First it's important to note, that this title is the result of a Kickstarter project with a rather small budget. The developers put a lot of effort to make the most out of it, so it can be easy to forget that it's just a very small indie game and should be considered as such.
"Son of Nor" is a combination of adventure, action and puzzle game built around an unique combat mechanic: Instead of using normal (or abnormal) weapons, you command the world and the elements around you using your extraordinary telekinetic and elemental-magical powers.
These powers remind of "The Force Unleashed", the puzzles and archeological adventures of "Tomb Raider".
But the "Son of Nor" is not only a mere explorer: the destiny of his race, that fled into a hidden refuge from the threat of total extinction 400 years ago, depends on him, his special powers and his wits. If you are smart, you can even decipher an ancient alphabet to reveal the secrets of a past long-gone and the frightening future soon to come.
No worries though, the gameplay itself is rather streamlined and its puzzles where reduced in complexity so that even less patient players should not have much problems to move on. The more challenging riddles are only optional and give access to collectibles, more powerful spells and insight into the surprisingly elaborated plot.
So even if some aspects seem unpolished and far from state-of-the-art, the conception of the game flow is certainly not one of them, and this is an outstanding achievement. There are multiple facets working together hand in hand to make it very dynamic, fluid, complex and offering lots of options, while still being very intuitive:
- The controls are very intuitive and responsive and help to materialize your intentions effortlessly (with some exceptions like rotating objects, jumping and switching specific elemental spells).
- The saving system builds on smart use of checkpoints.
- There is a surprising variety to combine spells and "tricks" with each other. Even after beating the final level of the game you will not have seen them all!
- There is no ammo management.
On your quest you will be able to snatch three energy crystals that each can be filled with three elemental charges of wind, fire and spirit essence obtained from obvious sources in each level.
These sources will regenerate after a small time. This results in a very dynamic gameplay as the powers at your disposal will constantly change. You will run out of elemental power or objects to shoot, but at the same time defeated enemies, dropped weapons or destroyed environment will offer new opportunities. Or you can decide to take the fight close to a source of elemental. It's up to you.
This is definitely a refreshing and unique gameplay and makes "Son of Nor" special and worth of a recommendation!
The presentation is quite good for an indie game, but of course you can't expect a triple A production value.
- The music is very well done and fits perfectly. Especially the combat music is doing it right, it doesn't annoy me like in most other games, and the gentle drum roll that signals the end of each fight is very welcome.
- The voice overs are from top-notch actors and are well done.
- The art concepts and graphics offer a lot of nice sceneries.
- The models are ok for the most parts, but the Sarahuls don't cut it. On the other hand though I am glad that the lizards look a bit goofy and more comical than realistic. This makes sadistically experimenting with them a lot less sick and cynical.
- The animations are acceptable, but lacking in some areas: There are no face animations, and no proper animations of turning characters during cutscenes.
- The graphics engine has nice effects, but in some areas severe performance issues.
Generally the game shows a lot of dedication, but at the same time evolves the certain kind of charm of indie type amateurishness through occasional deficiencies in story telling, presentation and discrepancy between aspiration and delivering.
So even if you are in for nitpicking, you will have a lot of fun dissecting every single flaw of this game.
And most others will enjoy the game in any case.
(There follows the former short version.)
The gameplay of this Kickstarter title is similar to the Jedi Knight series (or sequels), especially "The Force Unleashed", just without any lightsabers or weapons of the normal kind.
Well, except if you are able to telegrab a sword from an enemy, then it can be turned against the former owner – or his boss. I just was able to fatally headshot a boss with the sword of his servant... What can I say, I had no elemental powers left, you gotta take things as opportunities arise! Needless to say that it was very fulfilling to see the blade stick out of his body after it turned to sandstone (as every inhabitant of this world does after death).
This is typical for the very fluent and dynamic gameplay of "Son of Nor", you make your plans up on the fly and intuitively improvise your attack strategy. The very intuitive and responsive controls almost always do what you want to do (except for the lack of ability to rotate things). This is done much better than in "The Force Unleashed".
The checkpoint saving system is subtle and smart; a big improvement over the quicksave failure in games like "Jedi Knight / Outcast / Academy" which ruined the gameflow for me.
The production value is good – for being an indie title. Nonetheless some people might have to get used to some "cheesiness factor". But once you figured out how to build bridges out of sometimes very strangely twisted bodies of the lizards, you will even begin to nourish a secret love for the Sarahuls.