Salt and Sacrifice is an interesting case study of how an enjoyable game can be frustrating in a poor way. I love Souls games. Naturally, I gravitate towards the soulslike frequently in recent times. Time and again, the games have disappointed me. Unfortunately, Salt and Sacrifice are no different.
The game, developed by indie developer Ska Studio, is a 2D action RPG with soulslike elements and a sequel to Salt and Sacrifice. For the uninitiated, the genre targets game taking inspiration from FromSoftware’s Dark Souls series. While the game introduces new gameplay mechanics, it feels the game itself is its biggest enemy at every hurdle.
The Story and World of Salt and Sacrifice
Naturally, with the game taking inspiration from Souls, there isn’t an in-your-face storyline in Salt and Sacrifice. The game relies on the experience of individual players. However, the available storyline is quite good.
Players play as an “Inquisitor”- individuals convicted of crimes. Additionally, to gain freedom for their crime, inquisitors agree to hunt mages. And thus, the wheels are set in motion as players venture out into various regions of the map to get rid of the corruption done by the mages.
In their journey, players will venture to various locales in the game, introducing us to some beautiful locations. The world varies from creepy woods to desert areas, and each looks very distinct from the others. Each zone has its colour style and atmosphere, making locations very vibrant. Even in places like the woods, the game manages to look stellar.
The game excels in its art style and level design, thanks to the 2D gameplay. Regions have various shortcuts to check and a sufficient amount of verticality, divided into sub-parts connecting to the main area. However, the levels aren’t Metroidvania, as in interconnected. There is also a hub-world, where players will level up their characters and venture out to the regions. Furthermore, each province features a standard boss, but the main focus is hunting down the mage.
Salt and Sacrifice make sure that the good parts are splendid, such as the levels and the art design. Where it falters is the gameplay.
Some Frustrating and Clunky Gameplay
Of course, given this is soulslike, Salt and Sacrifice will feature some nail-biting experiences and great boss fights. While the nail-biting experience is there, it is entirely for other reasons. The main goal of the game is to hunt the mages down. Now, this entire ordeal would’ve been fun if there wasn’t so much frustration.
For starters, the movement. It feels clunky and slow at most times, which wouldn’t be a deal breaker if most boss fights weren’t fast-paced combat. See the problem here? Now, to combat this, upgrading stamina is an option. But that goes into the realm of grind, something I absolutely cannot stand in my video games.
Apart from the above, there is no fast travel, which sounds fine until you realize the backtracking involved in the game. The world of this game is massive, and it becomes a slog backtracking. If the intentions were to make the game frustrating in that area, then the developers succeeded in doing that.
What is my favourite portion of the game is the mage hunt. Mages are these big, magical enemies who pack a punch, and after dealing a certain amount of damage and subduing the minions around them will the boss-fight trigger. It makes the game challenging and fun for someone like me. Killing the mages off will give players their gear and weapon.
Now mage hunting is fun, but the process to reach it isn’t. Most of the time, players will run out of healing resources. Once out, these do not replenish upon death, and materials are necessary to craft them, prompting grind.
Furthermore, there is a skill tree in the game, which gets upgraded by employing the salts collected after killing enemies. The skill tree is, um, intriguing but confusing. Overall, the gameplay lacks in many parts and makes it very tough to enjoy an otherwise good game.
Closing Thoughts about Salt and Sacrifice
Salt and Sacrifice sadly fumbles in quite a few areas where it should be good. While it excels in the art style and map designs, housing charming locations and zones, the gameplay is a mixed bag. At least for me, the negatives sometimes outweigh the positives, making it very hard to enjoy the title.
However, not everything in this game is flawed. The Mage Hunt is a great experience and does what it aims to do, i.e. provide a challenging experience. Unfortunately, when everything surrounding Mage Hunt is tedious or frustrating, getting impressed by the system gets hard. Salt and Sacrifice is an ambitious sequel that pulls off some things perfectly but half-baked other things.
A copy of this game was provided to us by the publisher for this review.
Salt and Sacrifice is an acceptable second attempt by the developers to create an enjoyable 2D action RPG inspired by games such as Dark Souls, etc. While the art style and level design is something to marvel at, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired and sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouth.