Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, terraforming sand and terrorizing villagers with Son of Nor.
I lift my hands and the sand at my feet forms into a towering pillar. I point my palms down and the sand retreats, creating a deep sinkhole. I am a Son of Nor, a mystic imbued with telekinetic powers and charged with the protection of my village. And I'll totally get around to protecting my village at some point. For reals, you guys, I will. Right now, though, I'm trying to raise a sand pillar high enough to cover the buttcrack of the giant nude statue that looms over the town. Why? I have my reasons, and those reasons are: I have sand powers and there's a giant elevated stone butt.
Manipulating sand isn't the the only thing I can do in Son of Nor, a third-person action-adventure telekinesis-em-up. I can lift individual boulders and throw them at lizard-men, who keep attacking my village for reasons I wasn't patient enough to sit through an entire cut-scene to understand. I can also levitate myself and any objects around me, then fling those objects in a rapid-fire attack. But the terraforming power is easily the most fun: it's like using a map terrain editor while you're physically standing in the map.
Is there a ledge too high to reach? I just lift a tower of sand and run up it like a ladder. Are there enemies or NPCs around? I can pull the sand into a mound and watch them surf unsteadily down the side, push them all over the map with sand waves, or trap them in holes. Is there an enormous ugly naked monster statue looming over my town? I can bury its feet and try to create a sandpile big enough to cover its massive buttcrack.
It's hard, important work, trying to cover that butt with sand: the sand only rises so high, and topples a bit when I turn off my powers. But progress can be made, slowly, shifting sand here and there and building mounds on top of mounds. Soon I've got a tower pressing directly against the statue's stone cheeks. I can't quite cover the crack with sand, but from my perspective, at least, with sand blowing around at the top of the pillar, it does give the impression that the statute is passing gas. It's not quite what I hoped for, but it'll do. For now.
Lest you think I've been spending all my time trying to cover a butt with sand, rest assured, I spent almost two minutes doing actual game-sponsored tasks. Some lizard-men attacked the town, and I threw rocks at them, which sounds like fun but sort of wasn't. The rocks hit them and they sort of just fall over. I also picked up a lizard-man with telekinesis and dropped him in a pool of water, which apparently killed him, because what does a reptile know about swimming? Probably nothing.
I did some chores, too. A villager's rainstick caught fire, and I lifted it with my telekinesis and dunked it in the town's water supply, then returned it to her. She then walked away, leaving her enormous rainstick lying on the sand, right where it had originally caught fire. This seemed irresponsible of her, not to mention rude, so I used my powers to form a pit, trapping her, and dropped her stupid rainstick in for good measure. Then I buried the town's water supply in sand to teach the entire town a lesson about what happens when you're not super-grateful to me for doing magic things.
After another half-hour spent sending NPCs sliding all over the town with my sand powers, I decide that for the sake of this column I should probably do an actual quest or something. So, here I am, following two evil guys through a temple, for reasons. I'm instructed by the game not to be seen, as if this were Assassin's Creed, but I'm pretty sure they see me at one point since they both stop talking and run over and stare at the rock I'm hiding behind for a solid minute. I cleverly fall off the ledge behind the rock and almost die, though, and they go back to walking and discussing their evil plans in loud voices. Soon, they disappear into a temple filled with puzzles that can conveniently be solved with telekinesis powers.
I'll be honest: I wasn't expecting much from the puzzles, and I'll be honest again and say that I was wrong, the puzzles are quite puzzling, both in good ways and bad. One puzzle involving a massive passageway makes me quite angry because nothing has really prepared me for it, while another involving pillars carved with runes is really wonderful and satisfying to solve. A beam of light and a bunch of adjustable mirrors on the wall, well, that's just something ancient law required temple builders to include.
There's also a boss-fight against another telekinetic, where I discover a hidden talent: dying every few seconds because the combat is really not very good. It's unfortunate! All the tools for great telekinesis fights are there: hurriedly building a sand tower to shield against objects flung at me, levitating a whole mess of stuff and rapid-firing it at the enemy, those are cool ideas. Somehow, it just doesn't work very well in practice. I hope it will someday. Chucking boulders with telekinesis and building sand-shields should be more fun than this.
My puzzle-solving arms me with a new power, wind, which I can pull from vents and use to push back enemies or wind-charge the objects I'm levitating to give them a greater impact. Unfortunately, there are also some new enemies, these crawling packs of scarab beetles, which are incredibly irritating. Their squirming and scratching noises are gross, constant, unbearable. I'm really not bugaphobic at all, but I had to turn off my speakers while I figured out how to escape the temple in the dark using wind-rocks.
I return to my village to gaze upon an unspeakable horror: the sand I so carefully and laboriously piled up under the statue's ass has been returned to the center of the village and neatly flattened. Heathens! What makes you think you are worthy to undo the work of Nor-El! There's some sort of town meeting happening with people discussing things, and they want to send me to some fire temple to get fire powers, but I'm so enraged and not interested that I decide to imprison the entire population in a sandhole right in the middle of their meeting. It takes a long time, about as long as it took me to reach the statue's butt, but I do it, hunting down stragglers, pushing them around with sand pillars, and finally depositing them in the pit while they continue to conduct their meeting as if I weren't there using awesome sand magic on them.
I played version 0.5.2.6150 for this column. Sand powers: lots of fun! Other parts: not so much, at least not yet. I would like to say kudos to the developer, stillalive studios, for including an in-game bug reporting tool. More (all!) early access games should try to do this.