Review: Chants of Sennaar Makes You Feel Brilliant
Image via Fundisc and Focus Entertainment

Review: Chants of Sennaar Makes You Feel Brilliant

Chants of Sennaar is one of those games that could be easy to overlook, which is somehow appropriate. Given the somewhat clandestine nature of things and how you might be slipping around, investigating and infiltrating the Tower and figuring out an unknown language. Happening about this treasure of a game suits the whole situation. Plus, it means you get the delight of learning exactly why it is so magical, and can then tip people off to pass along the knowledge of exactly why the game is so worthwhile.

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Things begin with what appears to be a coffin in a strange place. You awake in a vacant area. It’s unfamiliar. An unknown alphabet consisting of sigils is around. You’ll need to use context and interactions with individuals as you move through the Tower to piece together the language. As you do, you’ll get a better read of what happened around the Tower, the current situation, and even the toolset needed to start solving puzzles that could help figure out everything going on.

Screenshot by Siliconera

Screenshot by Siliconera

I like to think of Chants of Sennaar as an adventure game where learning the language as you go is one of the many puzzles you encounter along the way. As you wander around the Tower’s different locations, you’ll come across environmental objects, signs, and people you can talk to. When you do, you’ll be able to observe the images accompanying the glyphs and the actions of the people you meet to piece together meaning via context. As an example, one of the first situations involves a lever with a sign next to it where there are two different sigils in front of the same one. When you move it, the door next to it opens and closes. The next area features a puzzle with water to drain a canal, which involves opening and closing founts. This confirms what the word means. You can press a button to assign a temporary meaning or hint at a possible translation.

Then, when you hit certain points while exploring, you’ll bring up a notebook with images. You can then move the words you’ve come across so far to the ones they match. When you successfully pair them up, you’ll “learn” the words. You then get the exact match and, whenever you encounter them in the Tower or conversations with people, they will appear translated above the glyphs.

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Screenshot by Siliconera

What’s fun is how this scales in complexity in a natural way. Especially since it never gets frustrating. You’ll usually see words in context more than once, offering more hints to piece things together. The movements and actions of other characters around you tend to correspond to rather obvious meanings, helping you pick out what they’re trying to suggest via body language and behavior. And frankly, it made me feel brilliant as I’d work things out and see my notebook fill up.

These sections are interspersed with other sorts of puzzles. For example, the earliest ones involved pulling switches in correct orders to progress. You need to play hide and seek with a child at another point. There are stealth sections that involving figuring out distractions, weaknesses, and safe timing to get past guards or other adversaries. You’ll need to move storage carts to get a ladder under a tree. There will be times when you’ll need to sneak into certain areas by blending in to use items you found to access dials to form certain phrases. Some of these can be hit or miss. There were a few stealth sections in particular that I didn’t enjoy as much as other puzzles. But it’s almost always delightfully clever and satisfying. Especially when the language you’re learning is woven into some of these experiences.

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Screenshot by Siliconera

It’s also quite a gorgeous game. I loved the ambiance in Chants of Sennaar. It could be familiar, but also foreign. It felt historical, like I was some sort of archeologist investigating the past of the place while interacting with the people in the present to learn about their culture and life. I appreciated the design aesthetics, and the sigils themselves were beautiful. I honestly want to go through it a second time, now that I’m aware of the meanings behind many of these words, to see how certain elements of these glyphs are recurring when certain ones are connected.

Chants of Sennaar feels like more than a video game sometimes. Aside from some stealth sections and moments that involved evading hostile opponents that occasionally took me out of the moment, I found myself completely immersed in its world. Every new area accessed was a triumph. Every new word I learned felt like an accomplishment. It’s lovely.

Chants of Sennaar is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Chants of Sennaar

Legend says that one day, a traveler will reunite the Peoples of the Tower who are unable to communicate with each other. Observe, listen, and decipher ancient languages in a fascinating universe inspired by the myth of Babel. Switch version reviewed.

Chants of Sennaar is an incredible adventure that tasks you with solving puzzles and deciphering a language in a challenging, accessible way.

Food for Thought
  • Even if you're not sure of a possible definition of a glyph, making note of the sigil and something associated with it can help when you're tasked with filling in the book.
  • I was impressed at the level of freedom and the fact that you can just stop to play a minigame of sorts or pet a cat.
  • While there are stealth elements, it isn't too difficult to work out and offers some leeway for those just here for the puzzles.

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Image of Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.