With much content out there it is creating a new and original IP is becoming more difficult. A lot of my newer gaming experiences always seem to relate to older gaming experiences. Salt and Sanctuary doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but it gives players another perspective taking pages out of the book from the famous From Software titles. Ska Studios didn’t try to hide what kind of game it was trying to be, but it did nothing but work in their favor.
So I’ll come right out and say it, this game is a 2D version of Dark Souls. At no point does this game hold your hand or explain anything to you. The player is expected to learn through hardship and pain what to do, and where to go. This game is not for the casual player, but the emotional triumph after beating a boss that you’ve died to time and time again is rewarding without even knowing what item or ability you will receive.
In the beginning you will create your character, pick a class with no explanation as to which one would suit you best, and off you go. The story starts out on a ship that gets attacked by a monster that is almost unbeatable because of how weak your character is. You than awaken on a mysterious island covered in fog and your “quest” begins to try to search for the princess that was on the boat. That story is thrown out the window by the end and it turns into one person’s quest to get off the island. On my first playthrough I went with the Warrior class as I felt this was the most well rounded of all of them. There are plenty of different classes to choose from, some are obvious and some were not. The convenient thing is that you can still build your character any way that you want. Salt and Sanctuary has a massive skill tree that will still allow you to be able to use magic, wear any armor type, or use any weapon type. You still have the ultimate say in what your endgame character can and can’t do.
In typical Dark Souls form, you collect some kind of XP from enemies that you lose when you die unless you are successful in retrieving them again. The item that you collect from enemies is Salt, and you cash them in at Sanctuaries for leveling up your character, upgrading weapons, and upgrading armor. Money is also dropped by enemies and is used to purchase items and spells. Each time you die you lose a % of your money, but eventually cash doesn’t become important past a certain point.
The game runs smooth, and combat felt fantastic. I learned quickly that wearing heavy armor did just what I should expect, made my character heavy and harder to dodge attacks. Once I switched to light armor dodging boss attacks went a lot smoother. The game is still 2D and platforming mechanics are well polished. As you defeat bosses it adds in some real nice 2D metroidvania platforming mechanics that help your character reach new places, and avoid deadly enemy attacks. Although even by the time I reached endgame if I was overconfident average enemies were placed well enough that a bad string of attacks could end my life. Playing through the game, it feels as though a lot of detail went into world design and enemy placement. In typical Dark Souls fashion you are never safe from death no matter where you are or how powerful you are.
Visually the game looks great, taking the sort of art style from The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, and each of the 23 areas separates from one another adding a new kind of ambiance still relative to the overall theme. Forests filled with poison, torcher chambers with traps, and dark caves where one misstep could spell doom are just a few of the areas Salt and Sanctuary has to offer.
It will take at least one full playthrough to really understand the game, which is great because after you beat it there’s a new game + to tackle afterward, and 2 separate endings. The amount of replay value in trying out the different classes, going after optional bosses, trying to find all the hidden rooms will keep players engaged for hours. With Dark Souls 3 not quite out yet, PS4 owners have this to treat themselves to. In my 28hrs playthrough I found frustration and reward, and Salt and Sanctuary is a great addition for those From Software fans. With a couple bugs where the game crashed, and a couple boss fights I was able to completely cheese if you’re looking for a great game, this is for you.
I give Salt and Sanctuary for PS4 a 9.5 out of 10 and is my Indie game of the month for March.