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Salt and Sacrifice

Salt and Sacrifice

Written by Henry Yu on 5/20/2022 for PS5  
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It seems like salt is always better when paired with something else. You got the classic condiments salt and pepper, the famous ice cream shop Salt and Straw, and the 2016 indie game Salt and Sanctuary. Now we finally have Salt and Sacrifice, the spiritual successor to Salt and Sanctuary, and the newest project from James Silva and Shane Lynch. Sacrifice follows in Sanctuary’s footsteps, still being a 2D rendition of the classic Dark Souls formula along with Metroidvania elements, but with a major twist this time: the inclusion of Monster Hunter elements. While the game conjures up an addicting gameplay loop, it is also plagued with questionable design choices and mechanics.

Set in the Kingdom of Altarstone, Salt and Sacrifice pits you as a Marked Inquisitor, tasked to hunt corrupted Mages that wander and corrupt the lands. You have eight initial classes to choose from, ranging from a nimble assassin to a faithful cleric, each with their own starting gear and stat spread. As like most other role playing games, your starting role does not lock you out of other playstyles, as you are free to customize and build your character however you like as the game progresses.

The main departure from Salt and Sacrifice's predecessor is the inclusion of Monster Hunter-like hunts with regards to Mages. The entire gear system revolves around farming materials and drops from a roster of about twenty Mages. During a hunt, Mages will flee the area and require you to hunt it down before an actual boss encounter occurs with it. Every Mage is excellently designed, with unique movesets, minions, and skills. Defeating them is the only way to reach further areas in the game, which makes sense considering hunting them goes hand in hand with progressing the narrative.

There are a total of six areas in the game: five main sections and one secret zone. Each new place introduces a refreshing change of scenery, enemy types and Mage encounters. You have iconic locations like the poisonous Corvius Mire that pays homage to the classic swamps of the Dark Souls series, and the snowy mountaintops of Dreadstone Peak. Tucked away in each sector are inquisitor tools like the grappling hook or ethercloth bolt which act as Metroidvania-style devices that allow you to traverse previously unreachable areas. Level design is immaculate, with large interconnected pathways and shortcuts that lead you to secret loot or NPCs. The game desperately needs a fast travel system and map though, due to how many times you will be re-treading the same ground and getting lost. It doesn’t help that most consumables like your potion and ammunition need to be crafted from farmable materials found throughout the world instead of automatically being refilled at an obelisk.

In the graphics department, Sacrifice takes the same approach that Sanctuary did, adding crispness and color while maintaining the same monochromatic art style. There’s no voice acting, but the ambient soundtrack that plays more than immerses you into the game’s luscious environments. The atmospheric soundtrack knows when to feel nice and cozy and knows when to dial things up during Mage hunts and boss encounters.

Salt and Sacrifice doesn’t shy away from being a difficult game, as the learning curve can get quite steep and even feels a bit unfair at times. It copies a little too much from previous From Software titles, notably the “hollowed” or in this case, Spellmarked state, that permanently reduces your hit points by about twenty percent unless you consume a Guiltless Shard. Once you consume this shard, your HP bar will fill all the way up but should you die again, it will revert back to the hollowed state. This sort of punishment seems unnecessary considering how many deaths can occur that are out of your control. This brings me to the next pain point that this game suffers from - the juggle physics. Your character will literally be juggled around and bounced halfway across the map from enemy attacks. If you don’t get stunlocked and die from the attacks directly, you’ll likely die from falling to your death after being bounced off the map. Enemy difficulties are also a bit unbalanced as some can one shot you.

One step up that Salt and Sacrifice has over From Software titles is how seamless, smooth and fleshed out the multiplayer experience is. Those who are familiar with the Souls series definitely know that summoning another player usually consumes some depletable resource and then kicks out the helper after a boss is defeated. Summoning in Salt and Sacrifice can be used infinitely from a key item and the summoned player persists even after a boss is defeated. The added cherry on top is that the game supports local cooperative play in addition to online! There’s an abundance of multiple covenants to join that range from helping other players or invading them to engage in PVP gameplay. For trophy hunters and achievement enthusiasts, I’m happy to say that no multiplayer play is required, so the entire game can be platinumed offline.

With the presence of new game plus, the multiplayer experience, and the sheer amount of content that’s in the game, Salt and Sacrifice boasts an insane amount of replayability. One playthrough took me around 25 hours and this game is priced humbly at only $19.99. It scratches the itch of challenging combat, customization in terms of weapons and armors, and build variety for various playstyles. Although the game does very little hand holding to get you acquainted with all of its systems, there is an awesome and friendly community of players online for newcomers and veterans alike. If you get stuck on a boss or just want to partake in some jolly cooperation, there are always people down to help.

It still amazes me to think that this expansive game was developed by only two people. Both individuals are also active and engaging in the official Discord channel, diligently pushing out patches post launch to address bugs and player feedback. This is such a rare relationship and dynamic to have in today’s gaming world that I can’t help but show my respect and appreciation for Silva and Lynch. We need more developers like this in the industry.

Salt and Sacrifice embodies the definition of a love hate relationship. There’s so many things wrong and infuriating with this game, mainly the cheap deaths, the infinite bouncing, and the lack of fast traveling or a map. But there’s also so much to love about it that I perpetually want more: the endless Mage hunts that I can commence to farm for the armor set that I want, the tucked away secrets off the beaten path, and the alluring narrative that I desperately try to piece together through context clues. It’s a genuinely well designed Souls-like Metroidvania that is steps away from being perfect.

Salt and Sacrifice to Salt and Sanctuary is like Dark Souls 2 to Dark Souls 1. It diverges a lot from the original, with some ideas that work well and some that don't. All in all, it's still an excellent 2-D Souls-like Metroidvania that brilliantly infuses Monster Hunter elements with challenging combat. Despite some poor design choices and questionable difficulty spikes, it's still astonishing to think this game was created by a team of just two people. 

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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