Salt and Sanctuary first look: When Dark Souls meets Castlevania

James Silva returns with his most ambitious project to date.


James Silva has done quite a bit under his own publishing label Ska Studios, alongside Michelle Juett Silva. Over the past few years, they've given us two over-the-top side-scrolling hack-and-slashers with The Dishwasher and Vampire Smile; they've redefined beat-em-ups with the absurdly entertaining Charlie Murder; and they gave us one of the best indie games around with the aptly named I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1, complete with the greatest theme song ever. Now…Ska Studios is headed to PS4?

It seems like an unlikely move for them, as they originally established as a premiere Xbox 360 developer, but it's time for something new, and we're definitely getting it with Salt and Sanctuary, its deepest and most intricate game to date.

The best way to describe Salt and Sanctuary is if Dark Souls had a kid with Castlevania. Its side-scrolling roots are very similar to the Dishwasher games, where you'll explore new areas and deal with enemies large and small. However, its combat system couldn't be any more different, as you'll work your fight your way through enemies using whatever weapons you can get your hands on.

Salt and Sanctuary is built like a role-playing game, but with all the best kinds of action elements. As you progress, you'll be able to pick up more goods for your character. Weapons range from one-handed to two-handed, including crossbows (perfect for long-range shots), axes, and throwing daggers. However, you shouldn't automatically go for the heaviest gear possible, as there's balance to consider.

With this game, your character actually needs to have a good balance of defensive ability and overall strength in order to survive. Carry too many weapons and you may go too slow, letting enemies get the jump on you. Go too light, however, and some fights could easily take longer than others, depending on whom you're going up against. And based on the creatures we saw in the demo, they can differ quite a bit.

Thankfully, with the different combinations of weapons available, as well as the ways you can level up your character in terms of speed and strength, Salt and Sanctuary has quite a bit to offer, and you can perfect yourself for later battles that lie ahead. That's one of the game's key strengths, allowing you to diversify and, eventually, become the ultimate bad-ass.

Ska Studios has adapted the art style to the PlayStation 4, and it shows considerably well. The animations will no doubt be familiar to fans of his work, and the detail that goes into the background settings is ridiculously good, from the foggy outdoor terrain to the deep, fire-lit tunnels you'll venture through. The contrast between the two is quite shocking, but it all fits into the motif that we've come to expect from Silva.

The trailer below will give you a better idea as to what to expect from the game, but it easily looks like Silva's best work to date. We'll see how it fares when it comes to PlayStation 4 and PS Vita in 2015.

Robert Workman was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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