Truth be told, I’ve fallen out of love with Dark Souls.
It’s not that the series is bad, but I’ve grown a more tired look to the series, to the point where I think the second in the series might actually be the best out of all three. Dark Souls III has the chutzpah to be the greatest, but its only perfected element was the PvP, which I’m not a huge fan of. Another problem comes from the fact that there’s all these imitators fail to grasp what made Dark Souls so great, and here’s Sinner to try and remedy that problem.
This is the debut title from studio Darkstar Games, and that’s all you’re getting in terms of information about them. Details on who they are and what they’ve done are harder to come by than reasons to eat candy corn, so instead, let’s focus on the publisher, Another Indie, an Asian-based company. Recently, they’ve been responsible for bringing us titles like the mismatched Anima: Gate of Memories, the surprisingly fun-filled Ziggurat, and the wonky but lovable Heart & Slash. Expectations are high, I can assure you.
You play as Adam, a man with a clouded past. If not for narrative payoff, then it’s because the game has nothing to add to the world as is. The kingdom of Cavania lies in ruin, and you must fight eight bosses, with seven relating to Deadly Sins, in order to… I think return it to normal, but let’s face it, it’s a Souls-clone, the only thing we’re going to do is make the world deader than what it already is.
You can possibly tell by my uninterested demeanour that I don’t think much of Sinner, and truth be told, you’re wrong. I have a problem with Souls-likes, but not with Shadow of The Colossus-likes, which is what I thought this would be. It’s rare to see something copy the PS2 classic, and it’s going to continue to be rare, because Sinner pulled a fast one on me, and copied Miyazaki’s classic instead.
With that in mind, I have a proposition for anyone who is craving a new Souls-like to play, because I understand the depths you’re going to in order to satisfy your addiction. I know what you’ve been playing in secret. Lords of The Fallen, The Surge, Immortal: Unchained. I also know about that time you thought about playing Shrouded in Sanity. Trust me, if you’re looking to kick the addiction, then Sinner will do it, because Souls-likes do not get worse than this.
Not to say it started off bad. The worlds opaque design might seem like they have no idea what to put there, but it definitely adds to this oppressing atmosphere, reminiscent of something like Silent Hill 2 or The Final Station. A soothing song plays in the background as Adam slowly walks up in the hub, and if there’s anything that this game pulls off perfectly, it’s setting a tone that will precede unfortunate events. Eight bosses await to crush him, and crush him they will, but in due time.
You already know how Souls combat works. You’ve got your warrior decked in some plate armour, a sword and shield, and you have some consumable items that either heal you, or damage the enemy. Your permanent armoury will consist of a normal broadsword and shield, a swirly zweihander-looking thing that acts as your two-handed option, seven health potions, twenty lightning spears, seven firebombs, and two packs of Charcoal Pine Res– Shit, I mean err… torch-that-makes-your-sword-flame-y.
To be honest, I have no clue as to why the swords have been separated into two different weapons, it’s just adding frames to an already-frustrating combat system. It’s hard to explain, but because every boss in this game is a towering leviathan of meat and muscles, it means that every single fight is going to be riddled with problem like perspectives and hit detection, but that’s the least of our concerns.
You’re free to fight the bosses in whatever order you want, although I believe “Greedy Faiz Tilus” is required to be the first each time. Supposedly, the bosses are related to the sins they represent, but that’s not true. In reality, they’re related to what you’re going to lose, as before each fight, you’re required to sacrifice some of your equipment and stats to fight them “fairly”.
In truth, these sin removals are artificial difficulty. They’re put into the game to make it seem like it was much more of a tougher fight than it should be. A lot of these sacrifices relate to having stuff like your shield being useless, or your sword suddenly being made out of pink wafer biscuits or something equally weak. They don’t add anything to gameplay, except lengthen the already painfully drawn out fights, which weren’t even that enveloping to begin with.
Faiz Tilus is just a bargain bin version of Pinwheel from Dark Souls, as his teleporting and heat seeking projectiles exist only to prolong the fight as you spend time fannying about the battlefield’s slow marshes. A lot of the bosses will do this, where there attacks can simply be laid down to stunlocks, heat-seeking projectiles, and spawning Ads. Almost all of them do it.
Slothful Yordo’s bossfight is literally just Ads. Rhodes spams heat-seeking projectiles and Ads. Envious Levin Undok spawns a copy of her that summons heat-seeking swords and axes. Wrathful Angronn destroys the arena if you take too long to attack him, only to summon heat-seeking projectiles and more Ads. Can you see a theme here?
The last two bosses to mention are Lustful Chanel, and Gluttonous Camber Luce, with Camber Luce only spawning crappy heat-seeking projectiles. Lustful Chanel is more reminiscent of an actual warrior fight than anything else in this game, as opposed to every other boss playing like the worst parts of a Dark Souls game, which brings me to another point.
Right, so you have three main games, a bunch of DLC, the original PS3 version of Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne to nip some ideas from, right? So why on Earth did you use ideas and boss designs from some of the worst that Dark Souls bosses have to offer? Yordo is just Prowling Magus from Dark Souls 2, who is widely considered to be the worst Dark Souls boss ever made.
Camber Luce is essentially the Asylum Demon once you return to the Undead Asylum, Angronn is just Ceaseless Discharge, and Chanel is just Gwyn fighting in what looks like the Fallen Garden stage from Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Every once in a while, it’ll feel like you’re fighting something fresh and exciting, but it’ll be sabotaged by how painful the combat can be.
Perspective is the biggest issue. Every boss you’ll fight is more than twice the size of Adam, which means you’ll be slashing at their feet half of the time, but even that is an issue. The camera is in a position that will block you from seeing most of what is between Adam and his opponent, and a lot of the time, your attacks will miss by an inch because you made a gross miscalculation.
There’s another camera option, but it turns out that it’s probably the most poorly thought-out design choice in the entire game. Instead of having a free-flowing camera, you can choose to have it permanently fixed on the boss, which is an actual suicide run should you choose to have it. I hope you enjoy not knowing what’s behind you and having all of your attacks miss by half an inch, because all these bosses know how to do is strafe.
Do you like being stunlocked? I hope so, because every boss and Ad in this game will push Adam around like he’s made out of wet tissues. He has absolutely no poise, and every single attack from a mild shrug to a blast of brimstone and fire from the Gods above will result in the same ending: You being locked in place while the boss and their Ads wail on you.
I know I’m harping on the Ads problem a lot, but seriously, all of these ideas you could’ve taken from From Software’s epic series, and you choose one of the laziest ideas that wasn’t even an idea from Miyazaki? Are you mad? Who goes into a boss fight and wonders “Oh boy, I can’t wait to not fight the boss half of the time, and instead focus on his endless waves of mates!”? Yes, I’m looking at you, Destiny.
When it’s not Ads, you’ll always be circle strafing the enemy while they attempt to pull of a four-minute long attack combo that will remove most of your life and leave you prime for targeting while you attempt to heal. These bosses will always manage to hit you first, no matter where you attack them from, and these constant. Bloody. Ads. Always seek to make the game more annoying than what it should be.
Animation is also another big issue. I don’t know what it is, but a lot of attacks in this game don’t look like attacks, and instead look like the preparations for attacks. It’s a false sense of security thing, but it sure as shit isn’t animated to be an attack, and instead looks like they’re about to go for the touchdown. Other times, bosses like Rhodes will pull up their spear so it looks like a lunge attack, and instead slam their shield down to stunlock you and push you off the map. Don’t take the piss, Sinner.
You’re probably wondering about the eighth boss, but the truth is that I can’t reach him. Yordo and Levin Undok are cheating piles of grotesque messes that never promise a fair fight, and I already know what you’re thinking. “Oh, a gaems jurnalizt who cannae compleete a Durk Spuls gaem, how surprising! :o”, but I will tell you this. I’ve beaten every boss From Software’s ever thrown at me. I’ve done the dance with Dead Cells. I actually enjoyed Lords of The Fallen for what it is, but nothing has come close to the sheer amount of bullshit that lies in Sinner.
Playing Sinner has genuinely been one of the most disappointingly painful and tiresome experiences I’ve had in 2018, and even after a month, not a single boss has ever given me a fair fight. The camera misbehaves, the hit detection is amazingly broken, the weapons are weak and do nothing, the Sin system only acts as a barrier to true enjoyment, and not even the most hardcore Souls addicts will be able to extract any good times out of this.
Dying isn’t the best part of the Dark Souls, contrary to what the adverts that Bandai Namco made will tell you, as simple death was a mask hiding the true appeal. The worlds of Lordran, Drangleic, and Lothric are rich in detail and wonder, with characters actually feeling like part of the world, not gatekeepers to a world you’re not allowed in like in Sinner. All it took was an ounce more effort to be put into the world, but instead, it looks like we’re fighting inside a ping-pong ball filled with cigarette smoke.
Sinner has no world, it’s a barely connected string of fights that serve to piss you off instead of making you feel good. Adam isn’t a character, he’s just an NPC with a set of armour, with no effort put into why we should care about him, or bother to play. “Because it’s a game”? Sure, why not, but let’s not forget that you’d feel more attached to a character you could create yourself in a game like this, and not some faceless husk who gets tossed around like an odd sock in a washing machine.
In the end, it’s been a sombre sight to see Darkstar Games take all of these steps into creating what is the most exceptionally faceless Dark Souls clone money can buy. A de-evolution of the legacy Miyazaki has created, attempting to play it over the past month has been miserable. If Sinner wasn’t so happy with adding Ads into every fight, then you might actually have a game that is tight to play, but as it stands?
You’re honestly better off playing the PC port of Dark Souls with a mouse and keyboard.
This review of Sinner: Sacrifice For Redemption is based on the Xbox One version of the game. A review code was provided.
A confusing clash of ideologies and design choices is what ruins this games potential, turning it into one of the more boring and aggravating Dark Souls clones out there.
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