Ska Studios has taken a 2nd stab at the 2D Soulslike genre but does Salt and Sacrifice live up to their previous efforts? Let's find out.
What is Salt and Sacrifice?
6 years back, Salt and Sanctuary debuted and it remains one of my favourite indie games of all time. It near-perfectly captures the magic of the Souls series in a 2D formula and it's an absolute joy to play. Now, Salt and Sacrifice is out although it's not a true sequel; think of it more like Demon's Souls vs. Dark Souls as both games are very different experiences. In fact, Salt and Sacrifice may be an even larger departure than that example because it does a lot of things differently yet it remains a solid game at its core nonetheless. v1d30chumz 18-232-59-38Salt and Sanctuary Review
Before I get to the gameplay, let's discuss the sights and sounds of Salt and Sacrifice. For starters, I'm a bit underwhelmed with its sense of atmosphere. Whereas Salt and Sanctuary maintained a tense and mysterious tone from start to finish with jaw-dropping boss fights that are sure to cause a startle when they emerge; Salt and Sacrifice is much less threatening and it actually looks kind of goofy in some regards such as the facial animations which seem like they're ripped from South Park. Don't get me wrong; it all looks good but it's still a step down from Salt and Sanctuary.
On the plus side, the audio is atmospheric with gorgeous ambient soundscapes, subtle music that ebbs and flows, and gratifying effects as you jump, grapple, and run around. With that in mind, the combat sound effects are oddly understated which takes a bit of viscerality away from battle. I would have loved to hear clashing of steel and booming bursts of magic. 💥
The core gameplay of Salt and Sacrifice is as you'd generally expect as you run and jump around while fighting monstrous enemies by guarding, rolling, and slashing with a light and strong attack. You can also aim and fire a projectile weapon and after you jump, you can grapple to certain nodes after you acquire the necessary hook and doing so just feels awesome. Sure, it takes a while to get used to but I had a blast flinging myself up and around, especially in environments with a lot of verticality. There's also a multiplayer component where you can team up with other players in order to overcome bosses although I never felt the need to do so since it's a fairly easy game if you play it right. You can battle online players, too, but 2D fights definitely aren't as epic as they are in the Souls games.
My favourite aspect of Salt and Sacrifice is its character growth mechanics with the most notable feature being a node-based upgrade web that's a lot like the license board system in Final Fantasy XII. I also like that you earn a great deal of materials by fighting the collection of elemental-based Mages and their minions that you can exchange for similarly-elemental gear as it allows you to strategically set yourself up for the next battle. Upgrading your equipment is a treat, too, especially when you can expand your maximum heal potion and ammo limits. By the way, you have to craft healing items but you get so many materials that it feels redundant. 🥴
Besides progressing by creating shortcuts, activating contraptions, and slaying bosses, Salt and Sacrifice has you hunt Mages which warp around as you fight them only to end in a boss arena where you finish them off for good. This mechanic impressed me initially as it's quite clever but after a while, it became rather repetitive. Meanwhile, the game world is divided into large stages which reminded me of Demon's Souls but considering Salt and Sanctuary's world was interconnected and vast, it's a step back as it is much less cohesive.
After thoroughly enjoying the greatness that is Salt and Sanctuary, Salt and Sacrifice is a somewhat disappointing experience. It's still a good game, though, and one that you'll be compelled to play until it starts to overstay its welcome about 10 hours in.
- + Enjoyable 2D Soulslike gameplay with a nifty Mage hunting mechanic
- + Rewarding character growth
- + Flinging yourself around is fun
- - Gameplay loop gets repetitive sooner than you'd think it would
- - Atmosphere lacks mystery and tension
- - Game world isn't all that cohesive