Spirit of the North is a single player adventure set in Iceland: in the role of a red fox, we will meet the Northern Lights Guardian.
A silent narration to be explored individually, atmospheres with an Icelandic flavor and a symbolic adventure to be experienced as a tender red fox: these are the essential elements that characterize Spirit of the North, work before Infuse Studio. Born in 2015, the small independent software house is made up exclusively of three members: the co-founders and 3D Artist Tayler Christensen and Jacob Sutton and the composer and producer Joseph Gifford.
Developed through the use of the versatile Unreal Engine, L'single player adventure It was the protagonist of a first publication in November 2019, exclusively on PlayStation 4. The May of this year instead saw its arrival also on PC, via Steam, and in the Nintendo Switch catalog. After completing Spirit of the North right on the console of the Kyoto House, the overall feeling is that of being in front of one artistically inspired production, but that turns out technically rather immature. Despite more than intriguing premises, in fact, the creature of Infuse Studio, although not without merits, has not been able to convince us to the end.
The fox and the Northern Lights Guardian
In Finnish, thenorthern Lights it's called "revontulet", literally" fox fires ", in honor of a legend that would like a magical specimen of the animal to be the cause of the majestic natural spectacle. It is perhaps inspired by this and other myths of Nordic folklore, that the development team has chosen to put a pretty one at the center of the events of Spirit of the North Red fox. Protagonist of the adventure, the latter will venture through spectacular panoramas that recall the lands ofIceland, ranging between glaciers, geysers and grasslands.
A thin red line leads the way that unfolds in the skies, dark and disturbing omen of a catastrophe looming over this silent universe. Our agile four-legged alter ego follows in its footsteps, but the dangers it is facing cannot be faced alone. For this reason, to cross the path of the protagonist we immediately find the mysterious Northern Lights Guardian, a female spirit with the appearance of a magical and ethereal silver fox. Initially a simple guide for our adventurer with a crimson cloak, later the fairy creature will become an active helper, giving him different magical powers through which to move in the wild nature and contrast the evil source of corruption that is devouring the essence of this natural Paradise .
No human being populates this alternative version of the Nordic country and the only signs of a pre-existing civilization are the remains of the mansions and mortal remains of ancient shamans. The latter are often located in relatively difficult to reach areas: by placing the magic stick of the ancient owners on the bodies it will be possible to pacify the spirit, who will thank us before dissolving into nothing. The search for the latter mostly represents a fun hunt for collectible items, but in some cases proceeding with this reunification operation will prove to be a necessary means of accessing the next game area.
The adventure of our fox is structured in Chapters, but there is no trace of an explicit narrative. Spirit of the North is indeed completely devoid of dialogue or narrative voice and all that we will learn about the fascinating game world we will have to deduce from magical and luminescent engravings placed in various areas of the map and from what our eyes will be able to detect along the way. To accompany the player along his Icelandic adventure, we therefore find only the soundtrack. Completely orchestral, the latter has few but suggestive pieces, which alternating with silences offer an excellent background to the unstoppable advance of our red fox.
Among geysers, portals and magical totems
The core of the playful experience offered by Spirit of the North translates into a nucleus that overlaps exploration of contained macroareas, resolution of environmental puzzles and passing some sections of platformer. The game world is in fact populated with multiple structures with which our four-legged alter ego can interact. Among the most common elements it is possible to count magic totems, which can be activated to unleash the most disparate effects, ranging from the increase in the level of water contained in a water basin to the opening of real portals capable of let us hover in flight. However, there is no shortage of mobile platforms capable of reacting to our movements or areas that can only be reached through magical devices.
Along the way, in fact, the fox protagonist of the adventure will be able learn different skills, to be unleashed freely as needed. By accumulating a candid energy from small blue flowers scattered in the Iceland of Spirit of the North, the animal will be able to awaken the aforementioned totems, dissolve the harmful scarlet matter that contaminates the game world, take shots in mid-air or, again, summon one for a limited time incorporeal fox through which to explore areas otherwise inaccessible to our material self.
Furthermore, the scarlet creature can take leaps, swim and try short but rapid accelerated. Also noteworthy is the possibility of issuing yelps, an instrument through which we will be able to activate further magical artifacts. As the animal's abilities increase, the proposed environmental puzzles will become more complex, coming to require the player to combine and alternate between different skills to be able to solve them.
The video game experience offered by Spirit of the North is therefore characterized by an increasing level of difficulty, with the final stages that will prove able to test the deductive skills and intuition of the players. However, no challenge is ever excessively complex and the journey through the Icelandic atmospheres is posed above all as a relaxing and engaging emotional journey, able to entertain for an average of about five or six hours, depending on the player's predisposition towards completism and exploration.
Although the dynamics that distinguish the game's puzzles tend to repeat themselves partially, the reduced duration of the experience and the possibility of unlocking new powers as the game progresses prevent the latter from being perceived as redundant.
Where Spirit of the North really lends its side, at least in its Nintendo Switch version, is the technical sector, affected by various problems. Although the glance of some scenarios is made particularly effective by an interesting artistic direction, the experience of travel and exploration is partially compromised by some flaws.
Among the latter, unfortunately, a process stands out progressive loading of textures really too obvious, accompanied by pop-up phenomena: a trend that unfortunately undermines the immersion offered by the otherwise well-kept atmospheres of the game world. To this are added occasional, but still rather annoying, interpenetrations and dynamics of movement rather uncertain for your fox. Obviously, these are not elements that completely invalidate the gaming experience, but they certainly cannot help influencing the overall opinion on the production.
Spirit of the NorthNintendo Switch Analyzed VersionUltimately, Spirit of the North presents itself as an ambivalent product, perhaps also as a consequence of the very small composition of the development team. An evocative artistic component, an interesting soundtrack and a narrative that, although silent, is effective and exciting, is in fact opposed to a technical realization that could certainly have enjoyed greater care and attention. Overall, the experience remains a valid alternative for players looking for a relaxing, short-lived title with ethereal atmospheres, despite the technical defects that prevent it from making its full potential shine.