Imagine being a game that’s heavily inspired by Dark Souls, but then releasing on the same week that Dark Souls Remastered does on the Nintendo Switch. That’s the situation which SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption finds itself in, with developer Darkstar’s boss-battler competing against the game that it clearly wants to be.
Is that inspiration a bad thing? Certainly not, and SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption is a decent little game in its own right that fans of the Souls games will probably want to check out anyway, even if it does lack the polish and depth found in FROM Software’s beloved series.
SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption puts you in the worn shoes of Adam, a warrior who awakens in a derelict and dangerous place where he must seek redemption after committing a great sin. It’s a little sparse on details and the narrative never gets too deep, but it offers enough to get you into the game.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say in reviews these days, but SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption is so clearly heavily inspired by Dark Souls that it’s difficult not to bring it up. However, whilst the inspiration is there, there’s a different approach taken with how it’s all presented.
SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption doesn’t offer exploration or battles against mobs of enemies, but instead sees you just taking on boss battles. This means no minions stabbing you in the back, no environmental traps, no huge gothic environments to explore, and yes, no hunting for shortcuts. Instead, the game just takes epic boss battles and makes them the core focus of the experience. I’m a fan of boss-battlers anyway so this works for me, though it does make SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption feel a lot more watered down. If you’re good at the game you could be done with it in under two hours easily, so those hoping for a meaty adventure might be left disappointed.
At least the boss battles themselves are great, though they’re bloody hard and will certainly require plenty of patience from the player. They’re each based upon the ‘seven deadly sins’ and are presented in a way that represents them – that’s typically defined as being a grotesque creature here though, but it works.
The environments you battle them in and the attacks they unleash upon you are certainly creative though, and this is where the core of each showdown comes from. It’s all about learning the enemy attack patterns, finding out how to protect yourself from them, and then striking when the moment is right. With battles changing as they go on and the environment proving unstable though, this can prove to be quite challenging. Plus, the bosses are tough as nails anyway, so the odds are certainly stacked against you.
SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption deserves praise for getting the little details in these encounters right though, with each one sold to the player like a big showdown against a mighty foe. They feel unbeatable at first, and sure, your first few attempts will certainly be met with failure after failure. However, once you start to figure out how to exploit a boss’ weakness it all comes together nicely, with each one requiring the player to observe everything carefully and then use their wits to succeed. It’s fun, and there wasn’t a single battle in the game that didn’t feel like it was meticulously designed to offer a thrilling confrontation.
It helps that the game’s combat is on-point, though, again, this is probably because it’s clearly built with Dark Souls’ combat in mind. You’ve got a decent range of weapons to choose from that are both short-range and long-range, you can block with shields or quickly dodge attacks, whilst healing items prove useful too… familiar, right? It works well though and there’s a decent amount of variety to it, with players able to quickly attack with a short sword, pull off slow but powerful hits with a great sword, or even just pick off their foe from afar with arrows if they please – just know to keep track of your stamina, of course. Combat is all about timing and precision and it compliments the encounters with the game’s enemies well.
Whilst SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption gets the core gameplay ideas right though, it does one unique thing that I didn’t appreciate so much – rather than levelling up your character and seeing them improve, you actually have to essentially level them down and sacrifice their stats to progress. Before each boss fight, you have to take a hit to your capabilities, be it by dropping your max HP, your max stamina, your strength, or even the durability of your equipment. You then take on a boss battle and, if you win, you move onto the next – not before taking another hit to your stats though.
It could be a clever idea, but when mixed with the game’s tough difficulty it just felt like a burden. I enjoy the satisfying feeling of improving in a game like this and seeing my stats increase – becoming weaker and seeing bosses trample me with ease just wasn’t too fun though. It almost made me dread the next encounter I’d have with a boss, which isn’t something you want when you’re supposed to be enjoying a game. I like a challenge, but this was just frustrating.
Then there’s the fact that SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption seems to have had a bit of a downgrade on the Switch. I know you can expect a drop when playing on the handheld mode on the Switch, but the hit is clear here – the visuals don’t look as nice as other platforms, the loading times can be a pain, whilst the frame rate isn’t always super consistent either. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrible looking game by any means and it’s certainly very playable, but there’s no denying that the best way to experience SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption would be on other platforms.
Outside of the poorly-implemented sacrifice system there aren’t a whole lot of original ideas in SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it clearly wants to be Dark Souls after all and that’s a highly regarded series. Thankfully, it gets most of the core features right, with the slick combat and the challenging boss battles coming together to make for some great showdowns in-game.
Still, there’s no doubting it feels like a watered-down Dark Souls, and whilst it imitates the series well it never quite matches it. It might be a decent game to play and I won’t deny that I had fun facing its challenges (when not sacrificing my own abilities of course), but whether or not that’ll be enough for it to win over Nintendo Switch gamers when better releases like Dark Souls Remastered are available is another thing altogether.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC