Have you ever really sat down and thought about why you play video games? Is it the challenge? The teamwork? Maybe you just need something to kill free time, or it could be a love for the intangible rewards that are offered thanks to the incorporation of the varied trophy systems. For me it’s an escape from the day to day grind; a chance to live another life for a short period of time and complete actions that I wouldn’t be able to do in our current society – like kill everything the game throws at me. While there are plenty of games that could scratch this particular itch, the incorporation of straight-up murder is more of a side quest than a requirement, and this is where Sea Salt steps in – not only encouraging outright homicide on an epic scale, but requiring it.
This is an RTS dungeon crawler hybrid of sorts, in which you play as Dagon, the dark lord of fishes from the Lovecraftian lore. The narrative kicks off to a quick start once Dagon’s followers decline his request to kill themselves, so he takes manners into his own hands – sending off his minions to kill his congregation for their disobedience. It’s a straight forward plot that plays it safe but manages to stick pretty closely to the Cthulhu mythos.
After the short cut scene sets up the narrative, you’ll select the only available class that is offered at the start and jump right into the game world. Taking on the sneaky disguise of a purplish cloud, you’re set free in a Victorian-era village to commit genocide… except clouds are typically not that deadly. This is where the RTS mechanics step in, allowing you to summon various forms of creatures and monstrous entities to do your bidding, essentially requiring you to hover the cloud over wherever you want the summoned forces to attack. This would be an easy experience if it wasn’t for the fact that the townsfolk put up more of a fight against a god than you’d expect, with their numbers and defensive options evolving at a much quicker pace than your own, resulting in ridiculous difficulty spikes seemingly out of nowhere.
The RTS elements are extremely basic and a great stepping stone into the genre if you’re like me and hate the idea of resource management and having to direct different forces to different locations. It’s an accessible experience that relies more on experimenting with the right combination of assets at the right time, biding your time to pick off the enemies when they are separated from the group. The rest of the game is fairly simple, moving room to room and clearing the townsfolk, only stopping to pick up gold that can be used to unlock additional classes.
Each of the game’s levels are broken down into rooms, akin to those found in the procedurally generated games cut from the same cloth that incorporate alternate paths. While this would normally encourage replayability, most of the paths seem to lead you to the same destination. The same can be said for the additional classes that take entirely too long to unlock, requiring staggering amounts of gold that is only earned a few coins at a time. If you take into account most of the areas look almost identical to the ones before or after it, tedium sets in early and becomes even more frustrating once a lingering bug rears its ugly head.
While I loved the pixel art aesthetics and throwback animations, I experienced a nagging issue that seriously marred the gameplay and pushed me to the brink of insanity. When I initially booted the game, I was prompted to confirm what Xbox profile I was playing under. Fine, I get it, they need to know who to send the achievement points to and make sure I paid or was provided the game… that is until I was prompted on the second level and each one that followed. Now, I know this sounds like I am making a big issue out of nothing, but on more than one occasion I pressed the wrong button at the wrong time and the system thought as I was selecting another profile or wanted to sign out. You’d think this would only be a minor inconvenience, but then you are on the main menu and see that your entire game’s progress is now null and void, requiring you to start entirely from scratch. By the third time this happened I was cursing every deity that you could name, Lovecraftian or otherwise.
Despite the repeated issue with the never-ending requests to confirm my Xbox profile, Sea Salt is an enjoyable murder sim packaged in a cutesy Lovecraftian package. It throws a decent challenge at you without requiring you to micromanage the typical RTS tropes in favor of a more streamlined approach to the genre that is well worth its meager price point.
7 out of 10
- Accessible RTS Gameplay
- Mass Murder is Encouraged
- Faithful Adaptation of Lovecraftian Lore
- Adorable Pixel Art Style
- Lacks Replay Value Due to Static Level Design
- Some Random Difficulty Spikes
- An Xbox Live Profile Issue
Sea Salt was developed and published by Y/CJ/Y Games. It is available on PC and X1. The game was provided to us for review on X1. If you’d like to see more of Sea Salt, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.