The only real sacrifice was my patience.
Every now and then a particular portion of a game plays so well that it deserves to be explored further in its own title. Some examples that come to my mind include Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Torneko’s Mystery Dungeon. Clearly, the developers behind SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption are fans of the Dark Souls series since the gameplay is based on the boss battles from the punishing action-RPG. Standing victorious over the defeated carcass of an overpowered giant certainly is one of the highlights of Dark Souls, but removing the exploration and lesser battles also removes the incremental successes, and all that remains is a miserable experience.
SINNER doesn’t waste any time getting caught up in lore. A brief introduction sets up that a nameless warrior with great strength gained from nefarious acts is on a quest for the redemption. The path to atonement goes straight through seven deadly monsters, each a personification of one of the seven sins. Before the wandering warrior can achieve atonement by defeating each monster, they must first give a predetermined sacrifice of their power in order to enter the demon's lair. The boss battles become increasingly more difficult as more power is sacrificed, a mechanic that is unnecessary given that the boss battles are already punishing enough.
Veterans of Dark Souls may find the concept interesting but will soon discover the execution is lacking. The lone warrior is the only playable character and their controls closely follow their source inspiration. One and two-handed swords, a shield, regeneration, and flame bombs are all items afforded to the player. Though the warrior may have similar equipment, they do not have the same smooth and responsive movements as a Dark Souls player character. Button presses feel delayed, with attacks and movement always feeling a half-second behind. The frustration of the slow and unresponsive controls is only magnified by the lack of an opportunity to improve your skills. The tutorial is only long enough to explain what each button does and gives no real opportunity to master the various moves. After the brief tutorial, it’s time to select the first boss and be royally pounded into oblivion. In one particularly agonizing match, I had only seconds to watch the boss run towards my character and send me back to the loading screen with three slashes from their swords.
Frustratingly difficult titles can be rewarding in their own right but need to provide the opportunity to improve without constant defeats to incentivize further attempts. Trying to fight both the bosses of SINNER as well as the controls of the warrior is just an overwhelmingly painful experience. I can only recommend SINNER to those looking for an almost insurmountable challenge, and even then, you’re probably better off just sinking those hours into further exploration of Lordran.