Ska Studio‘s latest instalment, Salt and Sacrifice, follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Salt and Sanctuary. The game plunges players into a dark fantasy world, with gameplay clearly inspired by the challenging Dark Souls series. While it delivers on atmosphere and gameplay, it comes with its share of drawbacks. This game is a 2D side scrolling dark fantasy that plays out in the style of the Dark Souls series. This means pattern memorization, dodge rolls, punishing difficulty, and many MANY deaths as the adventure progresses.
From the outset, players create their character, a convicted criminal who has been condemned to hunt rogue Mages. There are several job classes available, so players can choose skills based on what kind of play style they want to tackle the game with. After immediately being thrown into an unwinnable battle, the condemned is resurrected and tasked with continuing the mage hunts as a half-alive inquisitor, unable to escape their duty even through death. These corrupted magic-users have taken monstrous forms based on whatever form of magic they had practiced as humans, and the player will need to prepare appropriately to survive these battles.
After hunting a mage through a zone and defeating their minions, eventually the player will corner them and engage in combat. The battles with the mages can be completely unforgiving. Some attacks are unfairly lethal no matter how powerful the player is, not giving them enough of a chance to learn the mage’s patterns.
It’s also disheartening when enemies are able to stunlock the player, leaving them unable to recover as they’re mercilessly pounded into the dirt or juggled through the air.
Successfully completing one of these mage hunts has the player literally consuming their heart for their power and unlocking new abilities that open more of the world for exploration.
There is a crafting side to the game, where collected materials are used to create new healing items and equipment to use. However, actually using the upgraded equipment is often locked behind the cumbersome skill tree. This feels like an unpolished extra layer of grinding to upgrade gear. Someone could have streamlined this to help keep the focus more on the exploration and combat.
Salt and Sacrifice divides its world into several captivating zones rather than having one big open world. The lack of an in-game map, though, proves frustrating during backtracking, making exploration tedious.
Pardoner’s Vale serves as the central hub, offering essential interactions with NPCs, equipment upgrades, and even a peculiar cat with antlers. Fast-travel obelisks provide a convenient way to navigate the expansive world, balancing out the challenges with accessible rejuvenation points.
The game’s audio shines, immersing players in the ambient sounds of each region. However, a more consistent use of music could enhance the overall experience.
Salt and Sacrifice weaves a narrative as simple and stark as the condemned protagonist it introduces. The story, unfortunately, lacks the depth expected in a sequel. The potential for expanded world-building remains untapped, leaving players yearning for a more intricate narrative.
There is also a multiplayer element to the game, however I made little use of it. The player can work with a partner against the mages or battle against other players by either invading their games or being invaded, themselves. While the multiplayer worked as expected, I found exploring solo to be more rewarding for my own style of play, as I was free to play at my pace. Backtracking through zones with a partner was decidedly unengaging.
- Fantastic visuals and atmospheric design.
- Outstanding music and sound effects enhance the environment.
- Diverse range of enemies keeps combat engaging.
- Simple and somewhat uninteresting story.
- Lack of an in-game map makes revisiting areas tedious.
- Instant-death attacks feel unfair and undermine player skill.
- Equipment bonuses tied to the skill tree can be frustrating.
Salt and Sacrifice beckons to those who seek the thrill of formidable foes and atmospheric exploration, even if the narrative falls a bit short of its potential. Despite its shortcomings, the game provides a visually stunning and atmospheric experience for those who can endure its steep difficulty curve.
7 out of 10
Salt and Sacrifice Game Trailer:
Previously released on the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, Salt and Sacrifice is also available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review copy was supplied