- Total Score - 7/107/10
Spirit of the North has moments where it can wow you by its simple beauty and sweeping score, but other moments where it fails to live up to the games it was inspired by.
Developer – Infuse Studio
Publisher – Infuse Studio, Merge Games
Platforms – PS5
Spirit of the North is one of those games that guides you through a journey in a mostly linear fashion. You begin this adventure as a little red fox trekking through the tundra. Blankets of pure white snow, grey mountains, and blue glaciers line the landscape. However, something is wrong. In the distance, a trail of red smoke is in the air almost as if blood was painted across the sky. After this brief cutscene is finished you are left on your own to figure out what is going on in the world. After heading towards the blood red sky you come across the spirit of another red fox who beckons you to follow her. She will be your guide through the land in search of what is happening here.
The rest of the story is told through the environment’s set pieces such as murals and through interactions with your spirit fox companion. The basic outline of the story is that everyone has perished in some sort of eruption, but instead of lava spewing out and destroying everything, an infectious spore has spread that seems to cause severe respiratory issues and corruption of life. There seems to be nothing left living in the world, you are the last remaining creature. With the guidance of the spirit fox, you will journey to the top of the mountain to stop the corruption at its source to bring back peace to the tundra.
Along the way, you unlock the potential of your spirit itself with abilities to have out of body experiences to travel as a spirit fox yourself in order to get through environmental hazards. You also unlock the ability to quickly spirit dash, and to transfer your energy into monoliths. These abilities require the use of spirit energy that you absorb through blue plants. You will need to harness these few abilities to solve simple puzzles and platforming.
The game felt like I was walking through an art gallery. Each room has beautiful works of art that you can see and hear. Between each room of the gallery there is a locked door that requires you to solve a simple puzzle in order to unlock the door and enter the next room. The game’s run time is between 4-5 hours. The important elements of the game such as learning more about the story is about 1 hour long and the remaining 3-4 hours comes from solving these puzzles and platforming. The puzzles are pretty simple at the start, and get slightly more challenging by the end but didn’t require much thought. Most involve platforming and using energy to unlock a door.
In every chapter of the game there are dead bodies of monks on the ground that have fallen victim to the corruption. They have obviously been dead for quite some time as they are now skeletons in robes. During your journey you will also come across staves. You can pick up these staves and return them to the monk’s corpse in order for you to release the spirit of the monk to go to the spirit realm. This makes up most of the time of the game, searching for the staves and returning them to the monks. Finding these monks has a very minimal impact on the end from what I could tell but finding them unlocks alternate fur designs of your fox.
The game’s environments are beautiful but somewhat linear. There are some more open spaces with nooks and side paths that will lead you to the monks or murals that you can energize. Through my first playthrough I only missed 3 out of the 28 staves. After finishing the game you can easily go back and select the chapter that you missed one and easily search for them again. I do wish that there was an alternative ending of some kind if you found all the monks.
Technically, the game ran great. I’m not sure of the other versions outside of the PS5 but I didn’t experience anything negative to note in the performance. There were some areas where it seems the developers forgot to add textures to the back of some of the environmental pieces. Once, I walked behind one of the stone murals and it became invisible. The same thing happened when I walked in a cave entrance and turned around the border of the entrance became an invisible wall. The movement of the fox at points felt a bit odd, like if you get in water the fox will slowly move forward on its own, and when using the spirit dash it based the movement on the camera facing not the fox facing which was strange but these issues weren’t horrible.
The musical score was very pleasing and even made the hair on my neck stand up at points. I feel the music and the environmental designs really brought the game together. The music accentuates the story at important moments, and you can feel the energy of the scene with each piece. The final chapter of the game was really where the game shined for me. The ending is a very touching moment and it really made the journey of the red fox and spirit worth the time playing.
When I play Spirit of the North, I remember my playthrough of Journey on the PS3. A game, that in my opinion, whose art and music carries the game, and the gameplay is more of a vehicle to get from point A to point B. This game is very similar. At moments it can wow you by its simple beauty and sweeping score.
I think that the game is great for taking a relaxing break from reality for a day or two and if games like Journey and Ubzu are a genre you really enjoy this will make a perfect addition to your gaming collection. For people that are looking for more of a platformer with puzzle mechanics and collectables, I think this falls a bit short of scratching that itch and you might want to wait for a price drop before you decide to make your own trek through the tundra.