REVIEW / Saga of Sins (PS4)
Something doesn’t have to be wildly innovative to be good. This is a pretty basic point but I think it’s a really important one when it comes to the landscape of modern gaming. Sometimes devs strive to go so far outside the box with what they’re doing they completely lose the core point of what every game should be; fun. So it’s fair to say that although the gaming community is always looking for something different to sink their teeth into, and that with the absolute deluge of content we’re getting games need to stand out; they also need to be playable and enjoyable. This point is important when we look at today’s game. Saga of Sins isn’t the most innovative thing I’ve ever played and in this case, I’m quite pleased with that. Let’s see why, shall we?
To give you a very brief overview of Saga of Sins, you’ll be taking the role of Cecil a crusading knight who has returned home to the town of Sinwell. What he finds is that the townsfolk have fallen to sin and chaos has ensued. Taking the form of powerful creatures Cecil must enter the minds of the afflicted and save their souls from whichever of the seven sins has taken up residence there. This is a very loose idea of the story and there’s more to the plot than that but that gives you an idea. I’m getting the feeling that by helping all of the tainted souls you’re walking into a bigger trap but I’ll have to play further to see whether I’m right.
Coming back to what I was saying at the beginning, Sage of Sins is a fairly basic feeling arcade platformer. I’m not saying this as an insult, by the way, I think it’s necessary for all the other elements in this game to really shine. The clever aspects of this title come in level design and graphical choices. There are also other elements that make this a really replayable title that I’ll explain as we go.
I really like the way that the levels stand out from one another in Saga of Sins. It would have been really easy to give the levels representing the different sins a different look aesthetically, chuck in a bunch of new enemies, and call it a day. What they’ve done is add mechanics that fit the theme of the sin you’re battling. For example, the sin of Sloth sees you having to deal with sinking platforms. This can make reaching certain areas above them nearly impossible if you aren’t on your toes. As these platforms often have chests sitting on them this isn’t a small annoyance. The sin of Greed on the other hand presents you with a lake of liquid gold and chests that spew coins that you want to avoid because they’ll drain the total gold you already have. This is really smart on the part of the devs because it leaves you wondering what you’ll encounter next and makes complacency dangerous.
In addition to the clever design choices I’ve just mentioned the levels you’ll encounter are also replayable for those of you that want to find everything there is to find and collect every chest. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that you can’t always backtrack easily to collect chests you know you’ve missed. In some cases, you simply won’t be able to get to them on account of them being out of reach. Some of the levels on the other hand are vertical and because you’re dropping you can’t always just jump back to where you were. Some chests are visible but might not be accessible on your first run. For one, you might simply not be able to figure out a way into the secret space where they’re hidden but also Saga of Sins has a Metroidvania aspect where you won’t be able to access certain areas until you’ve unlocked more forms. This is smart because anything that makes a completionist’s life harder is going to add replayability for them.
To give you more to think about, (as if you didn’t have enough already,) you can also jump into the minds of innocents. Not every member of the townsfolk has been corrupted by sin, the minds of children are still pure and some of the characters, like you, weren’t in town when the tragedy occurred. These are puzzle levels that will reap rewards in the form of gold if you are able to solve them. Take it from me that you’ll need to go back to some of these. Like the rest of the game, you won’t be able to do everything in one go.
I mentioned the aesthetic that’s being used in Saga of Sins earlier and this is a massive part of the appeal of this game. It feels like you’re playing through a series of stained glass windows and the enemies have the beautifully drawn effect you see in medieval manuscripts. As this is a tale with a lot of religious weight, (without being preachy,) the game’s look and feel fit everything really nicely.
So, there’s obviously a lot to love here. There must be areas the game can do better in, right? The answer is yes but not in any way that really hampers the overall enjoyment of this title. Firstly I’d like to have seen a bit more done with the different forms you’re given. The first you get is a werewolf and this character can throw projectiles making it great at range, dash, and use a howl that will reveal hidden items. The second form is a gargoyle and although your main weapon has been changed to a fire-breath which is of shorter range but great for dealing with flying enemies and can set objects alight, everything else remains the same. I’d have liked to have seen the dash swapped for something else to make me want to switch characters more often. You can switch on the fly which is great but there isn’t enough reason to want to do this frequently outside of puzzle-solving, at least to where I’ve played thus far. Incidentally, there are achievements for how many kills you can get in one dash attack. This is great and could have been further expanded if the other forms had done more.
This is a personal pet peeve more than anything but I hate instakill spike traps. The river of gold I mentioned earlier is an important part of the flavor of the level and making you die instantly by falling into it is understandable as it adds to the gravity of that sin; literally drowning in gold reflects greed nicely. Just general spike pits, however, outside the realm of the skill-based platformer, (think Super Meatboy, etc.) should be a thing of the past. Levels are hard enough without needless repetition. Just let me take damage and give me a second or two to get out of harm’s way. If I still die, that’s fine, but it’s my own doing. I’ve repeated the same Sloth level umpteen times now because I keep missing moving platforms and getting impaled. Passing this area is feeling more like luck at this stage than skill and that’s never a good look for any gaming experience.
I think the biggest put-off for this title is just how basic it really is. The controls don’t always feel as fluid as they could but then this is an argument I’d make for a lot of platformers so no huge surprise there. As far as collectibles are concerned there are really only coins to find. These coins then level up your character. This is fine for me because this is an arcade title. If it were more RPG-focused I’d have something more to say about it but I don’t see what having a bunch of other random collectibles would do for the gaming experience so in this sense it’s fine. In fact, it’s less about what’s in the chests you find and more about finding all the chests. This is one for completionists and in that sense, it’s a plus.
All in all Saga of Sins is a really enjoyable, if somewhat simplistic platformer with some very clever mechanics thrown in. What we’re doing is taking a fairly standard arcade title and using some really clever design choices to pull it up to a new level. This is definitely one that I’ll keep going back to and for me, that’s always going to be at the forefront of how I ultimately score a game. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles are being used, if you don’t want to keep jumping back in over a period of time it’s all a bit pointless. Saga of Sins isn’t by any means a showstopper but it’s a really replayable title that has an awful lot to love thrown in. Definitely, one to check out for the platform fanatics amongst you.
Platforming done well
Saga of Sins isn’t doing anything particularly inventive when it comes down to its basic mechanics. As a platformer, it would just be okay if it wasn’t for the brilliantly written story and gorgeous graphics present here. Some very clever level design compliments everything else and makes for a really enjoyable experience. Aside from some frustrating elements of difficulty and a few gripes that I’ve already mentioned this is a really solid little game. Is it a GOTY contender? No, it’s not. Is it worth checking out? Absolutely!