Chants of Senaar - Well received language deduction game

I had missed this somehow until I ran into this article by Stephen Totilo trying to bring it to our attention.

https://www.axios.com/2023/09/08/chants-of-sennaar-rundisc-interview

Headline: The hero of this new game is a translator.

Isn’t that intriguing?

Looks like it’s very well reviewed, and it’s on every platform, and there’s a demo on every platform too.

Nightgaunt was nice enough to try the demo and report back in the Indie games (Probably) thread:

So basically I think I’ll try the demo this holiday season on my Xbox or my PC. I’ve added it to my wishlist, and it seems worthy of our attention.

Here’s some links.

Xbox page: Buy Chants of Sennaar | Xbox

Playstation page: Chants of Sennaar

Nintendo page: Chants of Sennaar for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Official Site

Steam page: Save 20% on Chants of Sennaar on Steam

Epic Game Store page: https://store.epicgames.com/en-US/p/chants-of-sennaar

For anyone who tries and enjoys this game, I’d also recommend giving Heaven’s Vault a go. It’s another game where the hook is translating ancient glyphs to understand the past. It was in a Humble Monthly some time back, so it may even be in your backlog!

Woah, you’re right, that IS already in my backlog/library.

I just finished the third setting/language in this (which I have reason to believe is next-to-last), and I think it’s just superb–way better than the demo lets on, even. Yes, there are stealth sequences and a few others types of timing puzzles, but I have found almost all of them to be pretty easygoing, all things considered.

Also, the artwork just keeps getting better. Beyond the clean Mobius-like style, the color palettes of each part of the world are so perfectly chosen–chef’s kiss! The music is the same, a great soundtrack.

I was actually so high on the concept of this game that I started to feel a little hesitant about it, like it was bound to let me down. I could certainly call out a few clunky moments, but none of them diminish the overall experience. I’m very curious now to see how they stick the landing on the story/world-building, but even if they don’t completely, this is one of the best games of the year.

How well-suited would this be to handheld play on the Steam Deck?

Very! Looks like it’s verified. The art is simple and readable. The text in the game is large. Plays great with a controller.

Finale is really good, and definitely did NOT go where I expected! This is much more successful, I think, than Heaven’s Vault, and if it doesn’t quite land in the firmament with Obra Dinn and Outer Wilds (I mean, c’mon!) it is close! I was starting to think there wasn’t a game this year that was going to hit that height for me, but this one snuck in there.

Aww man! Torn a million ways by great games in all directions! That’s bumped this up the list big time.

This does look seriously cool, mentioning Outer Wilds, Obra Dinn and Heaven’s Vault certainly gets my attention. I’m going to have to make time for this game!

When I heard of Chants of Senaar some weeks ago, I remembered this game, as it had the same premise. What are the differences? It seems Chants is being better received, by a good margin. Better art? Better backstory? More intuitive system?

There are definitely some similarities in how you piece together the meaning of words. Heaven’s Vault is primarily a narrative game, with language-collection as its main mechanical component. You’re also building out a whole timeline of the world’s history as you play, which is pretty cool. But a few things hold it back: The seeding of information around the world is procedural, and you only get part of the picture in one run-through of the game. It also starts to feel like you run across the same info over and over after awhile. And you spend a lot of time flying your ship along these space lanes, and that gets tedious after awhile. Sometimes it becomes hard to know what you need to do to progress.

Chants of Sennaar is more strictly designed than Heaven’s Vault. The environments are always interesting to explore, even when there isn’t a lot of content in them. Like with Obra Dinn, there’s a sort of expected point in the game when you are able to solve a particular piece of the puzzle, but it’s open enough that you might go down some dead ends or get stumped. But the more you explore the more you can narrow things down and correct your wrong starting assumptions.

Heaven’s Vault is a bit more ambitious, I’d say, but also a bit flimsier for it. Sennaar is just a solid puzzle experience that’s great to look at and listen to.

Spoilers obviously, but these guys did great videos on games like The Witness and Obra Dinn.

I played through this game lately. Was really impressed by the first half and disappointed by the second. As a former linguistics major, there is so much more than they could have done with the languages. Unfortunately the only one that really stuck out to me was the bard’s. Was especially disappointed by the last language, since the game basically figures it out for you. Still, I love these kind of games and I hope that someone else will take a shot at this in the future.

Hey, if anyone is generally into the idea of decipherment like in this game, look up a documentary called Breaking the Maya Code about the real decipherment of Mayan glyphs. It’s on Kanopy, if you have a library that lets you access that service. I’ve been reading the book it’s based on (the film is better), but playing Chants of Senaar reminded me how cool of a story it is.

I love Simon and will quite happily sit down and watch him solve a 3 hour sudoku - but watching him and Mark play a video game is so painful.

I find it really charming, though definitely frustrating at times. It’s just fascinating to see people coming at it from a pure puzzle-solving perspective, without any of the baggage or background knowledge of gaming that we would have.

It is definitely interesting watching them work out video game language from first principles. It’s a testament to the game design that they can logically work it out.

I’m most of the way through this game (level 4), but now it seems like there’s going to be a lot of backtracking across long distances and trying to remember where things are (with no minimap to help)? Can anyone who’s played this one advise on whether it’s worth continuing?

One design choice they made on this one which I think was a big mistake was changing the camera perspective every time you enter a new room, which makes it really difficult (for me at least) to understand how the levels are laid out. North is a different direction in every room. It’s confusing.

I assume you’ve noticed the ability to fast travel between consoles.

Can’t say as I had any trouble with navigation, but I’m good at that generally so someone else’s opinion might be more helpful. Relatedly, I really liked the shift of perspective and directions. Kept the navigation interesting for me. I even had to make a map in one place.