Review of Salt and Sacrifice: The combat customization in Ska Studios’ Salt and Sanctuary 2 is excellent, but the story is a little thin.
Dark Souls was introduced to me by a friend. Rather than being introduced as “look at this hard as a crap game, bet you can’t even beat the first boss,” FromSoftware’s modern masterpiece about humanity and what it means to live and die was. When the Asylum Demon snatched my terrified character from a ledge and sprayed him all over the ground below, they weren’t wrong.
That’s how Salt and Sacrifice are to you. Taking place in the ruins of a rotting civilization, Ska Studios’ follow-up to Salt and Sanctuary from 2016 pits you and your miserable hero against monsters of monstrous proportions, and asks you to venture out into the broader world to eat mages alive to restore harmony across the realm.
The sequel from Ska Studios is like that friend since it’s a superficial examination of the type of game it’s riffing on. All of the nuances of the story and dialogue have been lost in favor of progressing the player’s quest to repair the planet through interaction with NPCs and other minor characters. Everything else is built on top of a tough-as-nails fighting system.
The combat system isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to play as the protagonist in Salt and Sacrifice, you’ll be pleased to know that the game encourages you to take the initiative and fight back against your enemies. At times in combat, you’ll try to sneak a heal in, or try to whack an enemy, just before their strike hits you.
It’s possible that the entire process will be excruciatingly difficult. It is quite likely that you will be killed in Salt and Sacrifice by a combo attack from two or more adversaries because your stamina does not regenerate as you take damage. As there are a lot of opponents here that are taller and more powerful than you, it’s not uncommon for them to take two or three consecutive hits and send you flying across the screen while their minions attack you.
Salt and Sacrifice isn’t exactly as cumbersome as one might think. Salt & Sacrifice’s protagonists and their weapons have a remarkable level of customization. You can use ice or lightning magic, enormous weapons, or daggers endowed with elemental damage to slash at your opponents from a distance. You’ll often find yourself with plenty of stuff to experiment with and customize your weapons in Salt and Sacrifice thanks to the adversaries dropping items in unexpected numbers.
Given how severe the boss fights may be, Salt and Sacrifice allows you to play with the game’s weapons of war. Bosses in the early stages of the game can be found in the form of enormous monstrous mages, each with their own unique style of magical attacks, ranging from lightning and ice to ice and fire. It’s an excellent recipe for stressful fights where a millimeter can separate you from an attack that will end your hero’s life in a matter of seconds.
All that you can do is chip away at the enormous health of the game’s rogues gallery of bosses while evading and weaving through an unceasing barrage. Given that blocking with a shield and standing at the perimeter of the arena and pelting the enemy with ranged attacks aren’t realistic choices, boss battles can feel a touch unfairly weighted. Salt & Sacrifice’s monsters appear to say, “Good luck if you’ve been playing defensively up till now,” as the newest giant comes lumbering towards you with devastating strikes.
There are plenty of possibilities for customizing in Ska Studios’ sequel, but the plot fails to live up to expectations.
The story of Salt and Sacrifice revolves around the aforementioned mages, and the game’s goal is to devour them alive in order to repair the world (through very enigmatic means). When it comes to the plot, Ska Studios 2’s sequel falls flat because there is so little left unexplained. Every individual in the hub world serves to remind you of the plot and spell out everything in the most overt possible sense, which is a problem. Only a few people have personalities or roles outside of simply delivering information to you as if they were museum exhibits. Despite the fact that Salt and Sacrifice broadens the scope of the original Salt and Sanctuary, it does not elevate its significance.
Salt and Sacrifice’s biomes are still enjoyable to explore, despite the dull hub area. You can physically soar to new heights by unlocking a grappling hook at the beginning of the game, which is nearly totally horizontal at first glance, but becomes a vertical playground once you do so. The great majority of Salt and Sacrifice’s different worlds include a surprising amount of verticality, which is a pleasant surprise when you’re not being pounded off ledges by beasties.
However, Salt and Sacrifice is not a fully successful riff on what came before. While the battle mechanics and boss encounters are enjoyable, the storytelling and narrative elements of Salt and Sanctuary fall short of expectations.