Son of Nor on PC
One of the greatest assets of the indie gaming world presently, without a doubt, is Kickstarter. Enabling any team with the skill to convince strangers to pledge their funds to an ambitious project, it allows for the creation of games that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. If I had to pick a single word for my initial impressions of stillalive studios’ Son of Nor, “ambitious” leads the pack. Putting together a scope normally reserved for triple-A titles, this bold crowdfunded game seeks to challenge the big names in gaming while still keeping to the small-team feel that makes indie games something special. With such lofty goals and complex gameplay, does this title stand on its own, or will it sink into the endless sands of the gaming industry?
Son of Nor is set in the rich, desert-heavy world of Norshrac, putting players in the role of one of the legendary Sons of Nor, powerful magic-users that are the last force keeping humanity from the brink of extinction. A dangerous world inhabited by deadly creatures, precarious traps, and a savage reptilian race known as the Sarahul. As the first to discover magic, the Sarahul subjugated the humans, using them as slaves until the gift of magic awoke in the first Son of Nor, setting the stage for a brutal war that left humanity decimated and forced to flee to the furthest corners of the desert wastes, seemingly doomed to eke by in secret away from the Sarahul that sought to stamp them out entirely.
Decades later, the humans continue to scrape out their lives in these desolate lands and hope to avoid the notice of Sarahul scouting parties that search Norshrac for any of their ancient foes.
Son of Nor plays as a third-person adventure game, starting players off with character creation that, while mostly aesthetic, still affords some customization. Players are then introduced to the Edge, the last bastion of human existence. This will serve as a hub for many portions of the game, and is also the location of the temple that the Sons of Nor call home.
Armed with potent magic, these warriors use telekinesis to manipulate objects, strike enemies, and shift the sands beneath their feet to suit their needs. As one of these brave soldiers, players will be tasked with helping the village, fighting off Sarahul attacks, and uncovering dangerous plots that threaten the future of the species. In addition to these inborn powers, players will gradually gain access to powerful wind and fire spells that add to their arsenal and increase their natural talents.
While Son of Nor does struggle a bit, with controls taking some time to get the hang of and some lagging during certain portions, on the whole the game runs pretty well, and once players have a handle on how to use their powers, they’re a ton of fun. Most areas in the game are full of plenty of objects that can be lifted, moved, or tossed with telekinesis, offering a wide array of means to fight. These magic powers are also used for more than just combat, allowing the movement of doors, elevators, and complex puzzle components that will need to be put just right in order to progress.
An early mission into a long-forgotten temple, for example, will have players rotating huge platforms to build a way across to reach the inner areas. This unique application of the player’s abilities keeps things fresh without adding too many new things to learn or making things too complicated to be enjoyable.
I said before that the word I’d use to describe Son of Nor is “ambitious”. This is as much a compliment of the developing team’s vision as it is a commentary on the rough edges of the game. Still, given the bugs and glitches that gamers have come to expect even when the most high-profile studios are involved, Son of Nor puts together a phenomenal experience that is innovative, adventurous, and plenty fun to play. While some cutscenes are stiff and the voice acting and writing are short of what one might find from a more well-known development team, it’s pretty top-notch for the indie crowd.
With a reasonable $19.99 price on Steam, stillalive clearly knows its place in the market, but without sacrificing on the effort that clearly went into creating the game. While the less-polished feel may be a downside for some, I’d still say Son of Nor is worth a look for anyone who can see past minor flaws and enjoy a game for its potential, creative direction, and ability to break from the pack and put together something special.