By: Ted Chow
If you ever wondered what it feels like to bend elements to your will like Avatar: The Last Airbender, then Son of Nor offers a great sandbox to play as an overpowered bender. With some interesting mechanics in the form of manipulating the environment to your advantage, Son of Nor offers a unique play experience for an indie title that is ripe with potential. Given its crowd funded nature, Son of Nor is a game that is made with much thought and care for the backers.
Controls are your standard third-person setup with the option to play with a controller. The game isn’t shy about the fact that it supports the Xbox controller with an Xbox UI in the background. That aside, the character movement felt pretty responsive to your inputs, though sometimes the game can feel a bit floaty, and this isn’t due to the fact that you can ride sand waves. Movement, overall, can also feel a bit stiff on the characters as the animation and rag doll physics are rather unnatural at times.
The graphics feel a bit inconsistent and prone to frame rate issues and choppiness, even at the lowest settings. While the graphics can look pretty good on the surface, visible technical problems such as texture seams and other irregularities are noticeable. Environment assets, such as the rock cliff formations, feel lazily crafted, but the puzzle environments are pretty well thought out. The soundtrack is generic and doesn’t add much to the game’s ambiance.
Son of Nor offers a unique mechanic in the form of manipulating the environment like an elemental bender. You can summon fiery cyclones, ignite melons into mines and ride sand waves. And it goes without saying that this was one of the most fun aspects of the game as it reminded me of Magicka with the spell combinations.
Mix that in with a bit of cooperative play with a friend and you can come up with interesting combinations to tackle different situations and puzzles. Co-op mode also offers a different experience by offering new content that would otherwise be inaccessible in single player.
The story in Son of Nor isn’t anything to write home about and is more of a medium for you to tackle the fun puzzles and perform some elemental bending. The puzzles require a mixture of problem solving and utilizing your bending abilities to their full effect. They also require some persistence as you may die multiple times before you find the answer. With a large emphasis on these puzzles comes a lot of thought in making them challenging, and the developers did a great job in conveying that part of the game well.
Aside from single player and co-op, there are also the proving grounds, a mode where you can challenge other players in epic bending duels. There you’re brought to an open field with a bunch of natural elements to be used as weapons for your bending powers. Mini cyclones can be harnessed for wind powers and fire camps for fire abilities. There is also plenty of sand to build defensive trenches or sand hills to minimize damage and change the battlefield to your advantage.
Son of Nor also supports other features such as split screen and Oculus Rift, though the Oculus Rift feature would be hard to review due to being inaccessible for most people.
While Son of Nor has a lot of potential, a lack of graphical optimization and a low amount of playable multiplayer maps hinder the overall score. I would’ve liked to have seen more ability powers and support for multiplayer to keep players interested, as the single-player experience loses its novelty much quicker. As a Kickstarter backed game, however, Son of Nor is a great base for the developers to build upon.