Languages have always fascinated me, and the study of linguistics — learning to understand a language’s structure, how it sounds, and how it morphs to fit the needs of the individual sounds. Suppose you’ve ever played Heaven’s Vault. In that case, you may find a similar experience in Chants of Sennaar, as both games task you with discovering and uncovering a language’s mechanics.
The story of Chants of Sennaar draws heavily from the myth of the Tower of Babel, in a world where different peoples are forced to live on different floors of a giant tower without being able to understand each other.
A Journey of Clues and Revelation
Imagine waking up in an unfamiliar place with no memory of who you are or where you are. That’s how Chants of Sennaar begins, with the hooded protagonist emerging from a mysterious altar, facing a daunting tower. Imagine waking up in a mysterious world, your past a blank slate. You rise from a ceremonial altar, ready to embark on an extraordinary journey.
You find yourself at the entrance of an imposing tower brimming with secrets and challenges. Your very first obstacle is a stream of water blocking your path. Fortunately, nearby levers hold the key to controlling its depth. The challenge lies in deciphering the unfamiliar symbols on the wall, guiding you on which levers to raise and lower. With these symbols meticulously noted in your in-game journal, your quest to unravel their meaning begins.
You’ll piece together the puzzle as you delve deeper into the world. Each symbol you associate with a word magically appears below the corresponding glyph in the game world. The journey is brimming with clues for the observant. For instance, the glyph for pot might be found above a shop where a craftsman moulds clay. Conversations with the tower’s inhabitants may also unveil the meanings of once-mysterious symbols as your glossary grows.
Unite a Splintered World
In Chants of Sennaar, you assume the role of the Traveler, who’s main goal is to traverse the floors of this mysterious place and learn the intracisies of each floor. The tower’s inhabitants have long been divided into distinct cultures and cities, isolated by their inability to communicate. Your mission is to explore each locale, break down language barriers, and reunite these fractured communities. Your path is fraught with linguistic challenges and the occasional guardian encounter, adding an element of thrill to your quest.
Chants of Sennaar‘s core gameplay centred on deciphering various glyphs found in spoken dialogue and discovered objects. Initially, it’s a gentle introduction as you decipher labels on levers like open and close. Then, you meet your first local, who offers a friendly wave and a glyph that hints at greeting.
Chants of Sennaar Offers A Few Challenges Along the Way
At certain points, you’ll be asked to match words to sketches representing their meanings. If you’re able to match an entire page of images (usually about three to five of them), the correct translations will be locked into your notebook in bold. Once you do this, the in-world translation of lines containing only confirmed words will change into a fluent, cohesive phrase.
Of course, no journey is without its challenges. If you neglect your note-taking or miss vital interactions, you might find yourself stuck, unable to decipher certain etchings. Some illustrations represent abstract concepts, occasionally requiring clarification even if you know the corresponding glyph. While some puzzles may lead to trial and error, most are well-crafted.
Getting Lost in Translation
Each tower level is vast and intricate, mirroring the experience of navigating a foreign land with an unfamiliar language. It captures the essence of being lost in translation a little too well. Yet, this intricacy adds depth to each language and fuels the conflict at the heart of the story, where miscommunication leads to factional divisions.
Chants of Sennaar cleverly conveys the rewarding feeling of mastering an entire language. You jot down potential translations in a notebook, and when you encounter these words, your guesses appear underneath them. Matching words to sketches further solidifies your understanding, transforming choppy translations into fluent, cohesive phrases.
While Chants of Sennaar may lack the traditional hooks in many games, it offers a unique and intellectually stimulating experience. It’s akin to an interactive linguistic anthropology lesson, where solving intricate puzzles and uncovering the secrets of a strange world is a creatively enriching journey.
Chants of Sennaar feels like a sleeper hit, one that is filled with clever puzzles that reward the observational eye. While the puzzles are highly intuitive and well-regarded, there are stealth sections that feel like filler, something to break apart the puzzles that detract from the campaign in an unextraordinary way. They are easily the worst bits of Chants of Sennaar – the instant-fail stealth sections that wear thin on my patience.
Chants of Sennaar uses the idea of linguistics in an exciting way, one that very few games out there have done before. It’s highly entertaining and filled with puzzles that are intricate and engaging. Still, it’s also filled with some exasperating stealth sections that detract from the more critical aspects of learning the languages. Chants of Sennaar is also an aesthetically pleasing experience filled with colourful locations worth discovering for the sights alone.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Switch
Chants of Sennaar uses the idea of linguistics in an exciting way, one that very few games out there have done before. It's highly entertaining and filled with puzzles that are intricate and engaging. Still, it's also filled with some exasperating stealth sections that detract from the more critical aspects of learning the languages. Chants of Sennaar is also an aesthetically pleasing experience filled with colourful locations worth discovering for the sights alone.
Wonderful use of language
Fun puzzles throughout
The stealth sections are unfitting to the gameplay