A nameless traveler awakens, immediately setting out to help those they encounter. Through each encounter players will learn different, semi-coherent languages. That’s how we’re introduced to the world of Chant of Sennaar. The narrative is told almost entirely through context. What dialogue there is comes in snippets. Sennaar tells the story of people who have grown apart and distrustful of others. The player represents hope.
The selling point of Sennaar is its decoding mechanic. Players begin by guessing what certain glyphs mean, then by using clues to edit these guesses. The game will eventually give the real definitions. Until then conversations feel like complex games of charades and you’re dependent on Google translate.
That’s not a complaint. It’s part of the charm. A word of warning, guesses should still be well thought out. If players don’t have certain words translated or didn’t edit a guess before leaving an area, that will make progressing difficult.
Players will travel through five realms; the Devotees, Bards, Guardians, Alchemists, and the Exiles. Each has a unique feel. Some are so vibrant and relaxing when darker moments hit, they’re deeply unsettling. Other areas are oppressive from the second you enter. For the most part this is achieved purely through Sennaar’s soundtrack.
Though this is a narrative game, Sennaar does throw in a dash of stealth gameplay and horror. These sections can drag depending on each individual’s timing. The monster stealth section was particularly frustrating. Though it appears random there are strong implications, as players travel forward, of its unfortunate backstory.
There are also various puzzles throughout the game. Players will be flipping back and forth between each translation puzzle and their journal frequently. Admittedly, this can get tedious. Chant of Sennaar is a lengthy indie game. As more words are translated that sense of discovery may be replaced by impatience. Thankfully, exiting the puzzle isn’t necessary to double-check your journal. Players will encounter a handful of puzzle types as well, so it will be easy to know if opening the journal is necessary.
Chant of Sennaar is a stand out experience for players who enjoy piecing a story together. When there is narration, it comes at the end. The narrative remains cohesive enough that it’s fairly easy to keep track of what’s being shown. Chant of Sennaar wears its wholesome message on its sleeve. And we could always do with more of that.