Vague story, murky atmosphere, time bending purgatories, barren vistas of emptiness, and huge ass castles filled with nightmare creatures. Yup, it’s a Dark Soul’s clone.
What the hell can I say about Ska Studios? I mean, come on, one of their games is titled ‘The Dishwasher Vampire Smile’ and its freaking awesome! An indie developer with a pennant for the macabre and bizarre. Some of the bad guys in their games remind me of smile dog from creepy pasta. I am talking of course, about their 2D Soul’s clone, Salt and Sanctuary.
Man, let me tell you, from a two person studio, they really deliver with Salt and Sanctuary. It’s a strange, macabre, sometimes disturbing game. It’s like a crack addict played Dark souls, and this is what they saw. As the game goes? It’s pretty damn solid. You start by creating a character, ala Dark Souls style, class, gender, hair style, starting bonus item, the standard. You’re on a boat, going from A to B for some reason, and of course, that doesn’t go well. After a rather one sided fight with what looks like a giant squid golem. You wake up on the shore of a mysterious island.
Of course the island is evil, and filled with castles, dungeons, criminals, corrupt vagabonds. All from different time’s places and more. And of course, at the centre of it all is some nameless god of malicious and dubious intent. And of course, it’s up to you, to fight your way through all the shambling monstrosities, to give him a good kick in the ass. The standard as it were.
You start off simple, pimp slapping the equivalent of anorexic mummies, and by the end of the game you’re fighting off huge thirty foot tall golems made of solid stone armour with giant great shields. You have all the standard tools to dispatch the islands horrors with, from daggers, to swords, to axes, pole arms, bows, giant swords, and clubs, or, a literal ship anchor, if you’re so inclined. Or you can be a mage, if you want to suffer. It plays a lot like Dark Souls 2, being that you can upgrade literally everything. From your boots to your helmet, your weapons, and of course, skills and stats.
As you progress through each area you unlock short cuts, fight bosses, find loot, and generally progress onward. Every few boss fights you unlock a new skill, such as double jump, or wall jump, which helps you access new areas of the game, and extra loot or boss fights from previous areas.
That being said, unlike Dark Souls, Salt and Sanctuary has a few, bumps. Namely, difficulty spikes, namely, a handful of the Boss fights. The Wrym, Third Lamb, Murdilia and the Salt lake Witch fights in specific. They are the sort of difficulty spikes that bring the game to a grinding halt. Literally. I’ve had a friend give up on the game, because she could not beat the Third Lamb fight. Which, is the fourth boss of the game. You can get to it within about two hours of gameplay. If you’re the dedicated sort, or a speed runner. Other spikes include various enemies and areas. The Pitchwoods nightmare unicorn’s spring to mind, a mob that can break your guard, has only one attack, is spammy as hell, and can one shot you. The Ziggurat is another area that is needlessly difficult. A maze with huge death pits everywhere, and enemies that push you around like a bouncy ball.
That’s not to say the game is not fun. Enemies explode into bloody giblets when killed, your melee strikes have a delightful, meatiness to them. Casting Magic, whether it be fire, lightning, holy or otherwise makes you feel like a god among men. And the executions you can perform make for some doom levels of satisfying, especially when you get to quite literally curb stomp the bronze knight enemies.
That being said, I can’t help but mention the map, or lack thereof. Salt and Sanctuary owes more to Castlevania, in terms of level design, with every area linking together in some mess of a labyrinth. There’s secret areas and short cuts everywhere. It’s super easy to get lost, and there’s more than one area in the game that you can completely miss. The house of splendour coven, and the Ronin Cran boss fight especially. Speaking of covens, the game approaches the trope with an interesting idea. Whereas in Dark Souls, covens are a multiplayer focus, in Salt and Sanctuary, they dictate your shop inventory, your buffs and bonuses, and your healing items. As well as unique rewards and visuals every time you place down a new Sanctuary.
Salt and Sanctuary is a pretty solid game, the few issues aside I’d recommend it to the lovers of Dark Souls and Castlevania. Inventory issues might make learning the game a bit sticky. But in Summary, it’s a solid game.
Made and developed by Ska Studio’s, released in 2016, it’s a game you should definitely check out. I can’t wait for a sequel
And well deserving of a……
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