I Yes, really wanted to love Salt and Sacrifice, and for a while I did. A sequel to one of my favorite soulslikes, Salt and Sanctuary, it hit all the buttons I was hoping for: challenging combat, a huge variety of grotesque and intimidating enemies, fun boss fights, and an expansive world to explore. But Salt and Sacrifice’s gameplay formula has a monster-sized twist: it introduces Monster Hunter-like elements, complete with repeatable boss hunts, roaming bosses, and grueling chases of your targets through gigantic zones. It’s a risky experiment, and one that doesn’t quite pay off.
At first glance, Salt and Sacrifice doesn’t seem all that different from its 2016 predecessor. It still has that signature gritty and gloomy Ska Studios flair, although all of the hand-drawn graphics and animation have been completely overhauled for the better; The tutorial borrows heavily from the Dark Souls school to teach you the basics and then crush your spirit with a tutorial boss technically possible to beat but really shouldn’t; and the combat maintains a very fast pace, despite being tied to a fairly strict stamina meter that greatly discourages button-pressing.
These parts, which Salt and Sacrifice inherits from Salt and Sanctuary, are its strongest points. Thanks to a wide variety of different weapon types, there’s a ton of customization for playstyle. Combat is deep, satisfying, and effective; The zones are fun to explore, with meaningful rewards hidden in hard-to-reach areas; there’s a refreshingly easy-to-start co-op mode; and also several options for PVP.
But the two games are actually very different at a fundamental level. Rather than having one continuous map, Salt and Sacrifice is actually divided into five zones, each huge and spreading in all directions, progress through them being mainly limited by doors that only open when you have a certain amount named magicians devour hearts. You do this by initiating Mage Hunts, which are Monster Hunter-style boss fights in which you hunt down a specific Mage across the map and engage him in several small skirmishes until he finally finds himself in his proper boss- Arena settles down. again involved in a traditional boss fight.
Everything looks good on paper, but in practice this mix of Monster Hunter, Metroidvania and Soulslike is anything but a perfect mix. For one, you never get a card. Just to reiterate, these zones are enormously, often with entire sub-levels taking place above ground, below ground, in great castles, and in the skies. Trying to find a way back to the boss you fought, the salt resource you dropped upon death, or the locked door you can now open is a lot more frustrating than it needs to be. Sure, Salt and Sanctuary didn’t have a map either (I wish they didn’t either), but their absence matters less in this game because their levels are much more linear in their design.
Screens of E3 2021 – Salt and Sacrifice
On top of that, while there are plenty of obelisk-shaped checkpoints that act as respawn and restock stations, there’s no way to fast travel between them or even choose which one you want to start at when You first walk from the main hub to a zone, which amounts to retracing your steps over and over through the same enemies, the same traps, and the same platforming challenges, which becomes very repetitive.
Then there are the Mage Hunts themselves, which come with their own downsides. The final stages, where you actually fight the boss in his walled arena, are generally pretty fun. They can feel overwhelming when you first encounter them – but after a few tries, you start to see the openings that you can dodge, block, or attack, regularly landing them in that sweet spot that’s difficult but manageable is.
The problem is the chases. The big problem is that once a mage decides to teleport to an area, you never know what else will be there. I often had to deal with two mages at once, or a mage who just camped out on a ledge and made it almost impossible for me to get where I needed to go, or a mage who spawned extremely tough and resilient enemies all in one Area that was already full of extremely tough and persistent enemies. Luckily for mages, damage persists while you chase them so you don’t fall back to zero after you die, but the silly thing is you have a limited supply of recovery items. On a few occasions I would spend 20-30 minutes hunting down a mage around the map, exhausting my resources to the point where I only had a few tries before completely exhausting myself from healing flasks when I got the actual one Achieved boss fight. I would have to end the hunt, farm more bottles, and then do the whole thing all over again. Salt and Sacrifice ended up lasting 25 hours, and far too much of that first run was spent backtracking steps, farming materials that felt like they simply needed to be refilled at a checkpoint, and fighting bosses I already had three – or had hit four times before.
On the plus side, at least the five levels are fun to explore. They are all visually very different; They all have an incredible amount of enemy variety, with few, if any, repeated enemies on them; there are a large handful of mages to find and hunt down; It’s fun to find hidden treasures that are off the beaten path, as well as hidden NPCs that return to the hub once you’ve found them, providing a sort of helpful shop or multiplayer feature.
Embrace the grind
The good news about Monster Hunter’s influence in Salt and Sacrifice is that if you’re the kind of person who embraces the grind and doesn’t mind the added repetition of beating the same bosses multiple times, it’s a very satisfying loot progression there awaits you. Just as each monster in Monster Hunter has its own specific set of craftable weapons and armor that you can craft from its remains, there are also unique weapon and armor sets for each mage you defeat. I always looked forward to returning to the hub and checking out the new weapons and armor I could craft after knocking one down.
Most weapons acquired by mages also have unique abilities that add fun new facets to combat. My trusty Half-Spear, which I got from killing a Chronomancer, gifted me with the ability to place a pillar that slows time for anything moving within it, along with the ability to invoke spectral blades that would slice anything long reach above me, which proved incredibly useful. Using these skills required some pans in the skill tree to customize my build, but luckily you get a limited amount of respec points every few levels, allowing for great flexibility in customizing your character.
There are also hidden tomes in each zone that unlock mage destiny hunts, repeatable hunts that can be used to hunt down specific mages to gather the upgrade or crafting materials you need. I felt like I was fed up with repeatable hunts just because they spawned in the world after I killed them once, but again, for those who are going all out to complete their armor sets, it’s nice to have the Having the ability to repeat these hunts in a structured manner.
What keeps Salt and Sacrifice from being a skip is its multiplayer options. While you can If you’re doing the Dark Souls co-op and PVP style, which is tied to various in-game items and NPC factions, the real star of the show is the simple co-op board that allows a host to enter a passcode and their partner Enter the same passcode Boom, they’re playing co-op together. It’s easy, it’s easy, and being able to play through a Soulslike from start to finish with a buddy without ever having to jump through any hoops is just a unique experience.
It also helps that the implementation of co-op is top notch. There are fun emotes to add a little much-needed levity to the otherwise aggressively dark adventure, enemies are scaled in such a way that the challenge is still very prevalent even with a different body, and the tedious hunts are a lot less of a nuisance if you there are can do it with a friend. Playing in co-op instances that would have infuriated me as a single player, where I got caught by an extremely hard-to-detect trap or juggled to death by a boss, resulted in shared moments I could laugh about with a friend.
https://www.ign.com/articles/salt-and-sacrifice-review Salt and Sacrifice Review – IGN