Salt and Sanctuary - Recensione
Well, Ska Studios, while remaining a team of two people and very few collaborators, has evidently made great strides in these seven years, given that from the crazy I MAED and so on (which, however, I do not deny, at the time he captured me for his madness and the song of the soundtrack - listen to it above), we arrived today at Salt and Sanctuary, a production however limited to the few resources of the developers, but much more substantial than the previous games of James and companions (including The Dishwasher and Charlie Murder).
Salt and Sanctuary, already available for PS4 at a price of 17.99 euros and sooner or later also coming to PC and PS Vita, is a game that has managed to strike me in the heart, and the reason is very simple. It is a 2D reinterpretation of the soulslike genre, or the type of games that most fascinates me in these years. As if that were not enough, the elements inspired by Dark Souls and the other games of this wonderful sub-genre of Action RPG are, in Salt and Sanctuary, installed in another structure that I have always loved: that of metroidvania, or action games two-dimensional strongly inspired by classics such as Metroid and Castlevania.
The game has a not really exceptional graphic design, very simple from a technical point of view and not very inspired from an artistic point of view. The graphic style adopted is not the best, especially if you compare it with that of other indie productions (or in any case with that of other games in the same price range), but it is not bad either. And most importantly, for the soulslike enthusiast it will go into the background very quickly.
From the beginning, in fact, Salt and Sanctuary tests the player with his decidedly demanding degree of challenge, just like that of the games he is inspired by, and gratifies him with an infinite series of references to Miyazaki's works. Quotes that emerge from almost all aspects of the title and that will make soulslike lovers feel completely at home.
The creation of the character recalls in an almost shameless way that of Dark Souls, giving a very clear indication of how much SnS wants to be a tribute to the From Software games. The eight available classes (Knight, Magician, Paladin, Thief, Cook, Cleric, Beggar and Hunter) guarantee a very good variety of game styles and, as anyone would now expect to read, are clearly simple routes, which do not exclude the possibility of develop the character by mixing characteristics of different classes.
Be careful, though. Here is a first interesting difference with the soulslike of From Software. The development of the character, in Salt and Sanctuary, is entrusted to an interesting spherography that recalls in all respects that of Final Fantasy X. It can therefore vary on characteristics of different nature, but it must be done by following fairly precise paths. The starting point in the spherography is central and allows you to go in all directions immediately: on the left the magic section, on the right the part relating to the enhancement of the healing arts and at the top all the facets of physical combat. The class chosen in the character creation phase carries some skill points already spent, but the subsequent development is up to the player only, who theoretically has the full possibility, on the way, to transform his initial cleric into a berserker. Or to create a magician capable of wearing heavy armor.
Spherography is a kind of game in the game that I already liked so much at the time of Final Fantasy X, and that in Salt and Sanctuary proves to be a very interesting variation on the development of the character in soulslike, something that perhaps even From Software could take into consideration .
Before you even get to level the character, however, you have the opportunity, in the game's prologue, to try the combat system. And here you immediately understand the importance of the stamina bar, a key element in the combat system of every soulslike, as you instantly notice that the feeling of the fights, as far as transported in a two-dimensional game structure, is incredibly close to that of the Souls . The timing for the roll, which clearly cannot be performed in all directions, but only in the two offers from the 2D structure of the game, is however what From Software games have accustomed us to, as are the difference between light attack and heavy attack (whose alternation can give life to some combos) and the possibility of making bloody attacks following perfect saves (parry + reposte).
The final boss of the prologue, The Unspeakable Deep, which in 99.99% of the cases will kill us making us then find ourselves on the island where our whole adventure will take place, immediately puts us in front of the game's badness level, also strongly inspired by the typical difficulty of soulslike, but also by his desire to reward us with great satisfaction. The boss is indeed beatable, exactly as it happened with Vanguard in the Demon's Souls tutorial. Just very difficult.
Regardless of the final outcome of the prologue, however, the adventure on the mysterious island begins in any case and here, within a couple of hours, you have the opportunity to appreciate another great feature taken from the From Software games : the interconnection between the areas, in Salt and Sanctuary, is truly remarkable. An always very careful level design puts at our disposal a series of shortcuts that in a short time will make us understand the choice not to include a map in the game (another point in common with Dark Souls and the like).