A Sinful Showing
Saga of Sins caught my eye with an attractive stained glass window style. Everything in the world looks like it would be at home in the walls of a church. This unique graphical styling is paired with a throwback-style action platformer. You are a man back from the Crusades, and your hometown is fallen to sin. Utilizing some form of the dark arts you’ll enter the minds of the townspeople and purge their greed, lust, wrath, and more. Is this game itself a sin, or does the gameplay match the good looks? Let’s find out.
16-bit in the Bad Way
Saga of Sins is a very serious story mixed with utterly ridiculous gameplay. You are Cecil, newly returned from years spent in the Crusades. You return to the city of Sinnwell and are tasked by your Master with purging the town of sin. To do this your incredibly evil-looking Scion will teach you how to enter people’s minds, without their permission, and fight a bunch of demons until you reach the “heart” of the issue. It’s a ridiculous premise wrapped around an incredibly dour and serious story. A handful of cutscenes have full voice acting, and both it and the writing are ok. They are neither bad nor good, but they are incredibly serious in their tone.
Not all cutscenes are voiced, only the ones around the start and end of a chapter. The premise of the game finds you walking around, mostly to the right, and pressing up on the d-pad once you find a person. You’ll thumb through some boring dialogue and, no matter how minor the transgression, enter their mind without permission. Most “sinners” minds contain a level full of platforming and combat, while a select few are optional areas where you can get more money. Money is needed to offer up at a statue so that you can superpower your demonic visages. There are four of these and you’ll swap between them on the fly while mind-f*cking the townsfolk against their will.
I hate the premise of this game, where every minor transgression is akin to a deadly sin and therefore gives the protagonist the right to do as he pleases. I admit that I gave up on the game near the end because of mounting frustration. The game is never overly difficult outside of a few key areas—those being the constant instakill mechanics present in the platforming. So rarely in my 40+ years on this Earth have I wanted to smash my head through a wall. Each sin has 2 base levels and a boss. The boss’s level of Greed was one of the most infuriating things I have done in my entire life. Jumping never feels great in the game, and you need to be pixel-perfect at times during that encounter. This frustration carries over into the combat.
There are four different forms in Saga of Sins. The first is a dog form that shoots out bolts of energy, there is a fire demon and a couple more that I’ll try not to spoil. None of them are exciting combat-wise. X is your main attack button with the left trigger being a powerful dash. To use the dash, which kills almost anything it hits, you’ll need to either kill four enemies to charge it or find a full recharge floating in the air. The gameplay sections of Saga of Sins are as video game-ed ass video game as it gets. This game reminds me of a bad version of The Lion King or Aladdin for the Genesis. Movement is stiff and combat never feels satisfying. Your projectiles feel like tissues, and you have no moves to do outside of turning, running backward, and then shooting a bit more if anything gets close to you.
A major emphasis in the combat is trying to line up big dash attacks as you’ll gain a little bit more gold if you kill multiple enemies with one. The level design in general is awful, so these situations feel ham-fisted where a full dash charge will be waiting right before an obvious “many monsters will spawn here” area. You have a double jump by default, which normally would be great, but the stiffness of jumping and moving left and right drains any fun out of the platforming. You’ll encounter a lot of different mechanics for movement such as weird floaty bubbles with tails that let you jump repeatedly while in them, and moving platforms that tend to hover over insta-death rivers.
The last part of the level design that is worth talking about is the checkpointing system. Every now and then you’ll get a small statue that glows blue when you run by it. This is the only way to get a checkpoint, and it stinks. Far too often the game would have me go 2 or 3 minutes in between checkpoints and death meant losing all of that progress. If the base game isn’t enjoyable the thought of losing progress like that is as miserable as it gets. Achievement wise the game felt stingy, but I’m not sure as the Xbox club had not been turned on yet. That meant that I could not see what the achievements were and how many I had.
Graphically the game looks alright. It’s quite pretty when not in movement. Animations are stiff and any extra graphical effects look cheap. The music gives me a “cheap mobile game” vibe like it was bought off of an asset store that pinball makers love to use. I didn’t have any technical issues, and quick resume worked great the entire time I was hating playing it. The game tends to have incredibly long breaks in between levels, so I couldn’t even just focus on playing them. Starting it up was 20 minutes of cutscenes, and getting to and from each level means walking all the way back to the right as you wake up in bed every time a mission is over.
Wrapping Things Up
Saga of Sins looks good. Its use of the stained glass window art style is its only redeeming feature, though. The gameplay is atrocious, and the level design is no better. The voice acting and music are passable at this price point, but I can’t recommend this game to anyone in good faith.
Review | Saga of Sins
Xbox Series X
- Pretty When Still
- Awful Platforming
- Boring Combat
- Unfair 1-hit Death Mechanics
- Dour Story
- Too Much Wasted Time In Between Levels