“This is not dark salt,” claimed a player message at the beachhead of Salt and Sanctuary. Well, I beg to differ. Salt and Sanctuary is the most obvious and shameless Souls clone yet. But hey, it’s pretty fun. Nonetheless, let’s dig in to some criticism (from the perspective that the game is a Souls clone rather and a thing-unto-itself)
How is a player supposed to take an anime-haired fish seriously as a protagonist in a dark and supposedly scary world? The jerky, puppet like animation (probably from Spriter) ruined any sense of connection I had to my character – I felt like I might as well go play with paper dolls. A key part of any Souls game is pride in character development and fashion.
The painted graphics looked pretty cool, but with all the bloom, transparencies, and shadow effects, the result became pretty unreadable at times. Often the torch didn’t help this problem, indicating it wasn’t an intentional game mechanic.
The text is idiomatic and pretty shallow. This makes me wonder if the writer’s ever really done anything – let alone done anything depicted in the game. The tragedy of a good Souls NPCs is derived from the player becoming attached to them; the characters in Salt and Sanctuary are idiots and pricks – no one would care if they died. I tried to kill them, but nope – the game wouldn’t allow it. The game keeps them alive as if to parade some token imagery of tragedy in front of the player.
Another important strength of the Souls games was their self-determination. Salt and Sanctuary’s opening injunction: “I must save the princess” was paper thin – what if my character didn’t care to save the princess? Why give us so many roleplaying options in the form of homelands and covenants if the game will put words into the player’s mouth less than a minute later?
The combat hardly gets past hack-and-slash. It’s fun, but feels a bit immaterial unless you’re wielding an much-too-large sword. This may be due to a stamina mechanic, that rather than gradually recharge, stamina waits a moment after a combo to recharge completely. This leads to more hack-and-slash, combo/stunlock approach to fighting, rather than calculation.
The Sanctuaries and their covenant-specific decoration are amazingly effective.
The exploration is engaging – found myself curious to find what’s next, but this all fell apart with fast traveling. The travel mechanic kept players from getting intimate with the level topology, and thereby keeps them from “living in” the world completely.
Nonetheless, Salt and Sanctuary is a fun addition to any Souls collection.