I've been reviewing Salt and Sanctuary for the Playstation Vita for a while. Those who read my First Impressions will know that I stopped playing for about a month because of bugs and crashes. I'm pleased to announce that these were patched out a few weeks ago, and I haven't encountered any problems since. So having finished the game, did my impressions change?
Salt and Sanctuary made it's debut last year, but the Vita port was only released recently. Though I doubt many of you will be new to the name, Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D Dark Souls clone made by Ska Studios. All the key mechanics of the Souls series are here; stamina management, skill points, and difficult bosses. It's an eclectic mix from different titles in the series that seem to work well together taking the best from each title. While it is definitely its own game, Salt and Sanctuary cannot help but draw these comparisons.
I know a lot about the Souls series from my over enamored boyfriend, but I have not played them myself. This meant that all the mechanics in Salt and Sanctuary were shiny and new to me. I rarely looked at guides and walked in blind. There was so much to learn and discover. Many mechanics, such as transmuting new weapons or devoting to your creed, I only discovered with a few bosses to go. Others such as prayers and magic, I skipped completely. Seasoned Souls players or old salts to this title will find these mechanics instinctively. New players will see the game open before them, gently unfolding new layers. It felt intensely replayable. You will be left wanting to play it over again, with the new skills and play styles you discover.
It does, of course, depart from the Souls series in a few key ways. To add to difficulty your maximum health and stamina decreases when attacked. This can leave you dangerously vulnerable on bosses, no matter how many health potions you have. You can add difficult to find charms to your weapons to add various buffs and change them at any time. The biggest departure is the switch to 2D and with that the nail-biting platforming sections.
While the comparison to Dark Souls is perhaps the easiest, it also reminded me of Mega Man and Shovel Knight. Platforming can be incredibly tricky and small platforms can be crowded with enemies. Discovery and exploration often reward taking risks, whether it's leaps of faith or entering areas with difficult enemies. The further you stray from the beaten path the more powerful weapons, spells, armour and other upgrades you will find, which aid you greatly in battle. As you progress you obtain brands which give you new platforming skills. You can continue onwards with these, or head back and see what's new to discover.
All the exploration and platforming is in order to fight bosses. These are incredibly creative each with their own skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Each teaches you a new way to play the game. Changing up your armor, weapons and play style for each boss was very rewarding, especially when you find a formula that works. The variation in bosses really shows particularly with the Tree of Men, Kraken Wyrm and the Unskinned and the Architect, some of the most original bosses I've seen. The fact that the final boss was so unoriginal was funny and unique itself.
As for the bosses difficulty, it seemed to vary wildly, but fairly. Once I was into Salt and Sanctuary, many took me less than three tries to complete. This was all down to equipment management. Bosses that I've found out are considered notoriously difficult such as the Witch of the Lake were taken down with ease. Others were a frustrating struggle. This is, of course, to do with play style and how you build your character. It is interesting how players of the same game could have such varied results.
The portability of the Vita is perfect for Salt and Sanctuary. If I ever had to travel or wait I whipped out my Vita for a quick session. It's a game that can be played in quick bursts as well as larger sessions. The dark atmosphere is well paired with the claustrophobia of the small Vita screen. Inventory via the touch screen works well too. Salt and Sanctuary is a game that feels like it was made to be portable.
Music and sound effects are used minimally throughout, but this often adds to the creepy atmosphere. There is only one boss theme, and after one particularly tough boss, I began mentally coupling it with feelings of resentment. Different music for each boss would have helped here. While the art style for the world, inventory, bosses and enemies look great, it can be difficult to look past the 90s flash game aesthetic of the human characters. It's a small thing, but it may put some off.
Overall, fans of Souls games and fans of difficult 2D platformers will love Salt and Sanctuary. It balances difficult but extremely rewarding gameplay, with mechanics and a story which slowly unfolds before you. Progression feels natural, and environments and bosses varied. If you've never played Salt and Sanctuary before I cannot recommend it higher, particularly when paired with the Vita. Salt and Sanctuary is a game which will be talked about for a long time to come.
Salt and Sanctuary was reviewed on PlayStation Vita with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam.
Salt and Sanctuary is an amazing game that is well paced and has layers of gameplay that slowly unfold the more you play. This game is recommended even if you are shy of the difficulty of the Souls series and is throughly rewarding.(Review Policy)
- Amazing Fusion of Genres
- Perfect Pacing and Progression
- Multi Layered Gameplay That Will Keep You Coming Back
- Some Bosses Can Get Frustrating
- Music is a Little Repetitive