Chants of Sennaar Review

Richard Walker

Chants of Sennaar is a visually striking puzzle game. It also happens to be one of the more unique puzzlers we've played in quite some time, its primary conceit revolving around translating lost languages in order to solve various conundrums. You begin on the path to a bright yellow sun-drenched Abbey, all vertiginous columns, little agoras, and cavernous churches, bathed in startling light and shadow. Initially, deciphering relatively simple language glyphs is hugely gratifying, but it gradually gets pretty challenging.

Some of Chants of Sennaar's puzzles can also seem a mite obtuse at times, although there's invariably a logical solution or a missing item required. It's the core language-deciphering mechanic that eventually grows somewhat tiresome over time, however, with more and more complicated glyphs and cross-referencing with tongues you've already translated proving increasingly mind-boggling. Developer Rundisc also thought some stealth sections might be a nice change of pace, but they're a pain.

Irritating trial and error stealth bits aside, there's a lot to like about Chants of Sennaar, whether it's the lush, Mediterranean-style exteriors, or the dark and oppressive caves and fortresses you'll explore. The entire game is a labyrinth of plazas, stairways, subterranean mines, tunnels, and sewers. And every little note, sign, discarded book, stone tablet, and fresco potentially harbours a new glyph to learn and scribble into your notebook.

Ah, yes, the notebook. Your mysterious robed protagonist's log of every word you've learned during your journey, from basic greetings to pronouns, object names, descriptors, and more. You can make a guess at what a glyph means by bringing up the console keypad and manually typing something in, which can lead to some hilarious sentences being uttered and humorous signpost text. Swear words are fair game, so one can imagine the fun that ensues. When your guesses are close to the actual translation, it also makes you feel pretty clever.

The process of deciphering is quite satisfying, too, as you match glyphs you've learned to expressions, objects, landmarks, and other stuff sketched into your notebook. Completing every glyph for each language feels like a major achievement, from the small lexicon of the Devotees at the Abbey, to the slightly wider dictionary of glyphs used by the Warriors in the nearby Fortress, the flowery glyphs of the Bards, the complex sigils the Alchemists speak, and the chatter of the Anchorites, each stage on your ascent up Chants of Sennaar's tower presents its own challenge to overcome.

There's often a twist to keep you on your toes, whether it's being relentlessly pursued by a light-fearing monster, donning a disguise to blend in, or joining a march to pass through guarded gates. Rundisc has done a fine job in injecting a little variety to proceedings, even if some of those aforementioned twists (those stealth bits) don't always stick the landing. Still, at least the checkpoints are often fair, and failure is rare.

A bold art style, smart core conceit, and enigmatic environments make for an entirely unique puzzle game. Chants of Sennaar can be tricky, and there are flaws (like those ill-conceived, though thankfully short-lived and infrequent, stealth segments), but deciphering languages and seeking out the game's myriad secrets and mysteries will keep you hooked right until the very end. It's unlikely you'll have played anything quite like Chants of Sennaar, and its singular nature is something to be celebrated.

Chants of Sennaar

It's not often we play a puzzle game with such a unique hook, but Chants of Sennaar's glyph deciphering conundrums and other gameplay twists make for something that's pretty much unlike anything else.

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There's not a whole lot of audio to speak of, but what ambient music and foreign utterances there are, they're nice enough.


Striking block colours with contrasting light and shadow, alongside a range of architectural influences, ensure Chants of Sennaar looks stunning.


The core language-deciphering hook rubs shoulders with neatly designed puzzles. A handful of stealth sections are unwelcome, though thankfully infrequent.


A well-proportioned, impeccably put together puzzler that is, as far as we know, entirely unique. Marvellous.


A list that features a couple of missables, although you can fast travel between areas using consoles secreted away in various places. Not massively creative.

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