STAFF REVIEW of Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption (Xbox One)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption Box art Since Dark Souls (I guess technically Demon’s Souls) came onto the scene, there’s been no shortage of others trying to replicate its success. For those uninitiated, the Dark Souls franchise that is a series of brutally difficult action adventure games that has amassed quite a following of players who really gravitate towards the challenging gameplay and unique combat mechanics. Like any successful title, there’s always other games that release afterwards that are inspired and have their own twist on a proven formula. The newest Souls-inspired title comes from a small indie developer with an appropriate studio name, Another Indie.

I know what you’re thinking, an indie’s take on one of the most brutal and popular genres will most likely not hold a flame to the source material. I’d be lying if that wasn’t my initial reaction as well, but Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption does just enough differently, changes a few main core mechanics, and makes some design choices where it actually is its own unique experience, and not simply a rip-off that touts “inspired by...”.

So, what makes Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption differentiate from its inspiration? You know how exciting the boss fights in Dark Souls are, challenging you over and over until you learn their mechanics? What if you’re not that great at the genre, like myself, and don’t always get to experience every uniquely crafted boss sequence because of the need for hours of leveling and exploring required to do before reaching them? Sacrifice for Redemption has streamlined this and is essentially a boss rush mode. That’s right, no vast world to explore and navigate. No need to level up and gain new abilities. Simply fight boss after boss, each with increased difficulty. It sounds a little shallow being explained, but it works for what it’s trying to accomplish, and in relation to the narrative.

You are Adam (maybe I’m a bit bias because of his name), guilty of some major sin, but you have also lost your memory, so you’re unsure of what you’ve done. You’re on a quest of redemption, to solve what you’ve sinned and restore your memory. There’s more to it than that, but given that the overall gameplay isn’t terribly long (not including deaths and restarts), I’ll leave it to you to find out the conclusion. Needless to say, once the credits roll, the overall narrative makes sense and I quite enjoyed it even though it’ll be viewed by some as a shallow boss rush battler.

In most games, the first option you’re usually given is to choose your character or customize them somehow; not here though. Oddly enough, your first decision will be if you want to utilize a freely rotating camera or a fixed angled camera. As a newbie to the game, I chose fixed, but some may want to use the free camera instead, out of habit. Given you’ll want to be locked onto the bosses nearly the majority of the time, I was fine with my choice.

You’ll face-off against eight distinctly unique bosses, with the first seven based on the deadly sins. After a brief tutorial about the controls, which feel natural, you’re set in a small hub area where you can pick and choose what boss to fight, in whatever order you wish, though with a twist. You see, before each boss fight, you’ll need to sacrifice something of yourself. At first it’s simply a chunk of health you lose access to, but as you progress, your damage and defense will suffer, you’ll have less items to use, or you'll even lose the ability to heal yourself. This means the game becomes more challenging as you progress, regardless of what boss order you decide to go with.

As I began, I hated that I was becoming weaker as I progressed, instead of stronger, but this is Sacrifice of Redemption's subtle way of telling you to get better as you progress. So, while the bosses don’t inherently become “harder”, the setbacks you are given make a huge difference, especially if it’s a boss that you’re having trouble with initially. Some are obviously more trickier than others, but like any game, once you’ve figured out their mechanics and patterns, it’s simply having the patience to strike when appropriate.

Consider this a warning: "Be ready to die a lot". I swear I must have tried a certain boss a hundred times before finally besting it, but the gratification of finally doing so is immense. In a way I really appreciated that the game forces you to become better with each new debuff you inherit, as it doesn’t go away after beating a boss. But on the other hand, I really enjoy becoming more powerful as I progress through a title at the same time. You’re also able to freely leave a battle and attempt another boss if you’re simply becoming too frustrated and need a change; something I did a handful of times.

Combat in Sacrifice for Redemption is quite challenging. You’re able to use a sword and shield combo or a large two handed sword, based on your preference. You can also use a handful of other items like spears, fire bombs, health potions and more. Just like Dark Souls, you have an endurance bar that dictates how much you can swing your weapon, run, or dodge roll before having to take a moment to rest and let the action bar replenish.

Now, I’m not good at the Souls games in any way; terribly bad you might say, but I do enjoy them still, even with constant frustration from repeatedly dying. Combat is fair, yet challenging. Not once did I die to something unfair, as it was a result of poor judgement or impatience on my part, or unknowing what to expect from the boss. Eventually I enjoyed being forced to become better, rather than being given a toolbox of new skills and abilities to rely on and learn.

Where Sacrifice of Redemption shines is its bosses, obviously. Each one is completely unique and distinct, matching their respective sin in an interesting way. Each boss has its own pattern for attacks and abilities, something you’ll need to learn by trial and error, but each feels like its own hand crafted experience. Simply knowing how to beat one will have no bearing on the next. I don’t want to spoil any of these experiences, but nearly every single one was memorable in its own way.

I don’t normally delve into achievements for a review, but I really enjoyed the ones this game, as there were a handful for each boss. Some were comedic, others were skill based, while others based on a lack of skill, like one you earn from dying from a first attack. For being an indie game, you never know what to expect visually, but I was actually quite impressed with how Sacrifice for Redemption looked and performed. It clearly has that Souls-like style to it, but coming from such a small studio, I was quite impressed, especially with the boss designs and animations.

Even with its very short length, Dark Souls vets will find some entertainment here with its unique bosses and increasingly difficult gameplay. If you’ve been shy to try the genre because of its difficulty, this may be a good first step into it, as you’re not weighed down by hours of gameplay and exploration, and simply get to experience the best portions back to back, even if that does make for a slightly shallow experience with little payoff.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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