#Focus #Entertainment #Chants #Sennaar #Review
And all the way up to the sky, too
Location: at home
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Date Played: September 2023
Team size: 1
Duration: Approximately 10 hours for a completionist playthrough
Platforms: PC, XBox One, PS4, Switch
When I first came across Chants of Sennaar at Tribeca Festival in 2023, I knew I had found a game that was unique. The world was sparse, the instructions minimal, and the primary mechanic of language translation was intriguing. I didn’t even have to finish playing the demo before understanding that it was a game I would want to play as soon as it launched. When Chants of Sennaar did release fully in September 2023, I bought it immediately and immersed myself in it.
Chants of Sennaar was inspired by the tale of the Tower of Babel, in which humans decided to build a tower to the heavens and were cursed for their hubris so that their speech was fractured and no one could understand anyone else. Chants of Sennaar was a gamification of the aftermath of that incident. The emptiness and isolation of the world and its people was represented very effectively in most of the level and character design.
There were some oddly-placed sequences that didn’t feel like they quite fit with the rest of the game. A small number of stealth sequences that were in the range of slightly to somewhat annoying come to mind. And one instance of a traffic jam-style puzzle felt out of place. Thankfully these were small speed bumps in an otherwise captivating game.
Despite the small number of shortcomings, Chants of Sennaar was one of the most engrossing games that I have played in a long time. The core gameplay mechanic of language translation is not something that we see enough of. It was puzzly, it was atmospheric, and it was different from almost everything else I have played. I highly recommend going on a journey and exploring this world.
Who is this for?
- Story seekers
- Puzzle lovers
- Armchair linguists
- Players that don’t need intense action
- Any experience level
- Glyph and language translation is a fairly novel concept as a main mechanic in a video game.
- A translation loop that gets deeper and more complex as you progress.
The story and meaning of Chants of Sennaar is discovered throughout the game. When you begin, you are a lone robed being wandering a sparsely-populated minimalist building complex at the base of the tower, attempting to converse with other robed figures and understand their language. As you progress upward through the tower levels you meet different groups of residents and need to figure out how to help them all reconnect.
Chants of Sennaar is a game about discovery and making connections. As your character wanders the world, it quickly comes into contact with a strange writing system that is indecipherable to both the character and the player.
The primary mechanic of this game is translating strange glyphs into usable words through light puzzle solving, conversation, and context clues. Each of the languages in the game is made up of 36 glyphs representing words and bits of grammar. As the languages become increasingly understandable, greater connections between the various levels are uncovered and the story begins to be made clear.
➕ Language translation is a very underutilized mechanic and it was used expertly here.
➖ There were some (thankfully short and rare) stealth portions of the game that didn’t feel like they fit in and hurt the flow of the game.
➕ The length of Chants of Sennaar was right in the sweet spot – it stayed around for long enough to be interesting and make its point without overstaying its welcome.
➕ Chants of Sennaar added layers of increasing difficulty throughout the game, making the whole game feel like you had made real progress in understanding the languages.
➖ I experienced a sequence break in one level of the game that led to some unnecessary confusion and backtracking.
➕Chants is a very relaxing game. There is no combat and very few quick actions require quick reaction.
Tips For Players
- Required Gear: System requirements are posted on the Steam store page.
- A demo version is available on all platforms if you want to try before you buy.
Buy your copy of Focus Entertainment’s Chants of Sennaar, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
By day, Andrew is a history and special education teacher. By night…and weekends…and afternoons if he can swing it, he is an avid escape room player. Since playing his first room in 2017, he has travelled thousands of miles to feed his obsession, and expanded his range of interests to include immersive theater and just about any puzzle he can get his hands on. When he’s not puzzling, he can be found talking to his cat or staring at his oven waiting for something delicious to finish baking.