Salt and Sanctuary is a bit of a misnomer. I certainly experienced a lot of salt, but no sanctuary. Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D homage to Dark Souls. When most people say X game is the Dark Souls of blank, they just mean a game is somewhat difficult and may have hacking and slashing. However, Salt and Sanctuary was very clearly inspired by the series, from its aesthetics, to its narrative style, to its combat.
There are some key differences beyond the dimensional one. In Salt and Sanctuary, there are some interesting movement abilities that are unlocked in order to progress, though these seem to be relegated to navigation puzzles, rather than boss battles. The attack combo system has more verticality to it, and has both launchers and air combos. The biggest difference, though, is in difficulty. Salt is a very challenging game, with a reliance on reflexes, patience, and memorization of attack patterns, but while Souls ramps its difficulty and themes its areas, so that an annoying mechanic is only present for short time, Salt is punishingly difficult from the start, and relies too heavily on enemies attacking you from range. Very brief invulnerability while dodging, quickly depleting stamina, frustrating stagger combos from enemies, and sparse checkpoints make the game feel frustrating and unfair in a way that is beyond the player’s control. I want to love the game, and I think it executes many of its ideas fantastically, but it’s hard to maintain the feeling that I’m having fun while playing it.
Unfortunately, its accessibility options do nothing to decrease its difficulty. The hearing accessibility is passable, but the mobility and visual aspects are both inaccessible, though this is somewhat by design.
This game is a nightmare for mobility accessibility. While in combat, I found myself needing to use three shoulder buttons, three face buttons, the d-pad and the left thumbstick all with careful timing, as I needed to block, attack, dodge, and switch and use items as needed. These buttons cannot be rebound within the game (players will have to make use of the built-in PS4 accessibility options for button remapping), and the game difficulty cannot be lowered. The only forgiving aspect of the controls is the blocking, which automatically changes directions if the attack is coming from a direction other than the one you’re facing.
The only difficulty level available is very hard, and there is no option to remap the buttons or adjust the joystick sensitivity. The only good things about the mobility accessibility are what that the game omits, which are quick time events and the need to control a camera.
The hearing accessibility is fairly basic, though its lack of ambient noise is more damaging than it is in other games. All dialogue has subtitles that identify the speaker, and the audio cues have accompanying visual cues, but often the audio will cue the player in to events before they can be seen. If a trap is triggered or an arrow is fired from off-screen, the audio provides an important second or two lead time that the player can use to block or dodge. The game can certainly be completed without sound, but it may be even more frustrating than it already is.
Salt and Sanctuary is a very gloomy game. A gray filter overlays all of the outdoor areas, and all of the caves and castles are full of shadows. Enemies, when they’re not purposefully camouflages, tend to blend in with the background regardless. Traps are almost impossible to spot, even when you know where they are, and if you try and use a torch to help increase visibility, your offhand slot is taken up, so you cannot use shields or two-handed weapons. As a consolation, dropped items, do shine brightly, as do enemies that have stolen your xp after you’ve died.
The subtitles are letterboxed and easy to read, but the menus can be a bit less friendly. You can alter the size of the HUD, which is nice, but some of the menus, particularly the skill grid, can be difficult to navigate and read. Some of the stats and armor gains/losses are colored red/green, but it is clear what interactions will occur, and there are no colorblind clashes during gameplay, as the game contains no color.
* A fantastic homage to Dark Souls with its own unique additions
* A lot of content that encourages exploration
* Excellent enemy designs, particularly the bosses
* The high difficulty often feels artificially inflated due to unfair mechanics
* Level designs have an overreliance on small platforms and ranged attackers
* Exceptionally poor mobility and visual accessibility