The result is an interesting and impressive game that ultimately feels more than a bit academic, where solving intricate puzzles to uncover the hidden inner workings of a strange world mostly feels like an interactive and particularly creative linguistic anthropology lesson. Which is to say, Chants of Sennaar ought to be an exciting game for fans of, well, linguistic anthropology. But if you aren’t one already, chances are that it isn’t likely to make a fan out of you.
If the Pikmin series has one thing that it wants you to take away from each game, it’s to see the world with the same naïve wonder as its various exploring protagonists. Before now, this message felt somewhat distant, like something you could miss if you didn’t reach out and grab it. But this series’s commitment to realism is better served on the Switch, and its message—that you should approach your surroundings with the intentionality, curiosity, and joy of someone seeing them for the first time—punches you straight in the gut whether you want it to or not.
It’s tempting to call it a shame—a waste, even—that a game that looks so unlike any other doesn’t have much going for it in the way of dialogue or character study. But, then, stories aren’t just limited to the things people say. And, of course, a story centered on the tenuous nature of human memory would be messier than that—rendered in imprecise arrays, interrupted by blank space, and framed in rough edges. Which is to say, a bit like watercolor.
While Darkest Dungeon II’s emphasis on the interpersonal is apt for a game that’s more road trip than dungeon crawl, it also makes it a decidedly more hopeful experience than the first game, as it leaves the door open for your adventuring party to face seemingly insurmountable odds and come out the other side stronger. There’s also more comedy and just plain joy in knowing that as intimidating as all those monsters may seem, your biggest challenge is getting your ragtag band of rascals to stop bickering and get along.
It’s indicative of just how important a game’s moment-to-moment hooks are that even with its shortcomings, Dredge is by and large an enjoyable experience. There are games with bigger problems, but for Dredge, a few missteps and an eldritch twist that never goes anywhere make a solid foundation feel a little like a wasted opportunity.