Popularity, especially of any impactful kind, begets imitation. While every form of art and media falls prey to this, none do so with such flair as gaming. So here we are with a Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption review.
Since its introduction over a decade ago, the behemoth Souls franchise has dominated its corner of the market. The cliff notes version? Highly skilled gameplay, rewarding difficulty and vague allusions to a grander, sinister lore of beasts and men.
In the proceeding years, as the Souls series continued to grow its fanbase and tighten its grasp on a genre it itself seemingly gave life to, the success of the games was looked upon with envious eyes.
Imitations of the formula began to enter the market. Sometimes with drastic shifts in aesthetic — The Surge — and often with no real effort made to hide the imitation; Lords of the Fallen. I mention this trend in emulation because it’s somewhat crucial in understanding the experience you’re going to get from Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption.
Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption Review
It’s immediately evident that the developers hold a DEEP reverence for the Souls titles and are not afraid to draw inspiration from their kin. Which isn’t inherently a problem; imitation can, after all, be the greatest form of flattery.
In a market thirsty for more titles in Souls’ vein, there is fantastic room for development and improvement on the core tenets introduced back in ‘09. While Sinner bares a prominent streak of innovation, as well as the building blocks of a fascinating world, how you feel about the final product, will vary greatly depending on how forgiving you are when you look for a Souls-lite experience.
Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption does away with much of the ornamentation that bigger titles concern themselves with. Instead, it’s a rather simple boss-rush game with minimal story beats. After completing a short tutorial (which visually harkens back to the Souls titles in a very obvious fashion), our heroic knight Adam finds himself in a small hub area.
A pool of murky water sits in the centre, with small trenches running up to a collection of stone runes, each bearing the markings of one of the game’s seven bosses.
Nothing but Boss Fights
These boss fights can be approached in any order you wish. Though, thanks to the game’s core mechanic, astute players may enjoy discovering a meta-game on repeated playthroughs.
Sinner looks to establish its own spin on the formula with the titular sacrifice mechanic. In order to face off against each boss, a sacrifice must be offered. This is a gameplay mechanic that beautifully aligns with the darker religious undertones of the lore.
These sacrifices each take their toll in uniquely cruel ways, though once players are familiarised with the combat, never feel unfair. The first beast I challenged was the monstrous Faiz Tilus, a demonic bird creature with a penchant for projectiles. Faiz Tilus required a portion of my overall health and stamina meters as sacrifice.
Other debuffs include limitations on health regeneration, smaller supplies of consumables and downgrades to damage outputs on weapons.
Once you’ve teleported through the rune there is very little, if any, preamble before you begin the boss fight. Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption is not afraid to throw you in the deep end. Those seeking a challenge will undoubtedly relish this.
No Time to Explain
This eagerness on the game’s part to emulate the infamous difficulty of its predecessors comes at a cost. Electing to forgo smaller fights on the way to the boss, traditionally during which players can cut their teeth on the intricacies of the combat mechanics, means that the learning curves happen very much in real time.
Paired with the sacrifices required before each boss, this led to several moments of outright frustration during my playthrough.
Though of course, this kind of ‘do or do not do’ take on difficulty can yield immensely rewarding results and thankfully, Sinner shines when you finally ‘do’. Much like the Souls games before it, when all the system click into place and you find your own flow state, the game begins to bend under your will as opposed to the other way around.
There is still some minor frustrations to be found in animation locking and controls that are just slightly less responsive than you’d like from a game about precision combat, but there is definite fun to be had here – at least, for a while.
Not Altogether Precise
The usual array of heavy and light attacks are present. Shield parrying and a nice collection of throwables and buffs for your swords are also included. None of these move the needle in terms of genre advancement but most egregiously, do not feel particularly satisfying to use.
Paired with an unyielding camera and indistinct damage indicators, the more hectic elements of combat begin to grate on you. This becomes much more noticeable during the second stages of the boss fights, when a combination of stage hazards and projectile attacks overwhelm you and death begins to feel cheap.
Sinner is also dripping in the kind of drab, Gothic stylings you’d expect from a Souls-like, but there are hints of something more interesting at play underneath it all. After teleporting through each rune the game treats you to a beautiful, sketch-book style cutscene that explores the sins that led each boss to become the monster they are now.
These short tales are magnificently macabre and showcase some great cohesion between the lore and boss designs.
Soulful or Soulless?
Ultimately though, Sinner’s greatest challenge lies outside of the game itself.
The Souls market could always do for some more variety, and the sacrifice mechanic certainly has merits in this regard, but it doesn’t lift Sinner out of the shadow of its predecessors. Asking players who are accustomed to tightly crafted experiences to forgive the missteps present in Sinner’s combat is, well, a challenge and it’s difficult to say how they will respond.
There is a foundation here for something greater; the lore surrounding the bosses is genuinely engaging stuff and with some fine tuning, the combat could serve as a great entry point into the genre.
As it is though, Sinner merely serves as a tempting taste of what could be but for those willing to sacrifice an already perfected formula, there is some redemption to be found in this new realm Dark Star Game Studios have brought to life.
Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Sinner Sacrifice for Redemption
A unique take on the genre - 7.2/10
Too imperfect to work as well as it should - 4.1/10
Interesting Lore - 7/10
Sacrifice Mechanic is good, but gimmicky - 5.5/10