It seems that every few months, you always hear about that new indie title that is a true Dark Souls successor. Hollow Knight is the new Dark Souls, Blasphemous is the new Dark Souls, Cuphead is the new Dark Souls- Wait, what? But there was one game that went almost under everyone’s radar and was less discussed. Maybe it had a following, but compared to Hollow Knight, it was practically unheard of. And this game goes by Salt and Sanctuary
Taking place in a fictional kingdom with characters looking like they crawled out of a Newgrounds game, you find your character left on a deserted island after being attacked by a giant monster. From here, your goal is to find the princess that was on the ship and find a way off the island, exploring the ruins that are filled with horrible creatures and other horrors, trying to understand what this island is and how all these buildings came to be. You ever look at fantasy games like Zelda and wonder how a lush green land can be right next to a volcano or near a scorching desert? Well Salt and Sanctuary explains why a cave system is so close to a huge sprawling castle, if vaguely and through items. Salt and Sanctuary is the true Dark Souls successor. While Hollow Knight certainly has its use of vague storytelling through NPCs, Salt and Sanctuary has that, weapon systems, upgrade systems and even item descriptions talking about the lore of the land. But the game is different enough to be its own thing. For starters, it’s 2D. Totally different from Dark Souls.
In all seriousness, the difference from this game is that it doesn’t have platforming that makes me regret living. The game implements a lot of challenging platforming sections, but never anything that makes me hate myself at the end of the day. It is difficult, but offers a variety of ways to get around, from wall jumping to long jumping to creating platforms out of smoke for you to get around. Also your character can grab ledges. The things I would do for that to be in any Dark Souls game. The game also offers a lot of shortcuts for you to get back between your bonfire- Your sanctuaries. This game is called Salt and Sanctuary, but where does the salt come in? Is it caused by the immense amount of salt you will feel from the game’s constant use of instakill falls? No, well, not as far as I know. Salt is the games experience in a way, like Souls in Dark Souls, except you also have coins for actual currency. When you collect enough salt, you can upgrade your character. Die and your salt will be removed. Either it will return as a weak enemy or another enemy will pick it up and gain more health points. Kill the enemy and you get your salt back. Die before you can kill them and you lose the salt forever. It felt way more punishing here than say losing souls in Dark Souls, cause souls were everywhere. With salt, unless it’s end game, getting a bunch of salt from a boss only to lose it felt like a real penalty for death. It made you want to perfect the game more, get the best items you could, level up and grind, whatever to avoid losing all that experience. And when you managed to beat a boss and get that salt, it felt more rewarding. That’s the thing I like about Salt and Sanctuary as well as Dark Souls. You felt like you earned your victory… most of the time.
Salt and Sanctuary has such an interesting world to explore. It doesn’t have a lot of breathtaking moments like in Dark Souls, like Anor Londo, Ash Lake and the Kiln of the First Flame, but a lot of moments were made so much stronger thanks to the games music. From the great orchestral pieces to, oddly enough, electric guitar. You would not think the soft sounds of a guitar would work well in a game like this but it does. And the lore is also incredibly interesting. This is one of the few games I actually spent hours reading the lore about, and I just wanted to read about the island itself, but before I knew it, I was reading about the different countries and their religions and such. This game had me gripped and I enjoyed it.
Sadly though, while this game does take the best parts of Dark Souls, it also takes its worst parts too. Bosses that swarm you with minions like the unbearable Mad Alchemist boss fight. Bosses that have a specific weakness that you can exploit. Falls that can kill you immediately. Poison! There is an entire area of poison. Why do they need to do this in every game. The Black Gulch sucked in Dark Souls 2, Blighttown sucked in Dark Souls 1, I forgot the areas name in Dark Souls III, but it sucked too, and the swamp sucks in Salt and Sanctuary. Of all the things to take inspiration from, why that. Thankfully, like the other areas, it’s also short, but I would much rather not have it at all. But even with those faults, Salt and Sanctuary can be forgiven because when it does it’s other things right, it does them so right that you are willing to look past the bad things. Like their bosses. These bosses are so grotesque yet they all hold a story to them. The Kraekan Wyrm, one of the last dragons that has become an abomination. The Third Lamb, once a mighty and respected griffin now broken and tortured for someone’s sick ambitions. And the final boss, the Nameless God, has such a dark and interesting lore that I choose not to spoil it, but know there is a reason it’s called The Nameless God. Salt and Sanctuary, while I am sure people are tired of me comparing it to Dark Souls, I will say that while the vague storytelling is an inspiration, Salt and Sanctuary gives its own dark and morbid twist with it’s bosses and I just love it so much as a result.
Salt and Sanctuary was the one Dark Souls compared indie game that sadly didn’t get the credit that it so rightfully deserved. Yes, it’s not as visually pleasing as Hollow Knight, but that works in its favor. The gritty visuals gives it a morbid charm that I love. It’s haunting, threatening and it makes the world that more unique, honestly. If you’re looking for one of the most true Dark Souls indie games to fill that void, give Salt and Sanctuary a look. You will not be disappointed.
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