Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption Is as Beautifully Macabre as it Looks

This challenging and melancholy indie release will put you to the test against one man's personal purgatory.

You've probably heard ramblings on the net about a new pseudo-genre comparing a majority of morbid, challenging games to a Dark Souls theme. One can name a number of games -- indie, mobile, and console -- that fit the title. And while the indie action-RPG Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption definitely bears an uncanny resemblance to the Souls games, it's a unique, refreshing, and creative look into what it means to battle your inner self. 

Possibly inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, Sinner is Dark Star Studio's debut single-player release. The Hong Kong-based developer has produced a sinister and rather sardonically religious concept of gameplay, and what seemed to be an endless supply of grisly bosses kept me awake in the wee hours of the night, trying desperately to get through a single round. 

A Mysterious Venture for Atonement 

The morbid storyline is exactly as it sounds. You play as Adam, a small amnesiac knight that represents the whole of mankind. While he unravels his nightmarish past, he must face each of his seven sins in horrific caricatures. These abhorrent reflections of human evil can only be accessed by sacrificing his stats to gain atonement for his deeds.

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Perhaps what bothered me most about the game was the minimal focus on the storyline. Sure, it's an action-based game, but it would have been more enjoyable if the story (which is rather creative) had been produced in a dynamic manner. Instead, we get attractive, monochromatic, manga-style slides and short, vague descriptions of the protagonist's role. 

I appreciate it when a game cuts to the chase, but not when you're left slightly clueless as to the background. Sinner is a simple, straightforward series of major challenges, but it bears a fascinating and dark undertone I would have loved to hear more about. 

Elementary Combat Against an Impossible Feat

The gameplay begins in dreary, bleak scenery reminiscent of a cemetery, with a variety of symbolic tombstones around the perimeter. Two of them are activated from the start -- your pick of who you'd like to face first. I went with Faiz Tilus, or Greed, as a beginner, seeing as it was proximal to my starting point, only to realize my health and stamina were compromised, and I couldn't get a hold of the game at first. To warm my hands to the controls and combat, taking on Levin Undok, or Envy, made the harrowing task a lot simpler. 

To say the battles are challenging is putting it lightly. As there are no practice enemies between bosses to hone your combat skills, each and every one of them requires a unique approach to take down -- and often more than five tries, give or take. As you sacrifice your strengths to each against your will, you need to figure out where -- and how -- to take down the opponent standing before you without compromising what little health, stamina, or items you have.

Some of these bad boys require a distant, thoughtful approach; others require a gradual fatality. It's up to you to decide how you want to put each of the sins down. These bastards also come with customized prowess to make your gameplay hell. Levin Undok, who represents Envy, for example, is a tall and vengeful creature who is relatively easy to take down compared to the others. However, she is accompanied by a twin (exactly like her but with a different, long-range attack), and this particular objective becomes a twofold challenge.

I don't mean to be catty but I really can't STAND this bimbo

At some points in the game, you will feel as if it's impossible to progress forward. Dark Souls also has this element of perpetual desperation to get through a boss. It's frustrating enough to want to tug your hair out, but with focus and determination, it's a manageable challenge. Like Adam, you should be willing to sacrifice your time and attention to achieve the redemption you deserve. As your protagonist levels down with each enemy, you too humble yourself in the face of justice.

A Harrowing Theme of Desperation and Melancholy

Suffice it to say that the game is beautiful for such a minimalist concept. I played it on my laptop at the lowest possible resolution, and I still found the game environment appropriate to the nature of the game. 

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The bosses were grotesque, and their settings daunting but magnificent nonetheless. The creative Del Toro-meets-steampunk design of the Sins is refreshing and honestly unique to the game. It leaves a trademark appearance of each Sin bearing a characteristic representative of its nature, and if that isn't unspoken storytelling in visuals, I don't know what is. 

The game bears just the right shades of dread and sadness, and just the right setting for a theme of purgatory and atonement. The melancholy soundtrack was catchy for some of the opponents, and I only say this because I caught myself humming them in the shower subconsciously. 

Frustrations ...

Restoration of health or usage of weapons is often ridiculously slow. The response times of certain commands usually begin to lag at really bad moments -- you could be inches away from defeating the Devil himself, and you'd falter only because your little man is lying on the ground for a good two minutes without moving. As expected for a new game, naturally, it's not going to be perfect. This can fortunately be prevented by strategically maneuvering your combat to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

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Another concept I personally found tormenting was the lack of camera flexibility. A majority of games offer 360 spanning, but this feature of a locked-in screen was suffocating at first. As you move around and enter combat, the camera will span by default to suit your senses, and you adjust to it -- but to me, that wasn't enough. It gave me a narrow environment to work with and an odd initial feeling of claustrophobia. I'm a spoiled gamer, I admit.

Final Thoughts 

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption was a self-explanatory title I enjoyed pulling through. With balancing work and school, the therapeutic distraction of challenging combat was a blessing on the mind. It's a beautifully morbid game with a touch of medieval fantasy and folklore. 

If you're a Dark Souls or Shadow of Colossus fan, or even a newbie looking for a new taste of the genre, you can pick up Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption on Steam, Xbox One, or PS4 on April 25th of this year.  

 

Published Feb. 23rd 2018

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