This game is already shaping up to be one hell of a ride.
Salt and Sanctuary was a good attempt at a tough, 2D soulslike game. Actually, I shouldn’t say that it was an “attempt,” as that seems a bit disingenuous—they most definitely succeeded in creating a 2D Soulsike. The game was great—it was tough but not to the point of being unfair, had plenty of places to explore, and offered a ton of replay value. I loved the game. And, now that I’ve played about an hour of Salt and Sacrifice, Salt and Sanctuary means nothing to me—and I’m only half-joking.
It’s normal to expect a sequel to feature gameplay that feels upgraded when compared to its predecessor/s, but there was something about Salt and Sacrifice that felt like it went beyond that. It was still a grimdark, soulslike 2D platformer, but it doesn’t feel like it’s just trying to be “Dark Souls except 2D,” this time around. No, Salt and Sacrifice seems to want to take up a unique identity of its own—and the little that I’ve seen of said identity has me extremely excited for the game’s full release.
A Marked Man, Traveling These Lands
Salt and Sanctuary has the player playing the role of a “Marked Inquisitor,” and, while a title like that might sound kind of cool, it’s anything but. These special Inquisitors are essentially criminals who, with nowhere else to go, have pledged their lives to hunting the Mages—living embodiments of magical chaos—which roam a neighboring kingdom. It’s not an easy job, but it’s now your job. And, I mean, what’s the worst that could go wrong?
Given the limited amount that I was able to access, there isn’t too much that I can say about the game’s story. However, the fact that this game seems to have an overarching hub world this time around—and one filled with plenty of talkative people, at that—seems to imply that Salt and Sacrifice will have a fairly content-rich story for players to enjoy; or at the very least, they’ll be able to get their fill of lore.
Pick Your Poison
Getting set up in Salt and Sacrifice works nearly identical to how it did in the previous game. Players are able to pick from one of eight different classes—with only two of the eight original classes (Paladin and Cleric) making a return—which, in turn, significantly affects how their character will play. While I can’t say that I did an extensive deep dive on the ins and out of every single character, I did notice that there seemed to be a distinct lack of blank slate characters this time around. Apparently, there really isn’t a need for those anymore. However, as the skill tree—which also makes a return, basically (at least as far as I can tell) lets you do whatever you’d like as you’re leveling up. Sure, you start out in different places depending upon what class you started out as, but you’re by no means forced along a certain path. So, if you’re itching to build that tanky ranger of your dreams, you’ll be able to do it soon! In all seriousness, though, I really do think that expanding the level of flexibility to every character class is a really great idea and could lead to some highly unique spec combinations down the road.
Unto Distant Lands
So, now we start shaking things up a little bit. Much like Salt and Sanctuary, Salt and Sacrifice is a Metroidvania in terms of physical layout. However, based on what I’ve seen of it, it doesn’t appear to be a traditional Metroidvania. Speaking purely in terms of layout, if the first game was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, this game seems to be something more along the lines of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin sans Dracula’s Castle. If you’ve played those games, you should know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, no worries, I’ll do my best to explain.
Instead of having a giant, sprawling map, Salt and Sacrifice seems to imply that it will be utilizing a warp gate within the hub world to send players to various locations. The warp gate itself is controlled by a set of runes that can be freely manipulated, meaning that the more rune combinations a player knows, the more areas that they have access to. This also appears to imply that players might be able to access areas prematurely—or perhaps even mess around with runes and access secret areas! Of course, I was only able to go to the first area, but the implications are certainly exciting!
Anyway, let’s actually focus on the first area itself. For the most part, it felt like, well, what a first area in this game probably should feel like… I guess? It was more about learning the basics and taking down fairly weak mobs and a beginner boss more so than anything else. So I did both of those things, and I thought that I was done—but I wasn’t! You see, Salt and Sacrifice had a few surprises in store for its players—the first of which being a grappling hook that allows you to cross huge gaps and climb up ledges. It does need special trigger points to be used, but it’s still a super-handy item, and it looks like it’s going to be a core part of the game (although I’m a little nervous about having it implemented into boss fights, which I know the game will do at some point).
The second surprise was, uh… wait, what was it that I said your character was sent to do, again? Oh, that’s right! Hunt Mages! Mage Hunts are a thing, now! And, boy, howdy are they intense! Essentially acting as post-boss boss fights, once triggered, a Mage Hunt will allow the player to—as the name implies—hunt the area’s resident Mage by tracking down somewhere in the level via their magical energy. Once you find them and give them a few good whacks, they’ll teleport somewhere else. You’ll do this a few more times until they eventually get tired of you and teleport to the area where you battled the boss and then themselves become a boss. And, if the first Mage is anything to go by, these guys are way scarier than the area bosses. Fortunately, they also drop a ton of good crafting loot (and it looks like they might be repeatable in the full game?), making hunting them worthwhile.
Red-Hot From the Start
There’s a lot of Salt and Sacrifice that I haven’t seen. In fact, I don’t have access to most of the game right now! But the little portion of the game that I do have access to is all that I need in order to know that this is absolutely something that I’ll be looking forward to. Salt and Sanctuary was good, but that game came out in 2016. Ska Studios has had over half a decade to work on their sequel, and it’s very, very obvious that they’ve been using their time wisely.