Report Card: Spirit of the North (REVIEW)

Video games over the last couple of generations have been able to transport us to truly wondrous places. We’ve arrived at a point where the artistry of the game designers can rise up to the imagination of the players who explore these worlds. Where we once used to have to look passed the graphical limitations of older technology we now are treated to truly fantastic landscapes and expertly crafted worlds in our video game entertainment. Spirit of the North is a game that understands this and how games can not only transport us to tranquil and beautiful vistas, but they can also influence our feelings and emotions through their artistry.

Spirit is the story of a Fox who must traverse the Icelandic wilderness, aided by a spirit guide in order set right a great calamity and restore balance once again to the land. The tale of the Fox and his companion is told entirely through environmental storytelling and also speechless interactions of the characters on screen. It is a quiet and intentional pace that the game sets and you should expect to have a very relaxed and laid back time with the game as you traverse beautiful and wide open landscapes on your journey. And speaking of journey, Spirit of the North seems to be heavily inspired by that iconic game in almost every facet. The more you play Spirit the more apparent this becomes and the experience begins to feel less like an homage and more like the developers at Infuse Studios were simply repurposing almost every idea that Journey presented. Everything from murals that light up with magical energy to tell the story of what happened to the world, to the horizon having a giant mountain as an end point to your journey throughout the game, to the way your character has to infuse himself with light to gain powers, it is inescapable how much Journey casts a shadow on this game.

One way in which Spirit differentiates itself however is in the powers that you will receive throughout your quest. At key checkpoint moments you will come across large stone totems which will grant you magical powers that help you navigate some of the puzzles in the game. While the puzzles themselves are never very challenging and won’t have you thinking very long about how to progress, I don’t think that’s the point in a game like this. The puzzles and the powers provide just enough variety to the gameplay that it keeps the whole thing feeling fresh while also serving the more relaxed and zen undertone that Infuse Studios wants to achieve here. To have puzzles that are overly challenging would hurt that experience. It’s a balancing act however as while that sense of easiness suits the quiet meditative feel of Spirit of the North, it also eliminates any feeling of consequence as you play, and your actions can feel like they don’t have much weight as there is never really any challenge or skill required.

All that being said Spirit of the North is an enjoyable experience that I found myself quite charmed by. The landscapes are stunning as your fox crosses over snow capped mountains, explores dark caves and tombs, and even swims through hot springs. It all looks fantastic and the entire experience is accented by a wonderful soundtrack. It is very evident that Spirit of the North is a passion project and the artistry at work here is very impressive, if a little unoriginal. The feeling of calm is a nice change of pace from some of the more action oriented games we see on the market. In the end I enjoyed my time with Spirit of the North, it is a relaxing and meditative walk through a beautiful world that I’ve never seen before. And while it is not a completely original gaming experience I nonetheless enjoyed my time in the great North.

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