by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Not Normal but Nor-mal
You wake up day in and day out, living a normal life. Oh sure, everyone does things a little differently, everyone has their quirks, but the bottom line is we do have the same general trends. Wake up, do 'something', eat, sleep, and then repeat day after day. Whether your life is one of monotony or excitement, more often than not you have a 'normal' trend. Well are you ready for for something that is anything but normal? Then Son of Nor may be a game that will interest you.
Creative and ambitious, Son of Nor attempts to combine elements of story, adventure, and puzzle platforming into a package that will give gamers a bit of a break from not just the norms of real life, but the norms of the gaming world as well. But how well is it executed?
In The Beginning...
Son of Nor opens with a look back at the time passed since the dawn of life, and the conflicts and trials that have lead to the present. The story revolves around the remnants of humanity in their struggle to survive a world terrorized by the Sarahul, a lizard-like race who considers themselves to be above all others. What began as an unsteady peace between races soon fell into the chaos of war, with magic as the catalyst for it all. Magic arrived first to the Sarahul who used their strength in numbers along with their newfound powers to slaughter and enslave as many humans as they could. But then humans are blessed with magic powers of their own. Finally able to strike back at the evil Sarahul, they were still severely outnumbered. With the help of others, the last remnants of humanity safely hid from the terrors their enemies would bring.
Starting strong, the story drops off very quickly after creating a character and completing the optional tutorial level. The interest built in the opening scenes quickly give way to a forgettable through-the-motions story. The writing isn't bad by any means, it just feels like a hodgepodge mashup of several different fantasy stories from throughout the years from different forms of media. Because of this, it often feels generic, and at some points nonsensical. The story didn't reach out to me like I was hoping it would, with the setting and the background having so much potential for being an epic journey from both a narrative and gameplay perspective, I feel ultimately that the story does not do the rest of the game justice.
The World Is Your Weapon
Now that my main gripe is out of the way, I'm going to tell you everything that the game does right. There's not even a shred of exaggeration when I say that this game is an addictively fun title the reminds me of a blend of the much forgotten Psi-Ops and Second Sight mixed with the idea of Inversion but with far better execution. In Son of Nor, the world is your weapon. When the game first begins, you have control of the element of earth as well as telekinesis. At first the controls feel somewhat awkward for your powers but once you get used to them they become second nature and you will truly start feeling like a god among men. For a little while, at least.
As you push onward into the game, you'll find your abilities tested against more numerous enemies, more powerful enemies, and my personal favorite aspect of the game; interesting puzzles that require you to think and use your powers in fluid succession. Speaking of the puzzles, for me they completely stole the show - in a good way. If the game had been all about the puzzles with none of the story or the fighting, I think I would've walked away just as satisfied. Ranging from simplistic platform puzzles to the much more complicated, each and every puzzle served as individual highlights to the game.
There is both an online and local multiplayer component to the game, and while I didn't get to experience the online for more than a very short time, I did check out the local multiplayer. The game doesn't change much when playing it with a friend but it's interesting to bring two characters together and combine their powers.
Son of Nor may not be for everyone. For those looking for the most beautiful or moving game ever, whether visually or from a narrative state, move on. For those who are looking for pure action, you're getting a bit warmer but still quite a ways off. If you want a game filled with a mix of puzzles and combat that leans more towards the former, then you're right on the money. I didn't know what to expect coming into Son of Nor but certainly enjoyed it. I wish the story was a bit more appealing and l could imagine the game rising above itself had the developers scrapped the combat entirely in favor of even more puzzles. Still, it's been a fun ride.
Fun use of the elements that translate well into combat and puzzles.