Salt and Sacrifice is a sequel to Salt and Sanctuary that is impressively developed by the one-man team at Ska Studios. The game is a 2D souls-like that has all the traditional trappings of the genre, for better and for worse.
The game begins with a cryptic introduction about hunting mages that have begun corrupting the land. Then, players get to make their characters. There are a handful of customization options for each category while also allowing you to pick a starting item and class. The classes and items don’t have much in the way of definitions, but that is a standard for the genre that feels at home here. Once your character is made, players progress through a brief tutorial introducing the game’s combat mechanics before pitting them against a boss designed to kill the player to progress the plot.
If this sounds like standard fare for a souls-like, that’s because, well, it is. In this regard, Salt and Sacrifice doesn’t do much to make itself stand out from its peers, but it does serve to communicate what to expect from the coming journey as it stays faithful to what fans of the genre expect.
After being killed by the first boss, players are introduced to the camp that acts as their base of operations, where they can upgrade gear, purchase supplies, and level up. The camp also expands as the player progresses, unlocking different vendors and NPCs that have unique roles to play, like opening up map areas.
Expanding one’s camp is an excellent addition to the gameplay loop of Salt and Sacrifice, both in rewarding the player for their actions and as a progression system. From the camp, players also travel out to areas through a portal by entering the right runes in a simple menu.
This system works well enough, but it is a tad disappointing that the game’s map isn’t one extensive interconnected system, even though each smaller area has its own branching paths. While exploring each area is interesting and fun in its own right, the smaller scope prevents the exploration and discovery from being as satisfying as it was in Salt and Sanctuary.
Splitting the map into more clearly segregated sections also makes progressing through them feel less natural. Rather than weaving back through previously cleared areas, there is rarely a reason to go back once you’re done with an area.
However, Salt and Sacrifice’s co-op mechanics are fantastic. Players can either randomly summon other players to assist them or team up with friends by matchmaking with a matching short code. Then, even when a player dies, they can be revived and are never kicked back to their own game until they want them to be.
Salt and Sacrifice is also a big success in its combat. There are numerous ways to build your character with various weapons, types of armor, and abilities. In addition, each weapon class has a unique stable of moves that allow players to customize their playstyle and tackle the game’s challenging encounters and enemies.
The cast of enemies in the game is also highly varied, with each enemy type having its own personality and move set. However, none of the enemies in the game are that difficult to deal with until much further into the game. It is nice that Salt and Sacrifice gives players time to learn its mechanics before throwing hard enemies at them, but in this case, the difficulty curve could have been increased a bit to keep it from getting too stale early on.
The ease of dispatching the game’s enemies also stands in stark contrast with the difficulty of the game’s bosses and mages. Salt and Sacrifice has bosses that are found in specific arenas throughout the game’s world as well as mages that have to be tracked down by following their trail through areas. Finding regular bosses tends to come as a surprise as they aren’t marked, for example, with a door of fog. This can be a bit jarring at times, but the boss fights themselves have a lot of variety and interesting fight patterns.
Tracking down mages to fight is often more of a bother, as the player has to retrace their path to track the mage to their arena. However, the mages are all very different, making finding a new one just as interesting as any of the other bosses.
Unfortunately, the frustrating hitboxes can spoil both the boss and mage fights. It is pretty common for players to visually dodge a projectile but still get hit by it. These instances are particularly frustrating with how much damage bosses and mages can deal just from a single hit.
Salt and Sacrifice also carries forward the leveling system introduced in the first game. As players level up their character, they get resources to spend on a web of incremental stat boosts and the ability to equip higher ranking gear. The system is sufficient but tends to make leveling up feel unexciting and not impactful. This is because the incremental stat increases are often too small to feel exciting, and the entire web of skills looks imposing but ends up being very repetitive after the first level-up or two.
When all of these pieces come together, Salt and Sacrifice is still a very worthwhile sequel to the original. While some of the elements don’t work as well as others, the game’s combat and build variety offer players a great sandbox to play around in. So, if you are a fan of the original or the genre, Salt and Sacrifice is a decent contender for your time and effort, but it won’t make you love Souls-likes if you don’t already.
Salt and Sacrifice is available May 10 for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.
Salt and Sacrifice
Salt and Sacrifice is still a very worthwhile sequel to the original. While some of the elements don’t work as well as others, the game’s combat and build variety offer players a great sandbox to play around in.
Arron is a writer and video editor for But Why Tho? that is passionate about all things gaming, whether it be on a screen or table. When he isn’t writing for the site he’s either playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching arthouse movies, or trying to find someone to convince that the shooter Brink was ahead of its time.
March 20, 2023