Sin Slayers Review23 Sep 2019 0
Sin Slayers Review
Released 05 Sep 2019
Sin Slayers has, much like its heroes of yore, broken me down. Stripped of joy, muttering endless repetitions of “Pray or Die!”, fighting countless meaningless battles of pure meat-sponges. I wish for release; all I want to do is finish this game so I can get off this ride to the Sin Lords of Hell. Failing in Darkest Dungeon leaves me with a better sense of gratitude than succeeding in Sin Slayers. There is only nihilism, existential dread that I must continue forward in a vain attempt to hope that things will improve as I reach further acts of the game. If only I knew.
Developed by goonswarm, Sin Slayers is a tactical turn-based fantasy RPG. As previously stated, it shares a design space with games like Darkest Dungeon or soon to release MISTOVER, though devoid of any charm or personality. Assembling a group of three unique heroes from a somewhat diverse amount of options, you venture forth into the domain of various Sin Lords: Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, etc.
Fighting your way through randomly generated maps, you must locate the sub-boss of each domain and slay them, then return to another randomly generated map of the same territory and hunt down the Sin Lord. Along the way, you are presented with various events including but not limited to: grave robbing, praying at altars, opening locked chests, finding side-quests, etc. Your actions throughout these events will either increase or decrease your overall Sin level. Sin levels can allow you to obtain loot faster, but also increase the strength of various enemies.
It’s the fundamental system that Sin Slayers abides by, and it is completely and utterly useless. I really cannot stress this enough, this Sin meter is totally avoidable, and I would openly encourage it even. So many times, I would attempt to engage with this system, driving my Sin up to extremely high levels, thinking I would be given a new form of gameplay, new dangerous enemies, or consequences to content with. Not so, I am sad to report that all I encountered were enemies of marginal strength increases with massive piles of health. Slugging through higher Sin levels was not engaging, it was a chore. Now I see why some heroes gave into Sloth’s temptations, I wouldn’t want to deal with this every day either.
It’s unfortunate because at a surface level, this game should be doing a lot of things right. It has a simple scaling combat system pertaining to a few skills, various strengths and weaknesses, and building resources over time. Heroes obtain Rage via a few different means, most often via their basic attack or ability, which then allows them to use more unique or interesting moves. Unfortunately, this can often mean piles of time spent doing average move sets to build up enough Rage to get to the more interesting bits. Likewise, once your heroes get to a certain level of skills and levels, basic fights become so rudimentary that you often don’t even employ these abilities and combos in favor of just spamming basic stuff to make fights go faster.
Don’t even get me started on animation speed, which seemingly doesn’t change, even when you increase “battle movement speed” to four times the normal rate! All that changes is how fast each character zips across to hit someone, but the actual strike or cast takes it’s full normal rate of time. After you’ve seen the Priestess cast Heaven’s Judgment for the 3,000th time you just wish you could make it go faster. I sincerely hope they consider patching in an auto-battle system at some point for when you are fighting monsters that clearly bear no threat to you outside of the occasional critical hit.
If I’m coming off as overly negative, it’s not out of spite or desire, I want to like this game. I’m normally a huge fan of the genre, I want others to discover it! However, when multiple core systems just aren’t melding in a cohesive way, I have no choice but to call a spade a spade. As I previously mentioned, once I just fundamentally ignored the Sin Meter, as there is little reason to engage with it at all, I was still flooded with money and resources from all of the combat encounters I navigated through. Side-quests offered little value for the amount of effort they required, and were completely devoid of any story or meaning, so eventually I just gave up on pursuing them outside of the few core game-play expanding missions. In the very first zone I was sent off to collect mushrooms for a Pigman’s stew.
At first, I was elated, as I had just collected quite a few mushrooms from various encounters and events! Turns out, those “mushroom” items were not the “mushrooms” I needed for this quest, and at that point I knew I was in for a rough ride. The dialogue is often a detriment to the ambience of the game, and I often wonder if the entire atmosphere would be better off if all of the protagonists, and maybe even the Sin Lords themselves, were silent and eerie matching the attempted aesthetic of a barren run-down world. There are so many small moments where Sin Slayers wants to come across as badass, difficult, and interesting. Unfortunately, often enough the various snippets of writing or descriptions are empty of any substance or character. I don’t feel connected to this world like I have others, it feels like a self-aware copy of Diablo.
Back to core systems, a recent addition to the game, the Goblin Merchant, then allowed me to simply buy my characters up to the maximum level and skills. It wasn’t a progression as much as it was flying past any semblance of accomplishment or value, because the game allowed me to do so with little fanfare or resistance. Soon enough I found myself totally disinterested in engaging with any other randomized storefronts, as the prices they charged for mundane items was completely out of touch with how cheap experience gems were by comparison. I suppose the one upside to this is that as I unlocked new heroes, it also allowed me an easy way to finalize their growth and experiment with different group compositions. I just wish there was any semblance of challenge or consequence for directly ignoring fundamental mechanics of the game. I was given more than enough weapon and armor choices through my various boss kills, and given each character can only equip up to two items, I wasn’t hampered by ignoring any optional exploration events. Very rarely, if ever, did a side quest yield something that was better than what I already had or was able to craft.
As I’ve progressed through each Sin Lord’s domain, I have only had a full party wipe once thus far, and that’s because I was taking time to test out the weaknesses of the Librarian, the sub-boss of Pride’s domain, without having brought the proper party. Some bosses have, admittedly, called for a bit of challenge while I figured out their Rage attack patterns, but after a few turns of analysis it’s pretty easy to turn the tables from there. Then the monotony of slowly whittling down their health bar, often as they summon additional minions over and over, begins. Some bosses do have secondary phases where patterns completely change, or new attacks emerge, and that’s when the potential of this game shows itself. Sadly, it’s not often enough, and is an experience that I wish had more pomp and circumstance outside of just the Sin Lords.
For what it’s worth, the developers are very open to feedback about the game, and have a roadmap of changes and updates they would like to implement throughout the remainder of this year. They seem like folks who want to continue to build and grow their game into something worthy of pride and praise.
New challenge zones and a Hell difficulty could be the answer to my sorrowful prayers, and I genuinely wish them luck as they continue forward with development. In the interim, I will be putting Sin Slayers down for now, I suppose I should thank it for reminding me that there are other, more compelling, games in this genre that are worth my time. Hopefully the next time I pick up this title I won’t be overcome with feelings of what could have been, and can instead enjoy a romp of cutting down the wrathful lords of Sin.