Welcome to 2D Dark Souls!
Salt and Sanctuary draws a lot of its styles and mechanics from the Souls series. The game boasts grueling boss battles and an expansive world done in a 2D platform. The story goes that you are to escort a princess. While traveling on a ship, it is attacked. After fighting through the enemies, the ship still ends up crashing. The created character will wake on a beach. That is where the game gets interesting.
Depending on the choice of class, the character will be more developed in areas over others. I chose the Cleric. Clerics are capable of using Prayer magic early on that can heal or add holy damage. These magic abilities use focus. Each time one is used, maximum stamina amount will fall until you return to a sanctuary or use an item. This is my favorite class. I did test the Thief and Mage classes early on. I stuck with Cleric for the extra healing, and it felt like a middle weight build. It was not as light as the thief but not as heavy as the Knights.
Sanctuaries are this game’s version of Bonfires. At the Sanctuaries, different Creeds can be found. Each Creed has different versions of healing and bonus items that can be acquired. From waking on the beach, there is a choice of three different Creeds: The Three, The Iron Ones, and Devara’s Light. These will not be the only ones in the game. I ended up latching onto The Stone Roots. In this Creed, poison items and daggers that were greatly useful in many of the bosses I fought were provided. If you do leave a Creed that you want to return to, then you’ll need to remove the sin to take the oath again.
Sanctuaries are needed to level up. Note that there isn’t the need to take the Creed of the sanctuary to level. Unlike Dark Souls, the level up and skill increase system are separated. Each level up will give a Black Pearl. Black Pearls are what will be used in the Skill Tree. The look of the Skill Tree is similar to the Final Fantasy sphere grid system. To use higher level equipment, items will need to be unlocked through this system. The issue I found with this system is that I was unable to see my stats while leveling. Even more annoying was not being able to see the stats of the class when making the character. This is a large reason of why I chose to test different classes early on.
I’ve gone over the Sanctuary part of the game’s title. The Salt comes in as this games version of Souls. With each monster killed, Salt will be gained. Items that contain salt can be found and used to boost salt amounts to help getting the amount needed to level. On the Bundle of Salt item description, there is a quote:
“And the day may come again, when gold is like stones, but salt is most precious of all things. Carvan 19:2”
I found the quote striking, and it stopped making me question: “Why salt?” Salt will not be the only currency. Gold will also be obtained. Gold is used to buy items, weapons and armors. Salt will be used for the leveling and upgrading of weapons and armors.
There are 24 different areas in the game to explore. Early on, the game is straight forward. It does not take long to back-track and move around areas. To travel to areas, there is the need to gain brands that will be received from NPCs. The layout of this system ended up with a lot of level gaps. There is an area called the Ruined Temple. I could only access it after getting the Redshift Brand that allows passing through the red light barriers. After obtaining the brand that was much further along and coming back, I ended up blazing through the area. I had expected the difficulty to be higher considering the struggle to gain access to it. But the area and boss were easy. I even beat the boss in one try for that area. It was moments like that made me disappointed in the game.
That is not to say that there are no difficult bosses. One I particularly struggled with was the boss at Siam Lake. To beat her, I had to upgrade 5 levels, get new armor and upgrade as far as I could, and max level my weapon. Even after all that it took multiple tries to get the attack cues and get the right dodge times and heal times. And it can be heavily based in stats and armor at how easy some bosses can be over others. So adjusting accordingly after learning the basics of each boss can be crucial to finally vanquish them.
This game went a lot quicker than I would have expected and did feel easier than the Souls and Bloodborne games. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. For people who are maybe less interested or more wary of the Souls series, this game might be an option to try out. For those who love those series already this game is a fun time spent that could be less grueling than running through the Souls game for another New Game+.