Yes, it’s beyond trite to be comparing a game to Dark Souls, but it’s really unavoidable when talking about Ska Studios’ Salt and Sanctuary. The husband and wife team have often paid homage to other games in the past, such as The Legend of Zelda and River City Ransom, but this time around they’ve been inspired by From Software’s popular series. This is far from a third-rate knockoff, though, as the duo have successfully adapted the punishing gameplay to a 2D plane.
Even if you’ve never enjoyed a Souls game, there is still a striking familiarity once you begin playing Salt and Sanctuary. The transition to 2D makes it surprisingly easy to pick up the basics. It largely plays how you would expect a platformer would in two dimensions, and you’ll be jumping your way through and exploring locales with general ease. It’s now much easier to understand your surroundings as you won’t be taken by surprise due to seeing the entire area.
This apparent accessibility isn’t to be confused with a lack of depth, however, as there is a ton to learn. Combat has just as much nuance as players will be able to back stab foes, parry attacks and roll out of the line of fire. It might be easier to understand in 2D, but nothing has been loss in the process. Defense is still the best skill you can have, and it’s something you’ll need to master.
The general progression of Dark Souls applies here as well. You’ll be battling enemies, exploring dangerous locations, and trying to find your way to the next sanctuary which acts as a save point. Oh, and you’ll probably die. A lot. In fact, it’s mostly dying if you’re at my skill level, but that doesn’t mean the game is unfair.
Salt and Sanctuary is certainly punishing, but it’s all up to the player. Every time my character died, and lost his salt (which you use to level up), it was due to me screwing up. I was either trying to be overly aggressive in combat, or should’ve parried a move. I never felt like I was treated unfairly by the game, which has often been the case playing From Software’s titles. The key is to learn from your mistakes and over time you’ll inch your way towards the next area.
While you’ll be dying a lot, it’s actually a very satisfying grind. Sure, it totally sucks to reach a boss only to die and be transported to the last sanctuary you were at, but it all becomes worth it once you slay the gigantic beast you’re fighting. You earn every single victory in Salt and Sanctuary, and you’ll feel genuine pride in what you’ve accomplished.
Which is good since there are a lot of challenges to overcome in Salt and Sanctuary. In particular, there are a large amount of bosses to take on. These fights are very difficult and will reward players that take the time to learn attack patterns. Bosses will often switch up their strategies once their health gets low as well, so it’s always an intense affair.
There’s also a ton of replayability to be found in the game, too, as well as different character classes to check out. If you were disappointed in a lack of variety in Bloodborne, then you’ll be happy to know that there are 8 different classes here. These range from Knights that wield a shield and sword to more magic adept ones like the Mage. Combat is a blast with all of the characters and I’ve been compelled to experiment with many different styles.
Ska Studios has also included several different challenges that can be selected when beginning a new game. For those looking for a true challenge, there’s a hardcore mode that adds permadeath and tougher enemies into the mix. Other modes limit the player’s abilities, such as restricting blocking, healing or only allowing the player to use magic spells.
Salt and Sancutary has done a fantastic job of translating what people enjoy about Dark Souls to 2D. In fact, in certain aspects they’ve even outdone From Software. Even if you’ve never been a fan of this genre, Ska Studios has created a very good entry point here and we highly suggest checking it out.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
Ska Studios have done a fabulous job with Salt and Sanctuary, as the transition to 2D has created a more accessible game while also retaining all of the depth.