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Silver Nornir (Android) artwork

Silver Nornir (Android) review

"Decent, but flawed. And, yes, I realize that description fits most of Kemco's RPGs."

My complaints about Kemco's games change depending on which internal team is responsible for the title I'm playing at the time. A few of Exe-Create's offerings stretched their content too thin and, at 20 hours or so, lasted too long for their own good. Now that I've finished Silver Nornir from World Wide Software, though, I'm feeling just the opposite. I spent 15 hours getting through the campaign, and I felt that my run could really have benefited from another 5 hours or so of content.

The game tells an epic story that ultimately falls short because it's too rushed. WWS gets an "A" for ambition, but walks home with a "C" due to failed execution. The intro shows a group of heroes trying--and failing--to prevent the destruction of the world at the tentacles of a Lovecraftian beast named Azatoth (bonus points for using an Elder God; demerits for botching its name). This confrontation is the culmination of a thousand-year cycle that has been repeating itself throughout history: Azatoth destroys the world, which then rebuilds and finds its former glory, only to be wiped clean of life once again. A key difference between the ending of the second age and the first is that an immortal known as the Keeper of Time is able to save the greatest hero (referred to as Peacekeeper), so that he can gain the necessary strength to again fight the monstrous being when it resurfaces at the end of the third age.

And now… we all can forget about Azatoth, since he doesn't resurface until the game's end. Instead, we find ourselves in Medieval Fantasy Epic #439647, complete with a massive ensemble cast! Ein is the erstwhile prince of a country that finds itself under siege from its less moral neighbors, who are using all sorts of underhanded tactics in a bid for world domination. Over the first few hours, he finds allies and fights against the forces of the evil Emperor Osborne, while also ditching the "erstwhile" part of his description as he learns what it means to be a leader and hero. When that arc ends, it is disclosed (for anyone who hadn't figured it out long ago) that one of his allies is the Keeper of Time and another is Peacekeeper, and he just might be the guy who will give the forces of good the chance to end Azatoth's cycle forever.

HOWEVER, the Keeper of Time's mental state is declining. She watched all of her friends die at the end of the previous age, and was able to save only one of them. Now, with the potential of another failure looming, she's about to snap under the weight of the realization that her current efforts might easily amount to nothing yet again. While Ein gained a large number of allies, including several of Osborne's former flunkies, she is only willing to accept the help of those who correspond to the fighters of the previous age, essentially casting away the assistance of new heroes in spite of their willingness to fight. At this point, you must switch to a new party that is composed mainly of the very people you've been fighting throughout the first half of the game, all in an effort to convince the Keeper of Time that her struggle isn't futile and that everyone is in this together.

The game features several melancholy moments, but World Wide Software's approach isn't the best at bringing much of that to the fore. There is a surprisingly large collection of small dungeons, with short scenes between each one that bear the burden of advancing the story. Towns are little more than places to visit in order to rest at an inn and possibly buy new equipment, and the game's world is simply rendered as a map with dots representing towns and dungeons you may enter. The design keeps things moving at a good clip, so you never get bored, but it doesn't work so well when the writers are trying to meaningfully explain the motivations of roughly a dozen characters.

Plot holes form and never are addressed. For instance, the Keeper won't let some heroes join the effort because they might perish. That makes sense until it dawns on you that if Azatoth wins, those same people will be destroyed anyway. And if keeping them safe is the goal, why are the Keeper and her champions perfectly willing to kill them in battle to prove that point? A bit more time with these characters might have provided answers. Instead, you just have to take everyone's actions at face value and turn off the little voice in your head saying, "Wait…what? That makes no sense!"

The game is pretty easy overall, aside from a few difficult battles. Fighting takes the standard turn-based approach, and characters buy and equip crystals that teach them spells and abilities. Various plot events also bestow a tiny handful of special attacks that become available as meters fill. You can unleash those attacks to inflict an obscene amount of damage (or a great full-party healing spell, in one case). Most bosses become pretty simple if you enter the battle with a few full gauges, which allows each party member to immediately unleash devastation. Whenever I had any trouble with a boss, that approach saved the day.

Battles in Silver Nornir would be simple and unoffensive overall, if not for the game's camera. It captures the action from the side, as popularized by the classic Final Fantasy games. But for some stupid reason, WWS didn't make sure that everything fits in a single screen. The camera focuses on your party at the start of the battle and then scrolls back and forth between heroes and adversaries over the course of the conflict. Select an action, then watch the camera move to the left to show the strike hitting the desired enemy. Then it's back to the right to pick another person's action. Back to the left. Back to the right. Constantly. I got used to the constant motion eventually, but still found it a bit disorienting and definitely unnecessary.

I should at least give WWS credit for making their dungeons into something more than the short, linear jaunts they've tended to offer in the past. I mean, many of them ARE short, linear jaunts, but a few of them at least attempt to break that mold! Two place you inside a volcano, where you must find rocks to freeze hot lava so that you can cross it. In a mine, you must ride mine cars and flip switches to control those cars' paths. A couple of dungeons even have puzzles where you must walk across every tile in a chamber without stepping on any space twice. None of this stuff is particularly special or groundbreaking, but it goes a ways towards preventing the game from becoming monotonous. Even if it's flawed, it's not monotonous.

Silver Nornir really could have stood out from Kemco's crowd of short, low-budget RPGs if only more work had been devoted to refining it. Familiar issues, such as reused monster and dungeon assets and excessive linearity do pop up here, but they don't really seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. Instead, what matters with Silver Nornir is that it's in too big of a hurry to let the story play out naturally. The tale begins with an epic confrontation with a world-destroying monstrosity, and then you are dropped in the middle of a typical "good versus evil" fantasy. Just when you've come to grips with the large cast of characters, you abruptly must learn to rely on new ones. Wrap that diversion up and you're back to the matter of Azatoth and his plans to destroy the world. In theory, this is all good stuff, but when it's contained in a 15-hour package, there's just not enough time to do everything justice. The result is a reasonably competent game that easily could have been better.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 28, 2016)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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