If you’re like me you remember the old days back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when video games weren’t as easy as they are today. Games back then could be brutally difficult and over the years they have become easier so that they can appeal to a wider audience. That is why I respect the Dark Souls games and Bloodborne that developer From Software created. They brought back that unforgiving difficulty to games and I love it. That is why I’m glad to see indie studio Ska Studios jump on that train with their new game Salt and Sanctuary. The question is: does Salt and Sanctuary live up to the pedigree set by From Software?
Salt and Sanctuary is best described as a 2D Dark Souls like game. The major difference I would say is that Salt and Sanctuary has more platforming associated with it but other than that it borrows a lot from the From Software games. When I say they copy a lot from the Dark Souls games I really do mean a LOT. Gameplay, visuals, and even the HUD is very similar to those From Software games but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My journey in Salt and Sanctuary began aboard a ship at sea where I was suppose to be guarding a princess. Things go wrong from there and next thing I knew I was waking up ashore a beach with no sign of the princess I was suppose to be guarding. As I ran along the path I was provided some basic control tips along the way but quickly found myself having to learn the other controls on my own as I ran into my first set of enemies.
Much like those Souls games I like how Salt and Sanctuary forced me to learn its mechanics on my own and didn’t ease me into the experience. When you start the game you are given the choice to create your character and pick your class from a choice of eight. As you play through the game and level up you can then further build upon your chosen class with the in depth skill system. Every time you level up you can unlock a skill from the huge skill tree that Ska Studios has developed which further lets you customize your character and playstyle to the way you want it. To level up you must collect the experience material in the game known as salt. As you defeat enemies in the game you will accumulate salt which you can then take to shrines to level up. You will quickly come across your first shrine in the game and these places let you spend the salt to level up your character. You will have to be careful with your salt however because much like those Souls games if you die you will lose all salt in your possession. If that happens you will be given a chance to go back and kill the enemy that killed you to earn it back. This first happened to me when I ran into the first boss and died fighting him.
Another thing Salt and Sanctuary borrows from the From Software games is the fact that you can leave notes for other players. I read one that advised me to bring fire right before I stumbled upon the first boss. I was quickly defeated and the next time I followed that advice and came out on top. Salt and Sanctuary gave me that same feeling of satisfaction that I got from those other games when I would defeat a boss especially one that had previously kicked my butt. The world is pretty big with lots of areas and lots of secrets to discover. You’ll come across locked doors only to later come out on the other side letting you open them to create a shortcut back to a previous area. The one thing I would have liked was some kind of map to help navigate the world but it isn’t a huge deal. Also the game has tons of Boss fights in it so if you’re a fan of that fear not. I won’t talk about any of them here however as I know fans of these kind of games like to be surprised with that aspect. Rest assured boss fights are another area Salt and Sanctuary nails perfectly.
If you have played Ska Studios previous games like the Dishwasher then you know they know how to draw some really awesome characters and worlds. The art style used in Salt and Sanctuary is done really well and it does a perfect job of creating a dark and creepy world. The soundtrack is also well done and further helps perfect that tense atmosphere these kind of games excel at. I really have to give Ska Studios a major thumbs up on the music as it is one of my favorites in some time.
In conclusion, does Salt and Sanctuary borrow a lot from the From Software games? Yes it does but it doesn’t try to hide that fact and Ska Studios has put their own stamp on these kind of games in my opinion. Salt and Sanctuary nails the atmosphere and the combat and I highly recommend it if you enjoy 2D RPG’s or if you are a fan of any of the From Software games. The game doesn’t hold your hand and will deliver that same brutally hard experience that you loved about those other games. I can already say that Salt and Sanctuary is going to be in the running for my personal pick for game of the year in 2016.
*Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.