Having followed Ska Studios right from the start, I’m a huge fan of the work they do. The Dishwasher series, particularly the sequel Vampire Smile, rank amongst my favourite indies and I still wish for the day that we’ll see them make their way to the Nintendo Switch.
The one game I couldn’t get into though was Salt and Sanctuary. I loved the look and the atmosphere, but every time I try to play it I just find myself abandoning it before making serious progress. It’s not that it’s particularly bad, in fact my impressions were pretty good, but it just wasn’t for me.
Why am I telling you this? It’s to frame my impressions of the sequel, Salt and Sacrifice. I really wanted to give these two dimensional soulslikes another chance, and I felt that diving into their second attempt head-first may very well help with that. So, lets see how I far with this one!
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
After choosing one of the many classes available and selecting the crime they are responsible for (which grants them with a unique item), your ‘marked inquisitor’ begins their journey as a condemned soul who has only been allowed to live on the provision that they spend their life hunting mages as part of the unending war. These twisted mages are found all over the kingdom and pose a huge threat to the world with their elemental powers.
Things don’t start well for you though, however, as you soon come up against a huge creature, who destroys effortlessly in the usual Dark Souls style (or perhaps it was simply due to my combat ineptitude), and sends you reeling into unconscious.
Waking up in Pardoner’s Vale, which is now effectively your new base camp, your task can truly begin as you start the hunt for the roaming mages.
The story is surprisingly compelling, despite its initial simplicity, due to the overwhelming amount of lore that helps shape the world and the creatures that inhabit it. There’s lots of information to gather about this beautiful world, and those that love the twisted dark vibe of the genre will probably be eager to hunt down as much extra lore as they can.
Speaking of hunting, the gameplay loop works a little bit like the Monster Hunter series in that you use your base camp to kit yourself up with the appropriate gear before tracking down and killing one of the mages. There are loads of weapon and armour combinations too, so a lot of the challenge can be just deciding what to wear.
Actually, that’s a lie – a lot of the challenge comes down to the combat itself. As a soulslike, it’s brutally tough and punishes you for the tiniest mistake you make. Regardless of your loadout and class, taking on a single enemy could mean life or death. Of course you do gain access to a block and dodge, but I found the latter rather clunky to use and didn’t quite have the same responsiveness as other similarly tough games. Games modelled after Dark Souls do tend to be on the slower side, however, so I imagine those more familiar with the genre will adapt to it slightly better than I did.
The enemies themselves, along with the mages, are all gorgeously designed and sport that unique Ska Studios aesthetic that all of their games have; however, the abundance of repeated fights causes repetition and fatigue to set in rather quickly. It’s an unfortunate side effect of their shift in gameplay design, even though it was clearly done to help distinguish this game from its predecessor.
So, did I manage to make my way through the sequel?
Well, no. The difficulty combined with the repetition ultimately made me fall off this one too. Whilst those weren’t necessarily the problems I had with Salt and Sanctuary, it definitely was the cause for my abandonment of this one.
As someone who isn’t a fan of the soulslike genre, Salt and Sacrifice wasn’t enough to sway me over. It’s as beautiful as all of Ska Studio’s efforts, for sure, but the repetition doesn’t gel well with the hard difficulty and ultimately made me fall off before reaching the end.