Another gem I found while testing demos, Chants of Sennaar is a really nice language decoding puzzle game that sets you as a traveller adventuring in a Babel-like tower in which people uses pictographic languages that are strange to you.
As you explore the tower, you will observe the symbols that compose the language. You will find them in the architecture, art, signs and speaking. At first contact, they will appear in your “dictionary”, and you can associate a meaning to them by typing. Those words you type will appear in the world over the symbol as light gray.
To progress in your adventure, you will need to figure out those meanings by the context - Where do they appear? How was your interaction with people or other puzzles? Is this symbol similar to another?
Once in a while, a few drawings will appear in your book, and associating the symbol with the correct image will confirm the meaning for your next interactions. Now, the confirmed words will appear as white in the world.
When you are confident enough in a language, you will meet another group with their own language and a complete different set of rules for their symbols. One of the few games I played recently where gameplay mechanics help tell the story. By listening and understanding, you will learn about those groups and help connect them back into the civilization they once were.
This game is not pure deduction puzzles, like The Case of the Golden Idol or The Return of Obra Dinn. Here and there you will face other kinds of classic puzzles, like sorting out the position of levers or sliding furniture around to enable a path, some of those puzzles will help you understand a language, others will need you to have some understanding already. There are also some weird parts with light stealth mechanics. Like most non-stealth games that shoehorn stealth mechanics, it feels out of place and slows the pace a bit, but not that much to break the immersion.
The art is great, and makes the game feel quite unique, the kind of you would recognize from a screenshot. The third-person camera follows your character at different angles depending on the map, they worked well, I could always see important information, solve puzzles and admire the art work – it reminded me of the game ICO.
I mostly played the game on Deck, out of the box the performance was fine and the power draw was mostly under 9W. With a controller the game offers a built-in keyboard, but it does not support the trackpad like the Steam keyboard, so you have to select the letters with your directional. Alternatively, you can also play the game as point & click with the help of a mouse and keyboard.
Chants of Sennaar, developed by Rundisc and published by Focu Entertainment, is available on Steam.