By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Son of Nor is an upcoming Action-Adventure game set in a world where humanity is on its last legs and is fighting for survival against an evil power. The game features the ability to control various powers – such as telekinesis or elemental-based abilities – in order to solve puzzles or battle foes. There is also co-op and PVP support, for those who wish to play with friends. One feature that makes Son of Nor shine is the support for various peripherals, such as the Oculus Rift, Steelseries Sentry Eye tracker, or the eMotiv EPOCH brain-computer interface. Son of Nor certainly appears to have what it takes to be a fun game, so lets see how it stands up to review!
Customization is sparse in Son of Nor. As the game is recently released, perhaps more customization options will be released in later updates. But for now, you’ll be working with few options. For the most part, your gender and physical features seem to be dictated by the “Backstory” you choose for your character. After that, you can customize the costume a bit, but even here options are sparse. The method that is used was a bit odd and definitely not what I’m used to. In short, the customization in Son of Nor can be summarized as, “Meh,” but clearly this isn’t what was selling us on the game to begin with.
Graphics are definitely not the strong point of Son of Nor either. No, the strong points are the peripheral support and interesting gameplay mechanics. But the graphics aren’t as much of a weak point as the customization. They look good for what the game is. While I was playing, I wasn’t blown away by what I saw – some games make me spam my screenshot button hundreds of times and awe me with beautiful vistas around every corner. But I never saw something that disappointed me when it came to the graphics, either.
In general, the graphics weren’t something I thought about. Which isn’t a bad thing, but not a good thing either. The style is quite realistic in proportions and sizes, but perhaps some of the coloring felt a bit more cartoony, which I enjoyed. I always appreciate a realistic style of graphics with games that turn you into a “superhuman” as I find it becomes a lot more immersive. So the graphics of Son of Nor get a passing grade from me.
The game has great lighting though.
That’s not to say that the game was devoid of beauty. There were indeed some amazing vistas for me to view. And some of the architecture was stunning. The fact that the game uses a very minimalist UI (absolutely none, most of the time) makes it incredibly easy to view these infrequent-yet-beautiful landscapes. After playing the first handful of missions, your first larger open area will probably make you say, “Wow,” because of how different it is compared to the rest of the game.
This is one of those moments where I did say, “Wow.”
For the most part, the controls in Son of Nor were easy to pick up. Basically, if you’ve ever played an adventure game on the computer with a keyboard and mouse, you will almost immediately know what you’re doing. The game did support controllers, but I choose not to use it as I figured this would be a game that benefited from precision. One thing I did not get to try (but perhaps I will in the future) was playing the game with some of the extra peripherals that the game is advertised as supporting. I’ve read up on all of them prior to hearing about Son of Nor – especially the Rift and Epoch – and playing Son of Nor with them would more than likely be an incredible experience. You’ve probably heard of the Rift before, but if you haven’t heard of the eMotiv Epoch I highly suggest you head to youtube and check out some of the fun stuff you can get into with it. It’s one of the really, truly innovative ways that I’ve seen to interact with a game. But fear not, if you’re like me and do not own any of these extra peripherals, the game is still fantastic.
The game is designed with controller support. This is great, as I always love having the option in games (though not so much in games like Son of Nor that can require some finely-tuned aiming). I honestly don’t think that Son of Nor would be the greatest game to play with a controller. But if you’re playing using the Oculus Rift, I can definitely see where controller support would come in handy. It’s probably not impossible to use a keyboard and mouse with the Rift, though it’s probably a heck of a lot easier just using a controller.
The community of Son of Nor is a bit small as the game just entered limited testing last week. I imagine that it will stay that way – the game feels like it will only be popular with a niche, especially those that own the peripherals I mentioned above. This is mostly because, while the game does have very fun PVP and an interesting single player story campaign, it has a very tech-demo feeling to it (which I will get into more in the Gameplay section). The community does seem to be active, if close-knit, though. But this will definitely be one of those games you will want to get together and play with friends over TS or Skype rather than rely on random people to play with.
It’s a complete game and worth the money if you’re into the concepts (if you’re an Avatar the Last Airbender fan, you’ll probably be a fan of Son of Nor), but there’s a overall feeling that the game was made to present the cool terraforming, telekinesis, and elemental powers rather than convey a story or experience-driven narrative like most games do. That is, it feels like the story and single player campaign was a tacked on after-thought (not to belittle the story, which is actually quite interesting!), rather than a forethought and integral part of the game.
One of the coolest portions of the game is the ability to terraform. This is restricted to sand, which is understandable considering the game takes place in a desert. The actions you can do with the sand are limited – just raising or lowering – but the game does a great job of giving your opportunities to use this in creative ways. For example, you may need to raise yourself to reach a high place, or lower the sand into a pit so that a trap won’t hit you. Plus it’s just plain fun. I figure that this is the major way which the eMotiv support will come into play; imagine controlling the sand with your mind.
The campaign, despite being a bit rough around the edges, is actually interesting and can be fun. There were some parts that had me wondering why they were even included, but then there were other portions that really made the experience. The story behind Son of Nor was able to keep my attention, too. If the creator of the story were to author a book based on it, I would buy and read that book. Not many game stories make me think that.
There are also elemental powers. Unlike with telekinesis and terraforming, you are limited to how often you can make use of your elemental powers. You can recharge your crystals (which sit conveniently at your characters back so you can easily see how much charge they have) by consuming elemental powers from various things in the world. For example, you can absorb wind energy from special vents or even mini-tornadoes that show up in the desert. Personally, I had more fun making use of my other powers rather than the elemental abilities.
A big feature of the single-player campaign are the puzzles. If you’re the type who enjoys figuring out how to accomplish tasks in some abstract ways, you’ll probably have a blast in Son of Nor. Some of the puzzles even made me think of Portal. Different methods of completing the puzzles, obviously, but a very similar feeling when you figure out how you were supposed to get past a particular level. So this is definitely one of the strong points of Son of Nor, and something they perhaps should have stuck to more closely. But I understand, combat needed to be included, too. Also, props for having the whole game voice-acted and writing in characters that are actually humorous.
One of the more memorable puzzles I came across was this room. The goal is to rotate each ring to make it possible to jump from one to the next to get to the other side. It’s also one of the more early examples of puzzles in the game and it definitely wasn’t the most difficult. But it felt a lot like if Indiana Jones and Avatar: The Last Airbender were molded into one concept. Right after this room is another room where the goal is a bit more traditional: Re-direct beams of light using moveable mirrors.
Combat in Son of Nor is actually one of the more brain-intensive combat systems I’ve come across, in some ways. It’s not as simple as just hacking and slashing your way through enemies or spamming your 1-0 keys to throw fireballs and ice beams. You might come across an enemy that has a shield and wonder why you can’t do anything. So you try to pick him up, but he wont be raised and then you realize you have to first telekinesis his shield away before you can damage him. Or you may be out of fire energy but have some left over wind energy with a nearby campfire and use the wind to blow a burst of flame into your opponents. It feels a lot like Magicka in some ways.
There were some annoyances with the combat system. Mostly, that stems from the ability to attack allies. A lot of the time, this wont be an issue. But there are a few times – such as when in the central “hub village” you are trying to protect – where there are friendly NPCs around and one accidental telekinesis push or flying pot gone awry could result in them becoming hostile to you. This is slightly annoying, but not so bad. You just let them kill you and get on with your life, right? Nope. No matter how many times you die to these angry NPCs, you’ll have to manually reset the level for them to stop attacking you on sight.
Such a short fall has my character almost dead.
Not directly related to combat, but kinda applicable, is how easy it is to die from falling. Anything over a few feet will probably result in some damage to yourself. Which brings up something interesting; the game is devoid of gore so far as I could tell. Rather than there being gushes of blood, your character (and other enemies) slowly turn to sand the more damage they take. Some may be disappointed by this, other may not care (like myself), and still others may actually find this appealing. So if you’re looking for a game with a lack of gore, Son of Nor is something you should look into.
Most of the levels are linear. A handful are larger and more open, allowing for some real exploration, but most just seem like a ride-on-rails adventure. Each level has one or more collectibles that can be gathered. Most of them give things like NPCs that you can spawn in the Proving Grounds. So there’s a real reason to go out of your way to get them.
There’s no arguing about it, Son of Nor is an innovative game. It offers the ability to play a game in ways that haven’t been explored much in any other title. The story feels a bit like an Indiana Jones Adventure (or even like Uncharted) mixed with Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you’re a fan of either, you will probably get some joy out of playing Son of Nor. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to make use of any of the extra peripherals that I feel like Son of Nor was created to help showcase – how awesome would it have been to play the game in first-person with the Rift while raising and lowering sand with my mind? The game is definitely worth looking into, I think!
Features: 4/5 – Some very innovative gameplay features.
Customization: 2/5 – Honestly not much.
Graphics: 3.5/5 – Good, but not great.
Controls: 4/5 – No real issues except for a few minor annoyances.
Community: 3/5 – Small, but nice.
Overall: 4/5 – Definitely worth looking into, especially if your interest lay in VR tech like the Oculus Rift or eMotiv Epoch!