I’m no stranger to death. I consider all three of the Dark Souls games to be in my top ten games of all times. When I stumbled on Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, I was completely hooked. Sinner is an unforgiving action RPG that is basically boss after boss, after boss, but developer Dark Star put an interesting twist to the boss rush formula. Players must sacrifice something to challenge a boss in an attempt to seek forgiveness for their sins.
Like the Souls games that inspired Sinner, the lore is a little sporadic and hard to follow. From what I was able to gleam, players take control of Adam, who must face his greatest sins to find redemptions in an attempt to uncover his memories and save himself from himself. Before each boss, who are modeled after the seven deadly sins, players get a small poem describing the boss, then a short cutscene that goes deeper into detail. I’m an absolute sucker for lore and more, in particular, on how the boss fits in and describes the lore in the arena their based in. The more emotionally invested I am in a boss, the harder I’ll try to best them, and the more I’ll feel the impact of their death. Sinner does an outstanding job of establishing what the importance of the situation is and does a phenomenal job of establishing a motive for the player and making them care.
Visually, this game reminds me of Dante’s Inferno if it was a Zack Snyder film. Each arena is vibrant and left me in awe. My personal favorite arena is where players fight the embodiment of Lust. The weird tree tentacles popping up everywhere and the moonlight reflecting in the ankle-deep pool of water added to the fluid animations and heightened sense of panic. Sinner doesn’t let the player forget that they are here to save Adam from himself.
A massive cause for the difficulty is the level down system. As stated before, players must sacrifice something before they can go up against a boss. For instance, the first boss I tackled lowered my maximum health and stamina by a little. I thought it was a little gimmick for the boss. I defeated the guy and a cut scene played, showing some liquid pouring from the grave of the boss I had just defeated to a pool in the middle of the hub area. Without really thinking, I went back to the tombstone and got my maximum health and stamina back and the liquid stopped. I went up against the second boss and my damage output was lowered, but I noticed that after I defeated him the liquid started to pour. It then hit me: each time players go up against a boss, they have to take the debuff the boss gives them and kill each boss with the stacking debuffs!
This is where the game takes on a new form. Sinner goes from a Soul’s clone to an entity that rivals the difficulty of the Souls series as a whole. Players are forced to “git gud” in order to progress. Sinner is unforgiving in its mechanics, but the true beauty is that each boss fight is just long enough for players to get the hang and understand how each debuff works in tandem. Having my healing items slowly refill my health made me reevaluate how I viewed my health bar. If I knew my timing wasn’t pixel perfect, I would heal before leaping in to get some damage. And losing my armor, I knew I had to perfect my dodges, so I would spend a couple of attempts just dying to see everything a boss could throw at me to learn their pattern. Knowing what the boss takes away before the fight gives the boss rush more of an arcade feel similar to Mega Man that lets players decide what they want to put up with in any order.
The controls may be responsive and perfectly rolling through an attack feels great, but Sinner becomes repetitive quickly, unfortunately. Yes, the bosses are unique, but I often found myself losing interest. I adored the aesthetic of Sinner, but after thirty or so minutes of playing, I completely lost interest. Everything felt too stiff. The boss order doesn’t matter, but it felt like I was just going through the motions each time I played. Dodge this, strike here, heal now. I felt like I wasn’t able to express myself as a player. There was a dominant strategy and if I wanted to continue playing, I had to use it. It’s the same each attempt. The thrill of the unknown evaporates quickly. What is left behind in an incredible game that is unable to keep my attention for long.
Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption makes dying interesting. The level down system puts a fun twist to the Souls-like action RPG genre. Sinner is visually striking and plays like an absolute dream. The game offers hours of replayability, if it’s able to hold a player’s attention for that long. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the Souls-like genre but are intimidated by other titles, Sinner is right up your alley. Veteran players will find this game a refreshing jaunt that allows for multiple chances for self-punishment. Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is something I’ll gravitate around for quite some time.
Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is available October 18th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and now for PC via Steam. This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version provided by the publisher for the purpose of the review.