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Salt And Sanctuary

Posted by GG Goblin On February - 12 - 2019

Dark Souls on the side.

While gamers have been able to challenge themselves with Ska Studios’ Salt and Sanctuary on various other platforms for quite a while now, it was only just recently that the game finally arrived on Xbox One, allowing Xbox gamers to struggle their way through a 2D action RPG that has been heavily inspired by FromSoftware’s Souls series of games.

sas1 (Copy)

Souls players will feel quite at home with the vagueness of the story in Salt and Sanctuary. After a brief character creation process in which the player will choose from a selection of different classes along with a few other features, players will find their character travelling on a ship as protector to a princess. After calamity strikes and the Princess is taken, the player will wake up on the shore of an unknown island with only the rescue of the princess on their mind. From this point on, there is not much more to say. It all comes down to exploring the island, which is presented in 2D and so will require climbing upwards alongside the usual horizontal exploration.

The platforming side of the game will be new to Souls players. While it is just as dangerous as every other aspect of the game, and can easily lead to failure with a misjudged jump, it is not a huge enough part of the game to worry too much about. The platforming does get progressively more difficult, but the reality is that it just adds another element to the exploration, allowing the developers to create more fiendishly maze-like areas for players to struggle their way through. The lack of map does mean that players with a short memory will find themselves wandering perhaps a little more than would be nice, but that is all part of the challenge.

sas2 (Copy)

Otherwise, Salt and Sanctuary brings a lot of the same features as its inspiration. The hero will come across a nice range of enemies as they explore, and it can take more than a little effort to get past these beasties. S&S uses a stamina system in which pretty much every action will use stamina, and running out of stamina in the middle of a battle will be just asking for a fail. The result is slow and considered combat for the most part, with a couple of different attacks and the chance to block depending on which equipment is being used. Larger weapons will do more damage, but move slower and leave the player open, while a smaller, quicker weapon, along with a shield maybe, will take more time. It is just a matter of knowing what you are doing, with S&S being very much a learn how to play style game that would not suit the button mashers beyond the first few minutes. Smaller, weaker enemies can be quickly overcome, although the player would have to watch out for being overwhelmed. However, when it comes to the larger boss enemies, players will have to learn attack patterns and be prepared to take their time. To be honest, none of the combat is easy and players would do well to expect multiple deaths even in the early game.

Death is not too much of a big deal though, thankfully. Upon dying, be it through falling from a crumbling platform or at the hands of some aggressive monster, the player will find their character brought back to life without too much loss. There are two main resources in the game, in the form of salt and gold. Dying will mean leaving behind any salt that has been collected, and will also see a slight charge of gold for the hapless NPC who happened to carry the players’ corpse back to safety. The loss of the salt can be a real blow, but there is always the option to head back to where the death occurred and retrieving the salt.

sas3 (Copy)

Through the course of the game, players will come across places of sanctuary which act as small safe havens and hubs for the character. Early on, the player will be asked to select a Creed, a religion worshipping some random, unknown gods. On arriving at a sanctuary, it is possible to claim it for the chosen creed, giving access to all manner of benefits. Through exploration, sanctuaries may be found that have already been claimed by other creeds. While these will still provide respite for the player, other benefits may be missing, so the player can change their creed to match the sanctuary, or even reclaim it under their own creed. Each of these choices will have consequences, so be warned. Making an offering at an altar in a sanctuary will lead to certain NPCs setting up shop, giving the player access to whatever wares or benefits they bring, but each sanctuary can only hold a set number of these NPCs, so again the player will have to plan and think about what they will need.

The all-important salt in the game is used as a currency for levelling up. Approach an altar and pay the ever-increasing salt cost, and the character will increase in level and receive a pearl which can then be used to unlock new skills and improvements in the skill tree. The skill tree is quite massive and will allow the player to build whatever type of hero they wish to match their play style.

Visually, the game is dark and moody, with splashes of bright colour coming from the over-the-top blood splatter when fighting. It is very atmospheric and fits in well with the overall flavour of the game, visually pointing out that the player will likely die a lot while trying to play this game. It works really well.

sas4 (Copy)

Salt and Sanctuary packs in a lot of deep systems, with loads of skills and equipment for creating a hero unique to the player. Everything works really well and while the game is very difficult, there where only a couple of instances where I felt cheated by a cheap death. All the other deaths were simply my fault, and that is easy to see. Comparing the game to Dark Souls gives players an idea of what to expect, but the reality is actually far more impressive. If you want a challenging souls-like experience in 2D, then Salt and Sanctuary should be your first stop.




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