Chants of Sennaar Review

Chants of Sennaar artwork header

The world is filled with languages, each on binding together a culture, providing a common link between its peoples. At the same time languages can divide us, the specific rules, unique quirks and idioms making it difficult for people of different regions and backgrounds to communicate. Chants of Sennaar is a game about languages and how they can cause these divides.

Chants of Sennaar is set in a tower, an allegory of the Tower of Babel. The tower is divided into different levels, with each level home to a different group of people. At the bottom are the devotees, trying to ascend to reach their god, then there is the level of the warriors, who stop the devotees from climbing the tower. Above the warriors are the bards and the artists, who are content with their lives, before you reach the alchemists on the level above, studying to find a way to open the gate to get to the top of the tower. Your character belongs to none of these groups of people, though, essentially a blank slate that knows none of the languages.

Chants of Sennaar language glyphs

That is the crux of Chants of Sennaar. As the player, your mission is to essentially learn the words of each language, so you can understand what the people are saying, and to solve the puzzles. Each language has its own glyphs, and with a handy in-game notebook, you can use the environment and contextual clues to work out what things mean. As you make your way through the levels, your character will sketch down drawings. Here you can match glyphs against drawings and if they are all correct on the page, the correct translations will be given.

The puzzles themselves heavily rely on you decoding the languages present. Each puzzle can vary from sneaking through a room to avoid guards to working out how machines work to open doors. There are also communication panels where different groups try to talk to one another, and if you have enough of each language decoded you can act as the interpreter, bridging that language gap. Puzzles steadily get harder as each level gets larger, with some requiring you to go between multiple rooms to find all the pieces that will get the solution. The notebook is essential in making progress because of this.

Chants of Sennaar notebook

The design of Chants of Sennaar is really colourful with an aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye. Each level has its own colour palette, and the inhabitants of each have their own fashion. The music is also very enchanting and really fits the atmosphere of this being a quest of discovery and in essence a religious quest.

Summary
Chants of Sennaar and the way it explores the relations between different groups of people is really engaging as a game. With language at its core, it highlights both the differences and the similarities between people and cultures. Chants of Sennaar is a puzzle game that deserves attention.
Good
  • Deciphering languages is engaging and fun
  • The puzzles are generally well-designed
  • A pleasing art aesthetic
Bad
  • Some puzzles can feel a bit too convoluted
  • You can sometimes get a bit lost when running around
8
Written by
From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.