Yes Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption looks quite a bit like Dark Souls. Yes the bosses and movesets, weapons, spells all seem like they’re ripped from the embers of Lordran, Drangleic and Lothric. But, what if there’s more to this game than meets the eye? We don’t know incredibly much, but if you look closely, there may be something to this game after all. Let’s take a look at how Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption may be more than just a Dark Souls clone.
Why Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption Is More Than a Dark Souls Clone
The Art Direction
Let’s start with the game’s art direction, which for obvious reasons is the first thing we see in the game. It’s clear that the game has taken a visual look and direction that is a departure from the the dark realism of Dark Souls. Initially the character model seems janky, but once you glance through some of the game’s screenshots, the animation style is actually contextual. The bosses shown also possess this distortion, and it winds up giving the game a dark, cartoony feel, similar to the Nightmare before Christmas movie. Adding to that is the patina of cel-shading in the game which works with the cartoon like models. While initially jarring, it winds up appropriately matching the subject matter. It’s quite a departure from Dark Souls, and at a longer look, it seems quite intentional.
The Subject Matter
That subject matter brings us to the next point. This game is heavily built on biblical references, with a series of 7 bosses you will face, all themed around 1 of the 7 deadly sins. For those far removed from Sunday school instruction, those sins are: gluttony, lust, greed, pride, envy, wrath, and sloth. As touched on in the last paragraph, that type of biblical subject matter lends itself well to that gothic fantasy art direction. Tackling the concept of these sins gives the game a quite clear focus unlike that of Dark Souls. Yes Dark Souls immerses itself in philosophical concepts, dabbling in Jungian archetypal themes, and in other ways making allusions to Nordic religions. But it never clearly broaches into dogma and its related concepts like penitence. This specificity is something we don’t see a whole lot in gaming in general, with designers usually content to create new pantheons of gods. Occasionally you get a game like Dante’s Inferno that touches upon those themes of salvation and penance.
With the sins dictating the boss and no doubt the level design, the game is likely going to have its own distinct feel. It’s probably going to be a more clear and serious musing. We’re familiar with the subject matter, unlike in Souls where we must hunt for every clue and still make best guesses. When it comes to the deadly sins, we know what they are, we know what they mean, we know who decreed them and why. From that starting point the musing is less about “what” as it is in Dark Souls and more about “why”. Why are we making these choices? Why are riddled with guilt? In Dark Souls we rarely touch on dogma and that’s because we still don’t have a clear picture as to what the religion even looked like, much less practiced.
Ah, the beloved boss rush, where have you gone? A staple of Japanese game development, it’s a feature we see all too rarely it seems. And that’s puzzling because when done right, it’s incredibly fun and addicting and decidedly not Dark Souls. In fact, a rush mode is a feature commonly asked for from Souls fans, at least upon defeating the game. Some have compared Sinner to Shadow of the Colossus and that’s partially true, in that it seems the challenge is specifically, if not solely the bosses. But it probably has more in common with something like the Everfall in Dragon’s Dogma. The Everfall is a multi-leveled dungeon, divided into floors all themed around a certain dark emotion: anxiety, remorse, lament, etc. Sound familiar? Most levels in the Everfall are a quick jaunt through some lesser foes followed by a boss fight, and some are just straight up a boss fight, like the Ur-dragon. But once you can access the Everfall at endgame, you can take on these challenges over and over and over again to your masochistic heart’s content. In a format like this, the challenge is always about the larger than life boss, and trims away some of the fat (and meat) of tradtional exploration gameplay. It’s certainly not Dark Souls, and reaches further back into early hardcore gaming convention.
Deleveling prior to taking on one of these bosses is absolutely distinct from Dark Souls and could be the most intriguing mechanic of the game. It represents an intersection between the game’s spiritual premise and it’s gameplay. Humbling yourself by weakening yourself prior to taking on a challenge. Sure you can hamper yourself in Dark Souls before a big fight, like using Power Within, but there’s always a positive trade off, usually in the form of more attack power. But outright weakening yourself, and increasing the challenge? Sounds interesting. It presents a choice to make carefully and is extremely in line with the self flagellation of religious dogma. Will you cut off your nose? Hand? Will you pluck out an eye to atone for your sins? Chilling and spiritually hefty. I like it.
Not So Similar?
Yes, Sinner takes heavy inpsiration from Dark Souls, but even so, there’s reason to believe that the game may eventually stand on its own and even be a good time. It’s clear it’s not just a bootleg reskin of From Software’s masterpiece, re-packaged to the point of a quick buck. In that case, I’d proclaim plagiarism. But that’s not the case, and it’s something to monitor closely. Sure, the game could come out as rubbish in a dreg heap, but so could any AAA game. Need I jog anyone’s memory of some recent duds? But the point is, succeed or fail, Sinner is already more of its own entity than people may realize.
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