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SummaryPitchfire and Sanctuary
The GoodI play video games. A lot of them. I have played most of the Metroidvania titles out there on every major platform.
Still, Salt and Sanctuary gave me a visceral and unforgettable experience, not found in any other game.
The biggest reason why this game OWNS is a consumable item you can buy and use throughout the game -- Pitchfire. It is similar to the famous Charcoal Pine Resin in Dark Souls. It adds fire damage to your right hand weapon. But in Dark Souls the additional damage was not that noticeable.
In Salt and Sanctuary, the additional damage granted by the Pitchfire is ENORMOUS. I would argue that Pitchfire is the entire game -- let me clarify that, this is an RPG that offers a large variety of weapons and spells and different approaches to combat. There are other valid options. All I'm saying is that, for my playthrough, Pitchfire is the one thing that works, the one thing that brought a smile to my face every time I played it.
I also got an upgraded version of Pitchfire, called Imperial Pitchfire. You can only carry a very small amount of it. For me I could carry two units of Imperial Pitchfire at a time. That means only two uses until I rest in a Sanctuary. And I appreciate it that much more.
At least for two days, the only thing I could think about was "Pitchfire, Imperial Pitchfire". The same phrase stuck in my head. I couldn't help but say these words quietly, all day long. The same phrase over and over again. It's been a long time since a game had this kind of mesmerizing effect on me.
On to the rest of the game -- how does this compare to Dark Souls? I think it's much more challenging than Dark Souls. The difficulty of the first playthrough is already on the same level of Dark Souls' NG++. First of all you will need to get used to the jumping. It's very easy to miss a jump and die right there.
The enemies are intensely aggressive. Quite a few of them completely ignore your shield and attack you in very nasty ways. Trust me you'll know what I mean when you play it. That's why I love the Pitchfire so much -- Pitchfire means revenge time. Pitchfire means I can kill every one of those nasty annoying things. Let them burn in hell.
In Dark Souls the enemies can feel quite innocent. Many of them don't really get a chance to touch you, and you already DEFEATED them. Salt and Sanctuary is really a different story. I believe the enemies here will certainly touch you many times, one-hit kill you many many times, build up your hate meter for them, so you can kill them without feeling guilty.
In Dark Souls, your death leaves behind a bloodstain that can be picked up with a simple button press. In Salt and Sanctuary, your death will do one of two things: it will summon a poisonous white "bird" into the game who will fly around unpredictably, try to poison you and possibly kill you again, or, it will give the enemy that killed you about twice as many HP as it normally would have. It's like the game is saying, "oh, so you're having a hard time trying to beat this thing? Let's make them even harder and see if you can beat it this time!"
I love the challenge. To be honest I found Dark Souls a little disappointing because I became too strong and there wasn't much difficulty left for me. An Eagle Shield or a Havel's Greatshield easily makes you invincible. Salt and Sanctuary to me is the true, hardcore Souls experience that is genuinely challenging and genuinely satisfying when you eventually beat it.
If Dark Souls had an easy mode, it's probably Dark Souls with Ring of Fog + Havel's Greatshield.
If Dark Souls had a hard mode, it's Salt and Sanctuary.
== The Music ==
Music was arguably the weakest department in Dark Souls. In Salt and Sanctuary you get a few highly atmospheric and memorable tracks. They seem to be inspired by atmospheric black metal bands such as Drudkh and Agalloch.
Also if you know black metal, the aesthetics found here in gameplay and graphics also have a strong symphonic black metal influence.
== The special nod to Xbox 360 ==
Salt and Sanctuary hasn't been released on any Xbox consoles. However in the game's settings menu, it has an option to display the button icons in one of two styles,
1) PlayStation 4 button style
2) Xbox 360 button style
The first option will display Triangle, Square, Circle, R1, R2, etc., in the game's HUD area. The second option changes those to A, B, X, Y, RB, RT.
The strange bit here is that, it says "Xbox 360 style". Xbox 360, not Xbox One, despite the fact that this game is released in 2016, and that the other option PlayStation 4 is Xbox One's contemporary.
But a true gamer will know that it makes sense to say that, because Xbox 360 was a wildly successful console, while Xbox One -- just isn't.
It's tiny details like these that make gaming an art form.
The BadAgain just like in Dark Souls, you pick up tons of items, gears, armor, weapons, that are completely useless. I collected a lot of the things dropped by enemy creatures that I still don't know the use of.
Most areas in the map are useless. I'm not exaggerating. There are full boss fights in distant areas of the map that don't seem to award anything. I assume the only reason to get there and fight them is just fighting for the sake of fighting.