The Dark Souls of Indie Games
I don’t know if I’ll ever understand the craze that surrounded Dark Souls. Demon’s Souls, one of my favorite FromSoftware games, performed to mediocre levels of praise while garnering a niche audience. Dark Souls took the formula utilized in Demon’s Souls and improved it, leading to a highly successful spiritual successor to the Souls saga. It’s easily my favorite Souls games, and it deserves the praise it receives. I just never understood how it hit the ‘mainstream’. Remember when everything was the Dark Souls of something?
In the case of Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, an indie titled released by developer Dark Star Games, it literally feels, looks, and plays like a Souls games. Where games like Salt & Sanctuary use the Souls formulaic approach to their games, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption takes the boss battle theories from the Souls sagas and uses those blueprints to create something special. Sinner cuts out the lengthy middle man of traveling through tumultuous worlds and battling through obnoxious enemies who often test your patience and not your skills in lieu of creative boss battles.
The premise of the game is simple: You sacrifice certain aspects of your character to battle against bosses corrupted by the seven deadly sins. Before each battle, you sacrifice certain stats or abilities, like losing strength or stamina, or losing a few item uses. Fortunately, if you find yourself struggling during each fight, you can call back your sacrificed abilities until you’re ready to face the boss again. After you clear each boss, you are able to redeem their souls if you so choose.
Of course, the real gem in this game is each individual boss fight. For a game like Dark Souls, boss battles were important but not always imminently so. When your game is a pure boss battler, each battle must be carefully crafted to perfection. Let me tell you: Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption contains some of the coolest and most innovative boss battles that I’ve fought through in a long time. I think, for me, the coolest aspect of the game was the correlation between your sacrifices and the skills required for each boss. For example – and to avoid spoilers – the boss that requires a sacrifice of strength also takes a lot of damage. On top of the cool designs, the added level of difficulty incurred by sacrificing your skills, abilities, and item uses is a pretty intriguing prospect.
Visually, Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption isn’t the prettiest game. Its dark, Gothic style highlights the tone of the game, with deep grays and blacks mingling in a fog like trance. The character you play as reminds me of a Zelda character, as he dons an elfish appearance (to me, anyway). Attention to detail can be seen with the careful consideration of each boss, but it seems to end there. For the most part, this is all right; the boss battles consume your attention, so you’re not particularly caring what the scenery looks like (which is also unfortunate, as I dropped through a hole or two in the ground for the very same reason). Cutscenes work as still images behind a narration and are typically seen before engaging a boss battle. Sound in Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption is fleeting and forgettable. There isn’t a particular melody or sequence that I can remember, which is both a good and bad thing. This implies that there weren’t any rough or obnoxious scores or sounds, but a strong soundtrack can lift games to new levels (think Nier). Still, for an indie game dedicated to battling bosses, sound – especially in the music department – is the least of your worries.
When looking back at my extended time with Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption, I see an overwhelmingly positive experience that places gaming above all else. Controls are tight and the battles are both long, challenging, and invigorating. Much like the Souls saga, overcoming a boss or challenge that you’ve failed a number of times is extremely rewarding. While the visuals and sounds aren’t particularly memorable, they also aren’t particularly necessary. The success of this game lies in its meticulously crafted boss battles, and the passion put into each one is clearly evident. If you’re looking for a shorter boss battling experience with the biting difficulty of a Souls game, then Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption will leave you satisfied. It’s been a long time since I’ve played an indie game that left me as satisfied as this one.