in the final winter before Ragnarök, but, spend even a short session with the game on Nintendo Switch, and you’d think that the apocalyptic event had already happened and left the Earth decimated.
Fimbul has its fair share of egregious problems that, even after a recent software update, developer Zaxis Games still needs to overcome. Game assets constantly disappear only to miraculously reappear moments later. It suffers from an unsteady and often horrendous frame rate. The forgettable audio that accompanies your adventure randomly cuts out whenever it feels like it for no clear reason. The camera angle can maddeningly swirl around to the point that it risks inducing dizziness. And, then there was the time when my character died despite having a quarter of my health bar remaining.
I haven’t seen a game hit the portable home console in such a poor state since Troll and I, and, as with that mythical adventure, it hampers the experience so much that Fimbul soon started to challenge my tenacity more than it ever managed to entertain. Which is an inevitable shame, because it isn’t a game without glimpses at its promise.
You play as the aging berserker Kveldulver, who, after defending his village from a raid, is left mortally wounded by his brother, Knut. However, the Norns, who, as a quick recap, are female beings that rule the destiny of Gods and men, choose to save him from the afterlife. His altered fate instead sees Kveldulver trek across Midgard to hide Ymnerfir – an ancient amulet that he has been entrusted with – in the hope that it will prevent the end of the world.
Such a heroic tale is told through comic strips, that, unvoiced and lacking accompanying audio, fail to ever make as much impact as they could have done despite their commendable detail. These are interspersed with the main gameplay experience, which largely sees you run across the frozen landscape until you reach your next battle encounter. Because when you’re not running around looking for runestones to activate, the developer busies the rest of your time with combat.
This fundamentally works well for the most part, although a lack of depth means that these encounters quickly descend into repetition. You fight your many enemies with a sword or axe coupled with a shield, coming to rely on a Light Attack (X Button), Heavy Attack (Y Button), Block (L Button) and an evasive Roll (A Button) to keep yourself out of harm’s way while dealing damage to fell your attackers. There are also spears that you can pick up to hurl as a ranged attack, but, really, it’s far more important to aim to build combos as much as possible. That’s because you will build combo points that can be used to perform special attacks, whether that be a Knockdown, Execution, or spawning a Health Banner that will, unsurprisingly, steadily restore your health in chunks.
The combat system works but it is unremarkable, a complaint that is accentuated thanks to the fact that even the boss encounters never manage to excite. Early on you somewhat bafflingly stumble into a gargantuan troll in a clearing crammed with random wooden barrels – easily defeating it by mindlessly hacking at his heels and healing as necessary. This simplicity is indicative of what is to come, Fimbul never making the player feel threatened in the situations that they wander into nor thrilled when mashing buttons to move past them.
Zaxis Games look to deliver something more meaningful in The Thread of Life, which lets you return to critical junctures in the story when you are asked to make a decision that would lead you down differing narrative paths. But even these choices feel meaningless, becoming another bright-eyed ambition for the game that ends up lacking the intended gravitas to make the player even hesitate or reconsider their decision enough to revisit them.
The end result is that Fimbul is a soulless experience that never amounts to much more than something that will forever represent the developer’s unrealized vision. Throwing the unpredictable bugs, glitches, and wayward problems that are present on Nintendo Switch into consideration, it’s hard to not come to the conclusion that you’d be better off simply leaving it to someone else to prevent Ragnarök from happening.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Wild River Games