“I hate it.” That was my knee-jerk reaction to the first 20 minutes of gameplay as I got smashed over and over by the first boss I chose to fight: a fiery giant jerk based on the sin of wrath. You see, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, is a boss rush title featuring eight challenging bosses, seven of which are based on the seven biblical sins. However, there is a slight twist to the otherwise standard formula found in these types of titles. In order to challenge a boss, you must make a sacrifice of yourself before you can take them on. This makes you progressively weaker as you advance further into the game, making the already challenging boss fights even more so. Typically, if I don’t enjoy the first 15-30 minutes of a game I don’t bother to pick it up again, but since I was tasked with reviewing Sinner I didn’t have that luxury. After spending hours with it, I must admit my initial opinion has changed.
After a brief tutorial of sorts, you are brought to the main hub. There are seven symbol-etched boulders here, each one a portal to a boss fight. You can take them on in any order you like, but they all must be defeated before you can take on the final boss. You can’t simply walk up and fight them, though. Oh no, that would be too easy. Instead, you must sacrifice a piece of yourself to unlock the portal and take on the bad boy (or girl) within. The sacrifice comes in the form of a reduction to your combat capabilities. This can be decreased health/stamina, reduced item supplies or some other type of annoying debuff like a weakened shield that breaks completely when your defense is broken. This means that as you progress, the odds are more and more stacked against you. Defeating a boss allows you to redeem the sin for a boost in health. This does not, however, restore the sacrifice you initially made. Better than nothing. What it boils down to is strategizing on the best order to defeat the bosses in, ideally taking out the hardest ones first.
Within minutes of playing you can see how much inspiration Sinner has drawn from the ever-popular Dark Souls series, with its dark and gloomy vistas and a soundtrack to match. The gameplay falls into the same vein as well, putting emphasis on skill and learning the quirks and patterns of your enemies rather than grinding until you can easily overpower them. Anyone familiar with the Souls games 3rd person action-RPG combat will feel right at home here, though the controls are nowhere near as refined in comparison. The input can be a little sluggish and loose. Combine this with the awkward camera, deadly environments and the unreliable hit feedback system and you’ll go through your share of unforeseen deaths. You’ll need to watch your stamina as well as your health while in battle, as running out of steam will leave you extremely vulnerable while you recuperate.
You cannot find new weapons and armor during the course of the game: what you see is what you get. There are two sets of weapons that you can alternate between on the fly. First up is a basic sword and shield combo. This is what I ended up using almost all the time because it offers a much more versatile approach to the alternative option. Your other option, the 2-handed sword, deals more damage but is slower and takes up more stamina. Plus you lose the ability to block, so in my opinion, it just isn’t worth it. Weapons aside, you enter every battle with a set of consumables that automatically replenish between fights. Spears and firebombs give you the option of a ranged offensive, while there is another item that temporarily engulfs your sword in flames, boosting your damage for a limited amount of time. The last item in your arsenal is an orb-like object that restores a little health. It isn’t much, but it is all you have to work with.
Saving the best for last, let’s talk about the bosses themselves. They are as interesting as they are varied; ranging from the humanoid warrior Chanel with her dual swords, to Camber Luce, a grotesque giant cannibalistic glutton with a jagged toothy maw running up the length of his torso. Sinner also does a great job of setting the mood through the use of striking environments as well. When first entering Chanel’s level, Luna Lake, she is standing serenely atop the watery surface; silhouetted by a dark cloud-covered moon all while a haunting vocal melody lingers in the air. When you get closer, she gracefully runs towards you with her blades drawn, signaling the beginning of the battle. The sight of the moon brightly reflected onto the surface of the lake as the soundtrack gives the fight a surreal, dream-like feel. Not all fights are as cool, but you can tell that some careful thought was put into creating them.
So despite getting off to a rough start, I stuck around to discover just what exactly Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption has to offer. While there are some annoying technical foibles that mar the overall experience (I’m looking at you, unresponsive controls!) you’ll find an engaging boss-battler with some interesting character/environmental visual designs. Finally decimating that one pain in the ass boss that killed you repeatedly can feel pretty satisfying. On the other hand, while it tries to offer up Souls-like gameplay, it definitely falters in the story department. There isn’t much to see here aside from a quick intro before each boss fight. So if you’re in the market for a quick challenge and don’t need all the embellishments a good story would provide, check out Sinner.
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6/10
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