With Dark Souls being a hugely popular series, it's inevitable that elements of its game design would drift into other titles. You've got direct attempts at creating new games within the same genre, such as Lords of the Fallen and the long-delayed, often rebooted project Ni-Oh, games that attempt to mimic the challenge and loneliness such as Titan Souls, and you've got the 2D side-scrollers made in Souls' image, which includes the upcoming Death's Gambit. Ska Studios' Salt and Sanctuary falls into that final category.
Ska Studios first made a name for themselves in 2009 with The Dishwasher, a gory 2D brawler with dark, hand-drawn art. This title was made by a single person, James Silva, and is impressive in its ambition, even if it's a game I found completely off-putting. Seven years and several titles later, James would work with his wife Michelle to create Salt and Sanctuary, which is, in every way, a Dark Souls fan game.
|You can select a class, but you are not shown your starting stats or stats on any items.|
|Surprisingly does not say "You Died"|
It's hard for me to play this game and not say, "this feels way too familiar," but that's pretty much a mainstay element of the games industry. What really matters is not who did it first, but who did it well. Salt and Sanctuary is a well made game, much more impressive and approachable than The Dishwasher, but it's a game with a lot of little issues holding it back.
|Contrast issues; I can't actually see what's going on here from a still picture. This isn't uncommon.|
Like Dark Souls, you have to worry about equipment weight slowing you down. You can play with a shield and absorb enemy strikes or roll through everything, your choice. There are no strength/intelligence/etc requirements for using weapons; instead, you just need to unlock that class of item by leveling up in a Sphere Grid made famous by Final Fantasy X.
|1 point of Strength is, unfortunately, kind of pointless.|
|Trivializing a boss.|
|Damage types matter here.|
|There always is.|
|There's a lot of places that look like this.|
There's a story here involving travelers trapped in a strange land, a loss of memory, reincarnation, and discovery through reading items. In other words, it's a Souls game, but without the same quality of writing. The dialogue here is all vaguely ominous, but without any personality. No one NPC stands out as memorable and everyone speaks in the same written voice. There are NPC quests to complete, but I didn't get very invested in them, since none of these people meant anything to me. There are a couple of endings and they're intentionally mysterious, not in service to the narrative, but because that's how it is in a Souls game.