There are places beyond our own that we could never hope to imagine or comprehend. The gift of the storyteller is that they are able to tap these lands. The reason this is so important is that we can hope to learn a little more about ourselves, about our own lands, by transporting our consciousness to these lands in chunks of time.
The curse is as a storyteller you have no control when your soul gets ripped out. Eject and launch, the soul is thrust into yet another land without permission or warning. The key is to accustom yourself to this abuse. The universe will do what the universe does, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
I found myself in a world with some pretty serious lighting issues this past week. It’s land, drenched in grays and blacks, came alive on our PS4s to deliver a surprisingly deep and satisfying 2D take on the Souls formula. With it’s interconnecting world design and difficult bosses I felt similar tinges of discovery that I did playing Castlevania Symphony of the Night (SotN) for the first time. I’ve often said that the game and Dark Souls had a lot in common. It seems two people (the development team, SKA Studios, behind Salt and Sanctuary) agree with me.
Salt and Sanctuary launched on Tuesday, and I was very excited for its release. When I found myself in its lands I was hooked on the precise combat mechanics and exploitative elements that, as I mentioned, reminded me deeply of SotN. So much of the game’s aesthetic is Dark Souls–from the moody atmosphere, to the UI itself. Hell, the game includes equipment burden that effects the movement of your character. If you have over 70% equipment burden, then your character fat rolls. Just like DSII!
It’s interesting and healthy to be playing these two games at the same time. I’m very new at Salt and Sanctuary while feeling like a Dark Souls II veteran. SnS is kicking my ass, and when I get too pissed I can swap to DSII and crush everything with my Greatswords. And oh, how I laugh.
I found a Greatsword-classed weapon in Salt and Sanctuary fairly early on, yet I could not get the handle on it. Playing this game, a 2D sidescroller, I felt that I should be moving faster. I restarted with another vessel, this time choosing a fast moving, dagger wielding thief. I’m liking the playstyle, and I have a good ol’ sword and board to fall back on if I feel like a scared little bitch. Which I usually do when I’m about to face a boss.
These things are massive, and they almost always attack in a pattern that pisses me off at first. They seem cheap until I learn the attack pattern, meaning I’m pissed and then when I beat the boss I’m usually left feeling pretty satisfied.
For example, a few hours into the game you’ll be fighting a dragon on top of a castle. Pretty epic. But the fucking thing flies all over the place breathing fire at you like a coward. And at this point in the game, you don’t have much in the way of fire protection. So you have to learn the moveset the dragon possesses in order to read its tells and dodge/attack accordingly. It becomes much easier that way, but you will have to die a few times before you can do anything.
As I said, the first attempts, where I’m dying over and over to seemingly cheesy AI tactics, I hate the boss fights. As I begin to really learn how to get around everything, I start to see this game’s strengths as a “Souls-like.” The game really captures what the Souls games were doing. They offer this seemingly impossible challenge that can be tested with the greatest tool you, as the player, could hope to possess. Patience. Be calm, and learn the enemy moveset, and you’ll have a much better, more manageable time.
What’s just a little more bullshit in Salt and Sanctuary are the traps. You’ll walk into a trip rope, which triggers something to swing out of nowhere to hit you. If you’re recklessly running through (like, for instance, during a bossrun) you’ll trigger these fucking things over and over. And they do tons of damage. Thing is–they’re hard to see.
That’s a real weakness when it comes to the graphical presentation of this video game. It’s dark. As hell. And those trip ropes are small. As hell. They blend in way too well. The first few times I went through one section in particular I could not even see the damn trip rope, so I assumed the trap just came down and hit me every time I ran through. After too many deaths I finally realized that I cannot aimlessly walk around in this game. I have to be paying attention the whole time. But even then, I still somehow manage to trigger these things because my tendency is to run through areas I’ve already explored! It’s maddingly frustrating.
Yet it’s pure bliss to watch an enemy rise from the ground and walk straight into a trap. Because they trigger them too, and generally these traps kill enemies with one hit.
Worse than feeling the smashing of a ten ton hunk of wood, covered in steel spikes, is feeling the drop of a thousand feet to an invisible floor. There’s quite a bit of platforming, including some hellish sections in the trees. It’s frustrating, and it really tests your patience. I certainly stopped playing out of cold rage from these sections. But learning them, and besting them, has felt like the kind of joy you’d feel in the old days with Castlevania, Mario, Mega Man, and Ninja Gaiden games.
I can’t wait to get in deeper, and explore the different builds possible in the game. Right now I’m trying to build my character to allow some sort of magic even though I fear that I’m fucking him up. I’ve heard that magic and prayers (faith) are really good, so I hotly anticipate using a spell based character in the future.
Hopefully I can do this before the gate opens. Before the alluring, fresh lands of Dark Souls III. When that game comes out, you can expect nightly updates detailing my time with the game. They will potentially be laced with spoilers, but I’ll thrive to insure that they’re interesting to read.
Until then my quest continues. Salt and Sanctuary. Dark Souls II Scholar of the First Sin. You will be beaten.