Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption (Switch) Review
Release Date: October 18, 2018
Publisher: Another Indie Studio
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
"Boss battler" style games have been made popular by epics like Shadow of the Colossus and indies like Furi. Dark Souls is widely known for it's crushing difficulty and epic bosses as well. Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption marries the difficulty of Dark Souls with a boss battler game, with a unique twist: each victory actually weakens your character as you make the titular sacrifices to atone for his sins. Much like a reverse of how Mega Man would get a new weapon after defeating a boss, Adam in Sinner will permanently lose something, be it health, damage capability, or item storage every time he defeats one of his enemies, who are all uniquely based on the Seven Deadly Sins.
Whereas Dark Souls may fill it's world with minions and lore to drive storyline and give you a sense of purpose in the world, Sinner seems to boil down the elements to their pure core. You are given a set of weapons, and that seems to about be it. While you may earn a few things through the game, you primarily are worried about what you can sacrifice. If you defeat your first boss and had to sacrifice half of your health bar in order to face them you will no longer have that power through the rest of the game. Another enemy will sap your attack power. If you come across a battle that you cannot overcome you can always go back and get your sacrifice back from a previous battle, but you will then have to defeat that boss again at a later time minus all the other sacrifices you have made since. Sinner forces you to make difficult decisions and intentionally weaken your protagonist as you get better at the game, constantly putting you in a state of peril and challenging you to "git gud."
Unfortunately "Dark Souls Hard" combined with a boss battler means you barely get any time to practice your skills before being thrown to the wolves. My first few play sessions met with frustration. I didn't quite have the lock-on or shield and sword combos down, meaning even at full power I regularly found myself being ground to dust before I even took a sliver of my opponent's life bar. The field in which you select your encounter has zero enemies to practice on. The weapon selection is simple and vague. You've got two weapons and a few accessories you basically have to try out to see what they do. This, again, led to more deaths simply to understand control schemes. In Dark Souls it may be hard, but you usually have only yourself to blame. Here I often felt shorted by the gameplay mechanics not giving me enough time to learn them.
The biggest draw of the game are the bosses, and they are all wonderfully crafted. Each represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins and comes with a short tale of how they came to be. I was frustrated at how the story was told in white text at the bottom of the swirling black-and-white pictures. I had to focus on the picture or the words and never felt like I could appreciate either: a simple voice-over for those few lines would have made a world of difference, as would the option to see the cutscene again when you revisit the boss. After you leave a battle and come back you don't get the intro, meaning multiple tries will sap your interest in the character and their reason for existence. Audio in general would help as outside of combat noises the game remains silent.
So I find myself playing a game as difficult as Dark Souls with nowhere to practice that doesn't usually result in instant death, no instructions outside of a basic button map screen, hearing nothing but the sounds of my enemies' blades slicing into me, with no way to go back and appreciate the lore once I've heard it once, and the end goal being to actually make myself weaker each time I take on one of these dauntingly difficult bosses. I'm playing as a blank character that looks generic enough to be a customizable one yet I can do nothing of the sort, with a stock unchangeable set of weaponry that I have zero information on. You can probably tell I'm having a hard time recommending this one. Despite the beautiful backdrop and genuinely interesting bosses, the difficulty wall right at the beginning makes it hard to get any enjoyment even though it is a budget title.
Mind you, I'm not a "Soulsbourne" player. I tend to play games to have fun, not to get reamed. Perhaps a veteran of those games could have an easier time with Sinner, but I couldn't even get two hits in on any single one of the bosses before they had me dead. I tried blocking, parrying, dodging....death. This is truly a game for sadists to master and not one for someone looking for a relaxing evening and deep story. If my review piqued your interest at "insanely hard game to overcome," go for it, but I feel that Sinner will have a hard time even fitting into that niche.
I imagine a world where this release is a “boss rush” of the second half of an epic storyline. As our hero goes through his life he takes advantage of several different people who fall into the seven deadly sins. Through the chapters he faces off against their human forms until he vanquishes them all and becomes the all powerful being he dreamed of. It came with a price, and he must sacrifice that power to redeem himself by facing these monstrous versions of his once-friends who fell into sin, redeeming himself and them in the process. This would of course be quite the jump for an indie studio, but one that I would love to see. What little plot I find in Sinner, I want to see and learn more of. Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption leaves me wanting a lot more.
-Looks beautiful, controls well.
-The individual bosses are amazingly designed and represent the Seven Deadly Sins well-from titans who want to squash you flat to speedy and nimble villains who use status effects to tie you up, each one must be approached differently.
-Each bosses' arena is themed as well and really works. You can tell the team put heart into making each battle unique.
-No simple enemies to grasp the control scheme battling.
-Discouraging "sacrifice" system makes you weaker after every victory-supposed to be thematic but ends up frustrating.
-Despite pretty graphics everything seems very "beta" with simple interfaces and no real value to the HUD or reasoning to care about what happens.
-So much potential for a true AAA level game but distilled down to complete simplicity.