Son of Nor: Refreshing ideas in harsh conditions

April 16, 2015


Son of Nor is a phenomenal concept wrapped in a subpar engine and combat system. The setting is interesting, lizardmen are cool enemies, and more games could stand to let me ascend by way of wizardly sand elevator instead of plebeian jumping.

Sometime in the past, the titular sons of the moon goddess Nor were attacked and nearly wiped out by the Sarahul, a race of lizard people and the sons of the sun goddess Lur. The humans who escaped have been eking out an existence on The Edge, and the story begins when the Sarahul find them. Well, the levels begin. There is very little to tie events together, and it feels less like a cogent narrative and more like a list of reasons to go to some levels. You’re not the only son (or daughter; the player character is customizable) of Nor, and it’s never really explained why you’re going out to stop the Sarahul or why you’re doing this alone.


Wizards are cool, and I like to play as them. It’s way more fun to shoot fireballs at a guy and then levitate away while laughing maniacally than it is to stand on the ground and soak up damage while other people do all of the flashy stuff. And flashy stuff is what you’re working with here. Sons of Nor can levitate objects and throw them at people. And if your aim is bad (like mine), you can accidentally pick up enemies and throw them at their comrades. Or you can throw them off cliffs. Or high enough into the air that the drop back down kills them. Honestly, after I discovered I could levitate enemies, I quit looking for rocks to pick up.

The only thing that could make picking up people better would be some ragdoll physics. As it is, they go rigid, so it’s more like throwing plastic army men. The same thing happens when they die: it’s lizardman-shaped rocks, and that’s it. You can’t move them, their arms are sticking straight up and you’ll get stuck on them as you try to walk away.

You can also manipulate sand, which sounds like a lame superpower. Since you’re in a desert setting, though, it comes in handy. You can raise sand to create a barrier against incoming projectile weapons, you can lower sand to trap enemies in pits while you throw rocks at them and you can use it to reach otherwise-inaccessible areas. Levitating objects is also handy for making cool wizard paths through the sky.


I expected cool magic powers to come with cooldown timers or mana costs, but there’s none of that here. Raise all the sand you want, throw rocks at lizardmen until you run out of ammo and then throw lizardmen at each other. As long as you’ve got compatible objects or terrain, you can use as much magic as you want. I love that. I’m finally playing as a wizard who feels genuinely powerful and in control of his abilities. And your stable of tricks only grows as the game goes on. Throughout the adventure, you’ll pick up fire, water and wind powers to complement your starting earth abilities.

Playing the game, though, makes me really want a good Avatar game, though, because everything after the design doc phase here is clunky and looks like a PS2 game. Characters run in place during cutscenes, I fell through the floor a lot, NPCs would die only to start talking to me from wherever they fell to and the objective marker simply lit up where I’m supposed to go instead of how to get there. Telling me I should go through that wall isn’t helpful. If I’m in town, just give me a series of waypoints to show me how to get around the wall.

Combat should be a blast. I want it to be fun to throw rocks at lizardmen and trap them in freshly-made sinkholes. Unfortunately, the enemy AI never progresses beyond “there he is, charge!” That’s fine in a Serious Sam game, but all of the abilities on display here lend themselves to a more nuanced combat experience that just isn’t presented to the player. Make me create a barrier to block the force on my flank and then drop another force in a hole and drown them with my newly-acquired water powers. The Sarahul are fighting like I’m B.J. Blazkowicz and can mow them down with a chain gun.


Son of Nor is full of warts, and that makes me sad. There’s clearly a lot of heart here, and you can see how much fun the folks at developer Stillalive want Son of Nor to be. I want that, too, but it’s just not here. As it is, Son of Nor is a fun sandbox, but the combat is too clunky to be fun and the technical issues are too frustrating to overlook.

Pros: Interesting magic system
Cons: Numerous glitches, boring enemy AI, dated visuals, barebones story

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.