A failed mission of peace and a shipwrecked sailor. An island, shrouded in fog, conceals the horrors that dwell below. A field of corpses crunch underneath the footsteps of a hulking goliath. Salt and Sanctuary launches today, and what a journey it has been.
Salt and Sanctuary began with a pretty simple idea: how would Dark Souls play if it was reimagined in our 2D hand-drawn action style? It’s not an uncommon idea. In fact, half a dozen other indie studios are working on their own visions for Indie Souls, and they all look fantastic (Shoutout to Eitr, Death’s Gambit, Darkmaus, and Ghost Song!).
There’s just something about Dark Souls that triggers a special nerve in the indie dev brain — the delicious obscurity, the interplay between crunchy stats and unflinchingly precise action.
Coming from a background of 2D combat-heavy platforming, Salt and Sanctuary became an absolute joy to create. It also became an insane challenge. A roughly scrawled world map I made while trapped on a plane became the game’s world layout bible, but every bit of fleshing out required more details, more monsters, more bosses, more traps.
Every weapon moveset ballooned in content: light attacks, heavy attacks, airborne light and heavy attacks, chaining light to heavy to light, chaining attacks to offhand, and doing it all twice for 1- and 2-handed movesets. I had started with swords, tried out bows for ranged attacks, worked in staffs for spellcasting, then started chucking in everything in between: maces, great hammers, scythes, halberds, bardiches, whips, spears, greatswords, flintlocks, and a lot more.
So what began as simple ideas sketched on paper became a massive world with more than 20 unique bosses, 100 enemies, 600 items, and a player model boasting nearly 5000 frames of animation, all meticulously done by hand. Every weapon and piece of armor needed a story. Every new area needed its own denizens, traps, lore, and bosses. And every new boss concept involved at least three main attacks, but those could be chained, variations could be added, chains and variations could be tied to heat up mechanics, and so on. And it was all a blast.
A core design challenge of Salt and Sanctuary was merging build diversity with action-centric gameplay. I’ve been a longtime fan of games that force nimble reaction over button mashing, as anyone who’s played our Dishwasher games can attest (ahem: i-frames). Combining precision combat with incredibly deep character build diversity is an interesting challenge.
I’ve played with tradeoffs of weapon ranges, attack speeds, and movesets in past games, but what about mobility? Pure spellcasting? How viable is a veritable wall of steel compared to a barely-armored, dagger-wielding trickster? Does peppering enemies at range using spells, arrows, and crossbow bolts feel as challenging and rewarding as getting up close with sword and board?
Salt and Sanctuary is a story of your ascension through impossible danger. You embarked from humble beginnings. You might have been a soldier, sailor, or mercenary, or maybe even a cook. Brought on for a mission of diplomacy, you met horrible calamity and were wrecked on an uncharted island. And you will face certain death, but in time, you’ll drop your rusty spatha for a glimmering battleaxe, you’ll doff your salt-crusted mail for an enchanted cuirass, you’ll find powers beyond your understanding — both from the gods above and from the ethereal fabric of Fire and Sky all around. And you’ll parry, dodge, cast, and attack more masterfully than every sad soul that has succumbed to the island before you.
We wanted Salt and Sanctuary to tell your story of rising out of despair to overcome impossible odds. The island is a salt-sodden prison, every dark corner of it crafted to hold as much diabolical danger as we could imagine, but it is a prison that is yours to conquer.
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