Son Of Nor Preview – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Son of Nor Preview



Terraforming. The art or act of shaping the earth or ground at your feet. This hasn’t always gone hand in hand with gaming. There have definitely been exceptions: Minecraft and Terraria spring to mind, since they technically allow you to freely break and re-arrange the ground. The only problem is that these games use a grid-like system, restricting terraforming to blocks. There have been very valiant attempts at a less restrictive terraforming system, like Planet Explorers or the very disappointing Star Forge (which, incidentally, has also been featured on this site). Ambitious games like these either in very early stages or have been scrapped altogether. I can gladly say that another ambitious terraformer in early stages has been released, namely Son of Nor.

Now, when you first start up Son of Nor, you’re taken to a character select screen. You can choose between a handful of presets, and change some palettes around if you wish, though it really doesn’t make a difference. Once you’ve made your minor differences, you’re treated to a cut scene filled to the brim with exposition, something with humans and humanoid reptilian creatures. The reptiles go bad (because reptiles are always bad for some reason in all media. Ever.) and they enter a war or something. That’s the backdrop of this game, anyway.

Once that’s out of the way, you find you character at a rocky path. You’re taught the basic controls of the game before being introduced to one of the most interesting concepts I’ve ever had in a game. Not the terraforming (though I’ll get to that), but how death works in this universe. Once you defeat an enemy or other person, they turn to a sandy statue of themselves. They won’t reanimate once they’re in this state, so it reminded me of instant rigor mortis, which is a bit grim whether you see them as a statue or not. But once they’re no longer a threat, you can leave them be. Or do what I do, use your awesome telekinetic powers (Yeah, you have those. Forgot to mention) to pick up the scaly statue and launch it at his buddies. This in turn can cause enough damage to turn them into statues, and the cycle continues. Plus the statues themselves shatter with enough impact, which is always entertaining to watch.

The actual terraforming in Son of Nor is brilliant, but unfortunately limited. You can’t actually contort the ground itself, rather you contort sand which, as abundant as it is, just isn’t the same. You can do two things, make sand rise, and make it fall. This can be used for many different things. Reach new heights. Clear pathways. Put enemies off balance. Hell, if you can manipulate the ground well enough you can suffocate others, too. This coupled with the telekinesis makes for a really interesting and unique play style, one where you don’t use actual weapons, just objects you find lying around and the immediate environment. You can pull objects towards you and, obviously, fire them away. You also have a mass-grab that can attract everything around you. You can then use all these objects as a continuous stream of rocks, statues, vases and other heavy things to fling at the enemy, all of which being incredibly entertaining and satisfying. It’s just a shame that pretty much everything else about Son of Nor is mediocre at best.

For one the game runs terribly. I think the peak FPS (Frames Per Second) I hit was about 20, which is ridiculous. This performance coming from a pretty high end PC is unacceptable. There’s no voice acting in the game (apart from the beginning cut scene, which wasn’t amazing), which means a lot of reading. If you’re reading this, I assume that you aren’t opposed to reading, but having voice actors creates immersion. It makes you want to do well and help the characters. If every character just communicates with a wall of text, it doesn’t make them unique. You won’t remember any of them. Overall, it creates a lack of empathy, you have no reason to care about their problems.

The audio is unimpressive. No epic battle themes, no catchy tunes, nothing will stick in your head. The most common sound effects heard will be the impact of enemies being hit with various types of heavy object, and the “whoosh” of sand rising and sinking. The aforementioned lack of voice acting underlines the lack of variety in the game’s audio.

The graphics look like they belong on an early Xbox 360 game, not a 2014 PC game. Indie games can often pass on their own merits without featuring the smoothest polygons, but they’re noticeably low-resolution takes away from the experience. The skyboxes are pretty enough, but that’s just literally one photo. Lizard creatures are uninspired enemies, and have no variation at all.

And while I hardly pick fault with any single mission or quest with most games, one point really got to me. Some idiotic woman left a stack of scrolls right next to her open fire. She then complains to put it out before it’s completely incinerated. Luckily, there’s a pool of water to drop the scroll in. Mission accomplished, right? Well, she then asks for the scroll to be brought back to her. So I place it at her feet. She looks at me blank faced, dead in the eye and asks for her scrolls back. So I place it right next to the fire that caused it in the first place. She still insists that I haven’t given them back. I tried for minutes. Minutes, I say! In the end I became slightly annoyed, so I launched the scroll at her with terminal velocity. It hit her square in the face, the impact turning her to stone. Her petrified form then flew into the sky, smashed into the ground and exploded into a million, immensely rewarding pieces. Technically, she got what she wanted. While this probably felt much better than simply handing the mission in, I still wish I had the choice to complete the quest.

Son of Nor is an interesting specimen. It has brilliant mechanics and the makings of an amazing game, possibly even a series. But small irritations every now and again add up to one overbearing issue which never moves from the back of your mind, and my gripes are too great to recommend this game. At least in the form it is now.Keep an eye on this one, wait for it to get some bug fixes and updates.