I absolutely adored Salt and Sanctuary when it launched back in 2016, with the game offering a wonderful 2D take on the Souls-like formula that felt both familiar and unique with its brutally rewarding gameplay. I was pretty excited for its sequel too, but with SO many games in my backlog, I didn’t get a chance to play it at launch last year. With Salt and Sacrifice recently making its way to Steam, what better time than now to dive in?
Check out some screenshots down below:
Salt and Sacrifice takes place in the land of Altarstone, where malicious Mages made up of chaotic elements wreak havoc and bring ruin to those around them. As a Marked Inquisitor (think of them as criminals given a second chance to do something worthwhile), it’s up to you to bring them down and end the threat of their magical presence. And if you die? Don’t worry, part of your punishment for your crimes was to die repeatedly in service, so you just get another go at it.
Much like its Dark Souls inspiration, there’s a surprising amount of lore to be found in Salt and Sacrifice, but it can be cryptic in how it delivers it. Most of its story is told through the environment and minor interactions with the NPCs you encounter, but a lot of it is left open to interpretation too. Whilst I won’t say I was as invested in the world as I have been in other Souls-like titles, there’s no doubting that it offers plenty of intrigue with its many grisly sights.
When building your character, players have access to traditional classes such as a Paladin, Ranger, Duellist, Fighter, and so forth, so it’s easy enough to put a foundation in place as to how you want your character to play. What makes them a bit more unique is the fact that you’re also able to choose a crime for your character, which gives them an additional item to begin with. Admittedly, this is the equivalent of choosing a starting item when making your character in the Dark Souls series so it won’t affect your gameplay experience too much, but it did add a fun little quirk to the character-building process that gives your protagonist an extra ounce of personality.
“Much like the original game, everything takes place across a 2D plane, with players running, jumping, and slashing their way through intricate areas that are packed with enemies to vanquish, secrets to discover, and, of course, plenty of ways to die.”
Of course, you’re only setting a foundation for your character here, with players upgrading their capabilities as they progress through the game. Each time you level up, your HP will increase and you’ll earn a Black Starstone, which can be used to unlock nodes on a skill tree to fine-tune your stats and abilities. Like the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, you can follow this based upon your class to ensure you follow an upgrade path that suits your playstyle, but it also offers plenty of flexibility for players who want to play around and give their character a more diverse skillset. The sheer size of it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but with a bit of tinkering, it stands out as one of the game’s greatest strengths.
Much like the original game, everything takes place across a 2D plane, with players running, jumping, and slashing their way through intricate areas that are packed with enemies to vanquish, secrets to discover, and, of course, plenty of ways to die. Salt and Sacrifice offers a quicker pace that similar titles in the genre, with tools like your grappling hook and Ethercloth Bolt (think of it like a parachute) used to get around more swiftly and reach what would otherwise be inaccessible areas. Combat is quick-paced too, with players hitting an array of combos and abilities to defeat enemies – your choice of weapon will affect the range, speed, and ferocity in which you attack though, so you’ll have to adopt a strategy based upon your playstyle. It’s strategic and effective, with even the simplest of encounters demanding precise manoeuvres if you want to survive. You can block, parry, and dodge out of the way of attacks though, so you’re just as effective when defending as you are attacking.
I feel like a lot of what I’ve said so far could apply to the previous game too, with Salt and Sacrifice following the blueprint established the last time around. Respawning at checkpoints where you’ll recover your healing items and revive enemies you’ve defeated? Still the case. Huge bosses that are a treat to battle? Yep, you’ve got it. A dark and eerie world that’s massive in design, but that you’ll open up shortcuts to explore? Plenty of it. Of course, whilst these also happen to be hallmarks of the Dark Souls series, they’re the mechanics that made Salt and Sanctuary so fun to play. Thankfully, there’s more of the same here.
Check out some screenshots down below:
What makes the game different, then? For one, there’s a new quest type known as Mage Hunts that see you pursuing Mages through levels as a means to defeat them. Honestly? I wasn’t a fan, with each one dragging out and only giving a tougher variant of an existing boss to beat, but it does add something fresh to the formula. There’s also multiplayer this time around with players able to help or attack others, though, much like the Dark Souls titles, it can be a little fiddly with certain prerequisites and items required to use it. It’s unfair for me to criticise these features because they’re the sort of things that some players might love and others might not, but I had the most fun with Salt and Sacrifice when I stuck to following the main questline and exploring the world… you know… like I did in the first game.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some smaller things that I preferred in the first game though. The world is a bit less interconnected here, and whilst it’s still massive to explore, it’s divided into more separated areas that feel less cohesive in the grander scheme of things. It means that fast travel is more limited too, which is a bummer given that there’s a LOT of world to travel across. What doesn’t help is the lack of a map, which makes getting around a bit of a nightmare at times – especially with the amount of deaths you’ll suffer throughout the game. Speaking of deaths, the difficulty could be a bit inconsistent too, with some areas a breeze to get through and offers shocking you with the sheer volume of enemies it sends your way. Whilst there’s a trial-and-error process to the game where you do learn as you progress, facing off against multiple enemies at once in a 2D plane full of deadly hazards doesn’t always make for a fun time.
Maybe I’m nitpicking and maybe it’s a ‘me’ thing more than anything else, but I felt like the game lacked that finesse in design that its predecessor had. I still had a lot of fun playing and think it’s an engrossing experience, so don’t let these criticisms deter you: if you enjoyed Salt and Sanctuary, you’ll enjoy this too, because it really is a very good game. I just think Salt and Sanctuary was better.
Salt and Sacrifice Review
Salt and Sacrifice isn’t as good as its predecessor, but still offers an enjoyable Souls-like experience packed with rewarding combat and exploration. The world is still wonderful to explore and offers a myriad of secrets to uncover and vicious enemies to vanquish, whilst combat is intuitive and gives players more creative options thanks to the likes of the grappling hook. It looks beautiful too, whilst the boss battles are once again a highlight of the experience.
The new features just fall short of the mark a little, with the multiplayer fiddly and Mage Hunts a little bit boring to complete, whilst the lack of a map and proper fast travel can make traversal a drag. They don’t make it a bad game at all though, with Salt and Sacrifice still maintaining the overall quality of the original to stand out as an engrossing 2D Souls-like experience.
Developer: Ska Studios, Devoured Studios
Publisher: Ska Studios
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch