After making the heyday of a chosen few on Xbox Arcade with two opuses of The Dishwasher, a bloody and brutal beat’em all, Ska Studio signed Salt and Sanctuary, an unexpected and more than honest 2D soul-like which, despite its flaws, had largely managed to make a name for itself among fans of the genre. After such a success, where we could have expected new projects, the Australians preferred to hide in silence to only release a sequel 6 years later. It remains to be seen whether the wait was worth it.
Lots of salt
Salt and Sacrifice is therefore also a particularly dark 2D souls-like. The narrative frame is very nebulous and is content to send us to slaughter powerful enemies and mages in order to cure us of an ancient evil. As with Salt and Sanctuary at the time, the story fits on a postage stamp and ultimately reveals very little. Sacrifice is nevertheless more talkative than its big brother and often leads us to meet NPCs with whom we can have a bit of a chat. However, it remains particularly lean and lore doesn’t have much to offer us anyway.
So we find ourselves dropped in the middle of all this after having defined our avatar. For this, we will go through a character creator who is a bit stingy in parameters, who ultimately offers only a few alternatives in terms of face, haircut and choice of class. Warrior, paladin, thief, sorcerer… the software remains classic. Each of these categories will obviously have their own strengths and weaknesses as well as different starting equipment. The warrior will start, for example, with full heavy armor and an effective melee weapon, where the thief will have a dagger in his hand and compensate for his lack of defense with great agility.
Lore doesn’t have much to offer us anyway
Nothing too exhilarating then, but who cares, it’s the kind that wants that. However, once the pad in the hands, we become disillusioned quickly. The feeling changes only very/too little from one class to another and the mechanics do not move one iota. We jump, we use objects, we hit with heavy or light attacks, we hide behind a shield from time to time… In the end, there are not enough differences between the classes. However, the studio offers us a skill tree à la Path of Exile that literally makes you dizzy and allows us to spend experience to increase our statistics, and only by a few tenths sometimes. We could therefore quite naturally have expected a sharp management of our class, but no.
Ultimately, joystick in hand, only the type of weapon will change your gameplay somewhat, at least, the timing of your attacks since the lighter the weapon, the faster you will strike while the heavier the weapon, the slower you are. It makes sense, of course, but the dynamic changes during 2D fights, since you ultimately only have 3 axes to attack and therefore fewer opportunities to engage in combat. Note also the presence of ranged weapons (throwing hatchet, bow, crossbow, etc.), perfect for eliminating some threats in complete safety, although they are ultimately only secondary weapons.
Tracking down mages isn’t a good idea after all
very little pepper
Anyway, it’s not that bad since the software does not offer really exhilarating fights. In the end, the bestiary, rather provided by the way, does not give that much trouble. Not as much as expected in a souls-like anyway.
So yes, Salt and Sacrifice is hard, and one often dies, but the checkpoints are legion and the game is not demanding for a penny since ultimately the difficulty here comes down only to monsters doing extremely badly for not much and which become real pv bags by advancing in the game. ‘adventure. There are a few nasty traps here and there and a handful of critters that might surprise you, but those accustomed to the genre will have nothing exciting to get their teeth into, not even the bosses. And even less those damn mages far too present and far too redundant.
Yet this is what is supposed to make all the salt of the experience: the hunt for overpowered mages. Sorcerers that your quest quickly asks you to eliminate, in addition to the big bosses who will stand in your way by themselves.
An aftertaste of seen and reviewed
On paper, however, it makes you really wantthe idea of having to hunt down hyper powerful entities for ourselves to become stronger, why not. Except that in reality, it’s anything but fun. At first, knocking them down doesn’t bring much in the end, except to unlock the way with a lot of scripts, and as a bonus, you have to go and stuff them, even if that requires putting the main stakes aside to retype a region that we have already visited just to obliterate a poor mage. And to top it all, clashes all look alike, real square carbon copies.
And, the whole structure of the game is ultimately like that. However, at the time, Salt and Sanctuary had been treated to a nice level design job, shortcuts, interconnected areas and a zest of additional content. Here, nada, we advance straight ahead, we make forced round trips and the regions are all separated, only accessible via a base camp which serves as our hub. As a bonus, if the artistic direction is not bad, the environments tend to look alike. The very dark shades don’t necessarily help to differentiate between the different areas, the level design is quite similar and the assets are too similar. Caves, dungeons, ruins… one has the impression of constantly frolicking in similar places, distinguished only by a different skin. And sometimes, it’s really the same places since, as said above, we will often go back and forth a little laborious.
The environments are awkwardly labyrinthine and unexciting to navigate
A bland recipe after all
The studio is still trying to bring a little freshness to the whole by making our character a bit more lively (in appearance) than could be that of the previous opus, but that does not really help. We can make big jumps and move easily, we always have a strange feeling of floating and input lag. The rendering is not folichon and we are far from the dynamic game that we could have hoped for, miles from a Dishwasher, and that is also felt in fights that clearly lose impact.
Exploration is therefore not very exciting even if some objects or special moves try to offer a Metroidvania dimension to the whole, like the grappling hook (advancing in the adventure) which, however, allows you to twirl in the air. But here too, even if the mechanics could have been funny and brought a real plus to the experience, it is reduced to the rank of a gadget since in any case, you can only use the grappling hook at predefined anchor points, and it’s like that for everything. It will therefore suffice to remember the blocked paths, and to return there, often for not much more. So, in the end, there is no real notion of exploration or experimentation to try to arouse the player’s curiosity. And, honestly, as far as the environments are awkwardly labyrinthine and not very exciting to walk aroundwe don’t even want to go rummage there.
It is also possible to play cooperatively throughout the adventure, and that’s cool
Same story in terms of equipment (weapons, armor …) which may be in large numbers, are often only copied / pasted with stats a bit different (but never too many). As a result, the notion of build or theorycraft also falls by the wayside. It’s a shame because we can see that Ska has made efforts by trying to offer many statistics, passives and even boss equipment, the latter often require you to go and farm resources .
We are also entitled to a myriad of objects to collect, of which we have not really found the utility (throwing weapons, minor stat boosts, etc.). However, farming will be of paramount importanceespecially for care since where souls offer refillable vials for each death or campfire, Salt and Sacrifice uses a totally unbalanced old-school system, since here the care is in the form of herbs to be collected here and there in the environment. The problem is that they are scattered all over the place. As a result, it can happen that we don’t have any for a while, or on the contrary, that we end up with a herbalist’s bag full to bursting. Needless to say, if you have fun farming them, you will completely lose the experience in the process. In sum, Salt and Sacrifice disappoints.
Finally, note thatit is also possible to play cooperatively throughout the adventure by summoning an ally, and that’s cool,, or cross swords with other players in a PvP system pumped on the Souls. Understand by this that you may as well engage in legitimate duels or try to invade a poor player who has had the misfortune to connect to the internet.