Every so often, I like to lay off of the violent, high-action games that I usually turn to and play something a little more laid-back that doesn’t cause me to have to use my brain too much. While I don’t have a lot of games like this in my collection, it was nice to see something like that was being released along side the launch of the PS5. Needless to say, when I was presented with the opportunity to review Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition, I jumped at the chance to see what Merge Games had on offer. Based on Nordic folklore and set in the beautiful environs of Iceland, this is a 3rd-person adventure game that had the potential to be something special but unfortunately fell flat.
The story behind Spirit of the North is that you are a fox that has been tasked with discovering how an ancient, once prosperous civilization suddenly disappeared. With the help of the Guardian of the Northern Lights, you’ll traverse the frozen tundra, snow-covered glaciers, and rocky mountainsides as you follow a foreboding scarlet trail that paints the sky on your journey to shed light on the ruins of the past. The issue I have with this is that this is all information that I learned from the games website, and not from the game itself. The game immediately sets you on your journey but it doesn’t do a good enough job of letting the player know exactly why she/he should even care. I eventually got a somewhat adequate understanding of what was going on about an hour or so into the game, but it would have been nice if the game was able to communicate the situation to you a little better.
Gameplay is fairly simple and has you trekking your way across the various Icelandic landscapes on foot, of course. You can run if you need to cut across a large expanse quickly as well as jump your way to rocky ledges or over obstacles. There are also environmental elements like geysers and ice slides that you can use to continue on your journey. The issue with the jumping mechanic is that it is way too floaty and made for a lot of difficulty when trying to pull off precision jumps. There was a confusing section early on that saw the little fox injure his paw, so you can only walk at a snails pace which made it seem way longer that it actually was, taking me immediately out of the experience.
The environmental puzzles are what you expect to get in a game like this but they seemed very uninspired and predictable. These simply involve you using the geysers to reach hard to jump to areas or rocky platforms that teeter on top of a rock fulcrum in order to also reach hard to jump to places. There are staves that you can pick up in your mouth and place at the side of the various corpses that you will come across. Doing this sets the souls of these ancient settlers free and allows them to travel to the afterlife. There is not a whole lot else to do so most of the game is spent running to the next area.
The visuals in the game are actually the high point of the whole game. The environments are varied enough that I never felt like I was spending too much time looking at the same thing. The graphics looked amazing on my 4K television and being able to see every hair on the fox articulate was actually very impressive. The music is also an aspect that the developers should be very proud of. However, you will hear the same song played repeatedly during the regular sequences of the game so you may get a little tired of hearing it after awhile.
Overall, while the premise of the game really had great potential, I feel that it just doesn’t offer enough to justify the cost of admission on this one. Feeling like I don’t know what’s going on in the game while I am playing it is not fun at all and it just seems like a lot of what happens in the game depends on your prior knowledge of Nordic folklore. This game would be perfect for younger players or an adult that is just looking for something easy to platinum. It just doesn’t grab you and pull you in and with the number of games in this genre, you can just simply find better alternatives.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Gameplay - 4/10
Design - 2/10
challenge - 3/10
Follow a mysterious Spirit Fox across a land left in ruin to discover more about a lost civilization.
+ Beautiful landscapes of Iceland. + Awesome soundtrack and ambient sound effects
– Poor jumping mechanic. – Many areas see you just running through them. – Uninspired environmental puzzles.
David is a native of Denver, CO who grew up at a time when the video game craze was just getting a foothold in the consciousness of people all over America. His earliest exposure to video games was...