Game creation software has made it possible for developers to construct games without a vast team of coders working behind the scenes. Role playing games have benefited from this in a big way, and several near-commercial-quality titles have emerged over the last few years. Deadly Sin is one such game, and its combination of retro stylings and modern gameplay mechanics make it palatable to old-school fans and 21st century players alike. Instead of reinventing the RPG, Deadly Sin chooses the path of flattering imitation. With great art direction, a superb soundtrack, a deep skill tree to explore and the ability to turn off random battles, Deadly Sin hits that soft spot deep inside that's longing for a good RPG to enjoy.
Deadly Sin puts you in the shoes of Lorelai, a young girl who wakes to find her mentor, Winchester, has gone, leaving only a note that instructs her to take a sealed envelope to a man in a nearby town. Without hesitation Lorelai heads out the door, embarking upon an adventure that will uncover surprising secrets about her own past and the future of the world alike.
Role playing games are defined by a number of elements, especially combat, storyline, and how characters evolve over the course of the game. Deadly Sin scores a hit in each of these categories. Combat is turn-based and takes place in a separate screen from the main game. Battles are random, but don't let that turn you away. Deadly Sin features special monster nodes in each level, crystals that, when activated, turn off random battles. Hooray! This sets the perfect atmosphere for exploration without sacrificing level-building, something most RPGs struggle to achieve. Whenever you enter a new area you'll battle a handful of creatures, find and activate the monster node, then creep through every tunnel on the level looking for hidden treasure.
The skill tree is another excellent addition to the game, adding a lot of depth and customization to your characters. Instead of simply gaining levels and earning new abilities at set intervals, each of the five characters has unique abilities you can spend skill points to unlock. Lorelai, for example, is a master of the bow, and from the beginning you can choose to focus on fire, ice or lightning elemental attacks, increase your overall strength, or put a little attention on a healing spell or two. Individual skills level up as well as open paths to new abilities, so look around the tree before you start spending points and see where you want your character to go.
The storyline in Deadly Sin begins with the mundane but ends with a grandiose tale. Predictably so, but not as cliché as one would suspect, although you won't be surprised to see the main character asleep when the game begins. That one's been done a few times before. There's no shortage of interesting events and characters to run across, but don't expect plot revelations at every corner.
Analysis: RPGs are probably the least casual game genre around. Not only do they feature dozens of hours of gameplay, but you have to spend an afternoon playing just to get to the interesting bits, and there's very little instant gratification to keep you in the game. Deadly Sin takes a stride in the casual direction and cuts out a lot of fluff from the beginning of the game. No pages of text to read, cutscenes to ignore, pointless dialogue to skip over, or fetch quests to ease you into the gameplay. Instead, you're dropped right into the game to fend for yourself, and within half an hour your party expands and you have a few skills to play around with. The story and characters continue to develop as the game goes by, of course, but the little boost of speed early on helps to get you hooked.
I really fell in love with Deadly Sin's artwork. Everything is a treat to look at, from the crisp menu screens to the smooth, shadowed tiles populating the towns and dungeons. The enemy art and backgrounds in battle scenes are also gorgeous, even though the animations during combat are a bit jumpy.
Battle is a big part of any role playing game, and unfortunately I feel it's a bit of a weak spot for Deadly Sin. It's a jarring transition to go from smooth overworld action to the stilted animations found in combat. Selecting actions to perform and enemies to attack feels a bit sluggish, and instead of using an arrow to denote targets, Deadly Sin flashes sprites for a brief instant. It isn't as eye-friendly as a big pointer. Combat is still enjoyable, however, especially once you get a bigger party with a full set of skills.
Deadly Sin claims around 30 hours of gameplay, which may be a bit on the generous side for experienced players. The game rewards you for poking around and exploring caves and alternate passageways, so don't be too hasty to get to the end. In fact, the branching style of level construction was one of the high points of my experience. I love games that hide things in dark corners, jars, pots, and secret passageways. Deadly Sin doesn't go to extreme lengths, but there are plenty of treasure chests to kick open and hidden paths to sniff out.
Retro RPG fans and newcomers alike will have a great time exploring the game's environments and building each character's abilities one limb at a time. Deadly Sin doesn't try to innovate beyond the genre's set standards, but it does exactly what it set out to accomplish quite well.