Salt And Sanctuary: Dark Souls and Castlevania had a baby

Ska Studios has made a name for itself with gothic and dark punk rock indie games like The Dishwasher and Charlie Murder. Salt and Sanctuary isn’t an aesthetic stretch for the two-person developer, as it retains the gloomy but undeniably attractive art style of its previous titles. Where Salt and Sanctuary does step away from Ska Studios’ previous titles, however, is its scope.

Salt and Sanctuary, to be blunt, is 2D Dark Souls. Many familiar mechanics from From Software’s increasingly popular Souls series are present here, including a stamina bar, the ability to switch between holding a weapon with one or two hands on the fly, bonfires, and a familiar soul collecting system which here takes the form of salt.

Creator James Silva does not attempt to hide the Dark Souls inspiration, flatly stating Salt and Sanctuary is a game he has personally wanted to play and is happy to see nearing fruition. “The really exciting, cathartic self-actualization part happens when you get to go from being a fan of a game its themes, mechanics, styles, and the like to actually being able to create, experiment, and branch within your own imagining of that universe that you’re such a fan of,” Silva says.

Both Charlie Murder and Ska Studios’ two Dishwasher games were praised for impressive control and satisfying (and violent) combat. That attention to solid Controls and tight combat extends into Salt and Sanctuary. I found myself quickly pulling off leaping combos and rolls without issue while playing a beta build of the game. The platforming is also responsive, making platform navigation easy and fun but that isn’t to imply the whole game is easy.

Another aspect borrowed from Dark Souls is difficulty. Salt and Sanctuary is unforgiving in its training, forcing players to learn by way of experimentation and frequent death. rather than with outlined tutorials. Every death showcases a mysterious creature dragging your lifeless body back to your last check-point and it’s up to you to recollect the salt (i.e. experience) you dropped when you died while fighting your way through the enemies Who have all now respawned.

Deeper in the game, you start to uncover Runes, which further pushes the game away from its Dark Souls inspiration and more toward Castlevania and Super Metroid. Runes are permanent upgrades that help you navigate the environment. One allows you to reach new areas by turning specific clouds into solid platforms, while another flips gravity in certain locations, allowing you to reach new heights that were previously unattainable. Despite the Castlevania and Metroid inspiration, Silva says there are currently no plans to implement a map. “Ideally, areas in the game should be characteristic enough to not require a map,” Silva says, “With the world being as seamlessly interconnected as it is, it’s nice to keep those Dark Souls-esque connections a surprise.”

Despite being very close to a very popular game, Salt and Sanctuary feels original thanks to its merger of 2D platforming and unforgiving combat.

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