Salt and Sacrifice is a Salt and Sanctuary sequel in which you will have to sacrifice all of your free time to devour Mages and finish the game, which is great if you’re into that. If you played Salt and Sanctuary, you would most likely play and possibly enjoy Salt and Sacrifice.
Although not a direct sequel, it features a lot of mechanics that Salt and Sanctuary do with a bonus inclusion of Monster Hunter elements that prove to be too much at times, and we will talk about all of this in my Salt and Sacrifice review. We conducted this review on PS4.
Navigating Pardoner’s Vale & Beyond
Right out of the bat, let’s take a look at the most significant nuances. It does start almost exactly like Salt and Sanctuary, quickly introducing you to the core gameplay, which amounts to a hack and slash Mage hunter escapade. Great right? On paper, absolutely.
The first thing you will be met with is an enormous boss that you are meant to lose to, as is Soulsborne custom so that you can proceed in this Indie Game.
Unlike in Salt and Sanctuary, where you have one enormous interconnected map, here you have five main zones you travel to from your base, the Pardoner’s Vale.
After your first very fun boss fight, you start the game in your base/hub world, where you can level up using salt that you gathered throughout the zones you travel through.
Each zone has doors that you can unlock after devouring a certain amount of Mages in that or a different area which was a very thrilling thing to see.
There are Obelisks all around the map, and those are used to restock on supplies like HP potions and arrows if you collected enough to craft which I often did; and it appears that, at the time of writing, there is no fast travel between Obelisks.
This does force you to backtrack a lot if you need to go to Pardoners Vale to level up or upgrade, which gets tiresome. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if you had a map you could use to navigate yourself through the area to get back where you were; sadly, this is not the case as a map option is missing.
Which Witch Is Which?
As we already know, there are Mages that you need to defeat and devour their souls to open doors. Each door tells you how many Mages’ hearts you need to devour, but it doesn’t make it obvious which ones are Named Mages. If you asked me which one I killed even now, I’m not sure if I could tell you.
This means that on top of not knowing which hunts matter, you have to switch zones just to come back to that door in Bol Gerahn (second zone) and see that it’s still red and saying, “Sealed. Devour one more heart of a Named Mage to proceed.” Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it.
You can say that the game does a good job of prompting you to explore, but it doesn’t. If you defeat a Named Mage and unlock a new door to progress further in the game, it is really easy to forget where the door is or even how to get there. The Obelisks, too, are either right next to each other or very far away from one another.
I must say I dislike the map that acts like an endless maze, as you have to wander aimlessly in the hope of getting where you need to go more than I would like. You have Obelisks as checkpoints every so often, and if you die, you will be brought back to the last one you were on, but they are few and far between and don’t curb the constant confusion and lack of ability to navigate the world.
The hunts are an acquired taste, but in many ways, I think they can help you more than you will first realize, even though they do get pretty monotonous. These hunts grant you key battle info before each key boss fight and often provide items that will make your battle much easier.
Each boss spawns its minions, and you have very high chances of getting items that you can use to upgrade your gear – that is another thing. One great thing is, after defeating each boss, the complete set appears in your base to craft and use.
The downside is that the items you need to upgrade your gear are very scarce, and I still didn’t have everything I needed in the new game plus. So while in theory, this mechanic is good, the amount of grinding needed to make it useful renders it pretty useless.
However, on the bright side, thanks to recurring bosses, and quite generous Obelisks outside of boss encounters. Farming is easy (even easier in the new game plus) and because this game is a Metroidvania title at its core, you’ll likely stumble into a few old adversaries throughout your run naturally, which means there will be chances to gather special gear. I just wasn’t a huge fan of the RNG aspect.
Combat is a Mixed Bag
When it comes to the overall combat, Salt and Sacrifice doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead adds some new features to keep players engaged. One of these features is the underwhelming elemental damage feature. Every boss deals a specific type of damage, and you can easily get armored up and go up against them. However, the elemental effects don’t work both ways.
The elemental damage in Salt and Sacrifice is almost meaningless as the Mages aren’t weak to any type of damage except being resistant to the one that they deal. This meant that the game offered no opportunity to grab the gear that would help in a fight, and instead relies purely on combat strategy and fast reactions. It’s fine I suppose, but it begs the question, why have elemental damage for the player at all?
Then to continue berating the combat system some more, Poise has been reworked, and, in short, you will get thrown around everywhere all the time. This was a calculated risk but someone is bad at math. I did some testing, and a normal enemy attack depletes around 10 poise.
This means that anything less than 10 poise in your loadout has no effect against basic enemies, and you will get staggered after getting hit by anything; you upgrade your poise with the armor you can craft after devouring Mages.
If you have above 10 poise, then the second hit will lower you to 0 poise and subsequently cause a stagger, followed by a full reset of your poise back to full. In general, this is very inconvenient as poise loses its purpose completely, and even with significant upgrades, basic foes will be able to stagger and stunlock you with rapid chain attacks.
Then while I’m on this combat thread, let’s talk skill trees. With the armor and weapons you get, you also get the ability to use spells which you can unlock in the skill tree using the points you get from leveling up.
Salt and Sacrifice handles this excellently as there are no strict guidelines for which stats you should go with, so you can go with heavy armor with twindaggers that you got at the beginning of the game and finish the game that way.
With this comes improved replayability, more possibilities for unique and creative builds, and an inherent sense of freedom when taking on this challenging title.
Then let’s talk co-op too, a feature that this game does excellently. In this title, co-op is the way to witness this game on an easy mode of sorts. In general, the game is very punishing but with a partner alongside, things become much more manageable.
The player will be able to revive companions on the spot and remain invulnerable while doing so, and the item drops throughout the game will be much more generous, at least from what I encountered in my joint playthrough. Plus, any game in this modern age that offers couch co-op deserves our respect.
Interesting Read: Best Co-Op Indie Games.
Then to end on a sour note of sorts, parrying, a vital and epic execution mechanic that all souls-like video games have been essentially removed and replaced by blocking. Blocking is, unfortunately, very ineffective as it costs a LOT of stamina, and enemies will usually chain attack you, burn through your stamina, and eventually break your guard and hit you, leaving you frustrated and unwilling to continue playing.
In Salt and Sanctuary, your parry would interrupt the chain of attacks; however, now, you can just get stun locked to death if you get hit once. There is almost no benefit in perfect blocking as it doesn’t interrupt attacks.
Overall, combat is a little bit of a mixed bag, it’s easier to navigate with a friend and much more rewarding if you don’t mind grinding and farming for key items. However, there are areas that this game’s predecessor excels in where this one fails to deliver.
Dark, Dreary & Uninspired
Salt and Sacrifice’s hand-drawn style is visually lighter and more attractive to look at than its predecessor, though, at times, it can still be pretty hard to see enemies. I missed Inquisitor Amben in the last zone of the game, where you fight him and backtracked through all the zones just to find him sitting there and looking like a statue.
I would compare it to Blighttown in the original DS1, I can see what they were trying to do with the low visibility, but even with the brightness setting at full tilt, it isn’t conducive to fun gameplay at all. However, when you can see what’s going on, the world design is a joy to behold, and when combined with an ambient score, the presentation is great, when you can perceive it. However, to criticize the musical score just a little, the developers could have also spent a bit more time on the boss music as every boss has the same fighting theme, and it does get dull.
We could get into the dialogue in Salt and Sacrifice, but it is very cryptic, and the game isn’t story-based in almost any view, but it is a good unconnected read for those that like to connect the dots and delve into worlds such as this to find the hidden lore. However, this is very unfortunate for players that like something more than a combat-only game.
There is a little bit of dialogue from NPCs that gives the player motivation to take on and devour the witch’s souls, but aside from that, you can wander the entirety of the map and never encounter any semblance of a connected narrative.
However, we have to give credit where it’s due; you can pet the cat, and quite frankly, that almost makes everything else admissable. Almost, but not quite.
Question: How long is Salt and Sacrifice?
Answer: Salt and Sacrifice can be finished in under thirty hours if you’re familiar with the genre.
Question: Does Salt and Sacrifice have a map?
Answer: This wouldn’t be much of an issue if you had a map you could use to navigate yourself through the area to get back where you were; sadly, this is not the case as a map option is missing.
Question: Is Salt and Sacrifice hard?
Answer: Salt and Sacrifice is easier than Salt and Sanctuary; while we’re on the topic of co-op, just couch co-op is much more satisfying to play and much more forgiving with items drops and revivals.
Overall, Salt and Sacrifice in my opinion aims to tweak the system put forward in its predecessor, in an attempt to modernize the gameplay, add more features and push the game forward. However, in truth, a lot of the tweaks are for the worse. The graphical content is perhaps the only aspect that is unquestionably better.
As the combat has balance issues, the character building has issues regarding reliance on RNG and farming items, the musical offering is repetitive in parts, and there is a litany of other smaller issues like co-op-only features locking content out of the reach of solo players, and overall navigation being messy and confusing to name a few.
My verdict is, if you liked Salt and Sanctuary, you will probably get something out of this game, but if you are expecting something that improves upon the older title, I reckon you’ll feel a little cheated when the credits roll.
- The Mage hunting adventures that are there throughout the whole game are a great way to get to know the map and how to make your way around certain areas
- The new game plus feature offers a surprising amount of content
- The game has two endings, no spoilers
- The fall damage is more merciful than in the first game
- Graphics are an improvement on the original
- Difficulty spikes throughout the game feel artificial and ruin the pacing of the game at times
- Enemies, other than Mages and their minions, drop mostly nothing of interest, and fighting difficult monsters is not worth the time you could use to just roll through them and proceed to the Mages/bosses
- The merchant that you unlock in Pardoners Vale never offers new load-outs and is stuck selling beginner-level class 0 items. It seems that, for now, he is only useful for selling items and buying crafting tools for ammunition and healing potions. I used him to buy silver pouches with silver to store it as you lose most of it when you die without the ability to get it back
- There is no way to organize your inventory which means that in whichever order it is when you get the items, there is no way to manage and understand anything unless you sell your items.
- Combat has balance issues and certain combat features hinder the player rather than help them
- Platforming is a real chore at times
Alternatives to Salt and Sacrifice
If Salt and Sacrifice aren’t what you expected to get, even with its cool title, and you haven’t played Salt and Sanctuary, some games will check all the boxes that Salt and Sacrifice didn’t (other than Salt and Sanctuary). Here are some beautiful and gruesome games to try out:
- The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai
- Vigil: The Longest Night
- Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
- Death’s Gambit
- Dead Cells
- Charlie Murder