Ever since I finally “got it” when I played Bloodborne, I’ve loved Dark Souls and the Soulsborne genre it spawned. Games in this genre are brutal and unforgiving, but that’s (part) of what makes them so enjoyable and so damned addictive.
Aside from the titles developed by From Software, there have been a few worthy clones; Nioh, The Surge and the upcoming Immortal Unchained. All of these titles have one thing in common. They take place in three dimensions.
How is it then, that the tiny, two-person studio Ska Studios has managed to make one of the purest Soulsborne experiences in 2D? It boggles the mind. Thankfully, it did and even better, Ska Studios has now brought Salt & Sanctuary to Nintendo Switch.
Salt & Sanctuary Review Switch
From the moment you start Salt & Sanctuary you feel as though you’re inside a 2D Dark Souls. It’s uncanny how well Ska Studios has nailed the dark, oppressive nature of Souls and translated it into 2D.
The amazing hand-drawn artwork and animation is fluid and oozes with atmosphere. Salt & Sanctuary certainly lets you know right away that it’s not going to be a picnic. The washed out tones, gloomy environments and overall aesthetic truly say “Prepare to Die.”
While reminiscent of early internet comics and animation, the visuals in Salt & Sanctuary are akin to a horror comic. Enemies are deformed and ugly and look pained as they go about their existence.
The violence is graphic and over-the-top, but it’s so cartoonish that it’s never overbearing. Plus, you’re hacking up all manner of grotesque creatures, chill out. In addition to the art and animation, Salt & Sanctuary features an incredible soundtrack of music and FX.
Toss it over your shoulder
The soundtrack to Salt & Sanctuary is one of the best I’ve heard from an indie game. Sounding like a melodic death metal version of old-school 2D exploration games, Salt & Sanctuary’s music is designed to ratchet up the tension while you play.
Sure, I was nodding my head along with the beat, but I could feel my anxiety levels rising whenever the music kicked into overdrive.
With amazing art, animation and a thumping soundtrack, Salt & Sanctuary ties it all together with just excellent gameplay. If you’re familiar with Soulsborne titles you’ll know what to expect, albeit in 2D.
Think of a Metroidvania title with the combat and death mechanics of Dark Souls. Similar to the recently released (on Switch) Hollow Knight, Salt & Sanctuary, puts an emphasis on careful combat, taking your time and learning when to strike.
For the most part, the standard enemies you come across can be killed pretty easily. However, like Dark Souls, if you let too many of them swarm you, you can be easily overwhelmed and swiftly murdered.
Don’t worry, if you are a friendly monster will pick up all of your Salt (Souls) and hold it until you get back.
Sodium Chloride & Refuge
Collecting Salt is the key to levelling up and it goes hand in hand with the other half of the game’s title; Sanctuary. As you progress through Salt & Sanctuary you will discover buildings which you’re able to use as a Sanctuary to rest, recover, level up and more.
In the game, you’ll find items that allow you to receive gifts when placed in your Sanctuary. Some grant additional Salt and combat power, others grant more gold and so on. These items don’t seem to add a huge amount to proceedings, but it’s definitely nice to be able to customise the area you’re grinding to help you get there quicker.
In your various Sanctuaries, you’ll be able to sell and purchase items as well. Most weapons and armour are quite expensive so you’ll need lots of gold. There are also a lot of different types, so you have plenty of choices when it comes to your murder weapons.
Portability Wins Again
Like many other re-releases on Switch, Salt & Sanctuary is another title that benefits massively from it. For starters, the visual style translates perfectly to the Switch’s small screen. The visuals still pop and everything remains visible, clear and easy to work with.
Portability is the second factor that makes Salt & Sanctuary so good on Switch. Since Dark Souls Remastered was sadly delayed for Switch, Salt & Sanctuary is your current best game in the genre. And that’s not a slight on Salt & Sanctuary either.
It stands on its own as an excellent addition to the genre while also bringing flavours of its own.
The boss fights are enormous, the deaths are brutal and playing Salt & Sanctuary on the go is simply perfect.
Salt & Sanctuary was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Salt & Sanctuary
Perfectly Captures Soulsborne in 2D - 9.3/10
Brutal, Brutal, Brutal - 7/10
Unique and wonderful art style - 8.2/10
Lore to look for - 7.5/10