I’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of Son of Nor, because before I got my review copy, nor had I. It’s not a AAA title – it’s the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that launched way back in April 2013. 2244 backers pledged $151 175 to bring the game to life. Now, two years down the line, Son of Nor has finally been released. It’s an interesting game, combining action and puzzling. Is it worth your time and money though?
The opening cinematic brings you up to speed on the fascinating lore. You are a Son of Nor, a human mage living with what is left of humanity. You see, the humans almost met their extinction during The Great War, a war brought on by the Sarahul – a lizard-like race of beings. They fought and enslaved the humans, driving them to the very brink of existinction. One human enclave managed to escape however, and they set up a camp far, far away, in the Noshrac desert.
It has been a peaceful, Sarahul-free time for the last 400 years. As it happens though, the lizards have spent all that time looking, and they’ve finally succeeded in locating the human’s hidden paradise. It’s up to you, a Son of Nor, to defend the people.
Thankfully, your years of training have paid off. You are a powerful mage with access to many abilities. You only start off with telekinesis, but you’ll pick up the use of goodies such as Wind, Fire, and Spirit along the way. While those last few are definitely useful, and much more fun to use, it’s telekinesis you’ll be using the most.
It has a ton of different applications. For example, you can terraform sand; raising it up to give you access to a vantage point, or use it to create some quick cover for oncoming arrows and spells. You can pick up nearby objects, rocks in particular are scattered everywhere, and throw them straight into the faces of those who mean you harm.
You can pick up enemies too if you wish, one at a time, and, I don’t know, throw them off a cliff, or roast them over a nearby campfire, or do whatever you want for that matter. I found that the most efficient way to dispose of threats was to simply pick them up and throw them up into the air, letting gravity do the rest. This is easily one of the highlights of Son or Nor – you determine how you want to handle whatever dire situation faces you.
Another strength of the game is its puzzles. When I embarked on my journey, I full expected to be confronted with hordes of enemies around each corner for the duration. Instead, spaced nicely between all the action, sit some rather tough, head scratching dilemmas. At least, until you figure them out and you realise you’ve been blind the whole time. Still, it’s fun, and the game gets you to use your powers in different ways to overcome various obstacles or puzzles.
Sadly though, that is about the extent of what makes Son of Nor really good. There are some issues that really show how rough the title is around the edges.
Characters do not seem to have any kind of animation beyond simple nodding and basic gestures while speaking, and enemies were, for lack of a better word, dumb. They rush at you in droves, showing no real signs of intelligence. There is some variety to them at least, which is a good thing.
In terms of visuals, there were often times, and I can’t quite explain this feeling, that I felt like I was playing one of the original Unreal titles from back in the day. Some locales are repetitive, and some objects appear to be far too big. One library for example, had huge shelves packed with books the size of large files. It didn’t look or feel right at all. It’s the sort of thing I remember seeing in games in my younger days.
Bugs are plentiful, too. I nearly had to start the game again at one point. A key object I needed went missing. I searched every inch of the map, and it was simply gone. No amount of reloading the game seemed to fix this problem. Thankfully, I had a quicksave of the previous level. If I didn’t, I would’ve lost out on six hours of progress.
There were other moments where dying spawned me ahead of where I was, or triggered some event that wasn’t meant to happen just yet. It was disconcerting, pulling me away from the overall immersion of the game.
The story is nothing to write home about in any case though. It’s a pity really, because the lore is a genuinely a pretty canvas for what could’ve been a fantastic story. You as the character are lead from one event to another without any solid explanations. If a random NPC tells you to do something, you do it, even if it makes no sense for you to accept that certain task so willingly. Things rush along a little too quickly.
I know these are problems that may have been resolved had the studio consisted of a larger team or had a bigger budget. For all the negative though, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a fun eight hours with Son of Nor. The powers could’ve been fleshed out more perhaps, but they were fun to use regardless.
There are some neat ideas here, they just needed to be expanded upon. I would not say no to a sequel (which the conclusion seems to imply), because if StillAlive Studios can work on implementing their ideas better, learn from the mistakes of this title, and spend more time polishing, they could have a real gem on their hands in future. As it stands now though, Son of Nor is a mediocre title, one I’m not sure every person will enjoy.
Last Updated: April 17, 2015