I’m a huge fan of From Software’s Dark Souls games (I would include Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls as well). They’re notoriously difficult, but once you get the hang of the combat things start to click. It takes a little bit of patience, but soon you come to really appreciate the finely honed mechanics, subtle storytelling, and incredible design. With the series steadily gaining popularity, I’ve been eager to see other games embrace some of what makes the Souls series so special. That’s exactly what you get in Salt and Sanctuary, with some pretty interesting twists to the formula.
The most obvious difference is that Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D game, with a lot bigger focus on platforming. While I loved the idea of this, I was really concerned at how the developer would be able to translate the deep 3D combat to two dimensions without over-simplifying it. I’m pleased to say they’ve done a wonderful job of it. Fights are fast paced, challenging, and require the same level of discipline you would need in a Souls game.
Beyond the combat, Salt and Sanctuary plays very much like a Souls game. You explore an area that at first seems fairly linear, but as you get further along you begin unlocking hidden passageways, unlocking doors, and opening up a huge spiderweb of inter-connectivity.
As you fight through the game’s countless enemies, you begin figuring out the various ways in which they are different, and honing your strategy. It is, of course, a bit of a painful process. Expect to die a lot. And when you die, you’ll lose all your precious salt, one of the game’s two forms of currency. Like Souls, you’ll have the chance to reclaim your loss, but if you fail at that the salt if gone for good.
If you can manage to hold onto that salt, however, you can trade it in at one of many sanctuaries to level up. As you level, your character gradually become stronger, and you begin unlocking new skills and abilities in Salt and Sanctuary‘s impressively large skill tree. You can also unlock various merchants who will buy and sell items, upgrade your equipment, and even transport you around the game’s map.
You’re going to need that strength and those skills for the bosses, which are huge and very tough. Furthermore, each requires a unique approach to fighting it successfully. Again, you can prepare to die a lot as you figure out each boss’s idiosyncrasies and learn to exploit them.
I was feeling pretty good after taking out Salt and Sanctuary‘s first boss after getting killed about a dozen times. When I stumbled upon another boss I figured I had a good chance of taking it out. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
All that excellent game play is wrapped up in an absolutely beautiful package. The game has a grim, dark fantasy design that reminds me of a comic come to life.The environments are rich and varied, the enemies well designed and deadly, and the bosses suitably alien and intimidating.
If I had one complaint about the visual design of Salt and Sanctuary, it’s that the player character face is a little too cartoonish, and doesn’t quite fit the rest of the design. That wasn’t too big of a concern, however, since my characters’ faces had all been covered up by helmets fairly early on in the game.
If you’re looking for a deep, challenging, and well designed game, give Salt and Sanctuary a try. The difficulty curve might seem huge at first, but you’ll get into the rhythm of things quicker than you think.
Salt and Sanctuary is available on Playstation 4 now, with a PC release coming soon.