Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Game Diary - Salt in the wounds.

I actually played Salt and Sanctuary on a weekday, tonight.  Felt weird.

But let's put some tunes on first...

I hadn't touched it last weekend - a first, since its release, and had totally forgotten where I was.  I teleported to what seemed to be the least-familiar sanctuary on my Guide's list - Siam Lake - and turned east.

I had obviously come this way, to find the sanctuary in the first place.  Switch-driven doors had been opened and here was a pit I remember leaping across.  ...I wondered if jumping down meant a lethal drop?  It usually does, in Salt, but I had shut down the game last time after having died to... something... I wonder what?  Either way, I had no salt on me, and there was nothing to lose from giving it a shot.

I dropped, and landed on a platform just far enough down to knock a bit of my health off.  A trickle of water fell from above, and flowed off an edge.  I walked to the water, and dropped again.

Down and down and down I went, following the flow of the water.  The last drop landed me on some rickety platforms and - given that it takes your hero a half-moment to collect themselves after landing from such a great height, there was nothing to do but fall with the platform, to my death.

Naturally, I went back for seconds.  Halfway into the final drop, I air-dashed to land a bit more safely on the still-rickety spot, with enough time to leap to solid ground before it collapsed.  There, a hooded man asked if I had a certain mark... which I lacked  There was nothing ahead but a locked door, and nothing behind but oblivion.

I reached into my inventory, pulled out a magical horn and gave it a blow, reappearing in the Siam Lake sanctuary.

Siam Lake.  Reminds one of Ash Lake from Dark Souls, no?

One of the most valuable things a game can give us, I feel, is that sense of exploration and discovery and meaningful adventure.  I love the way Salt handles and provides that.  It's delicious in the way the best Metroidvanias are.  Is it "Igavania", now?  Is that the new thing?  I'm stickin' with Metroidvania.
It's wonderful, is my point.

I went west, climbed the ladder outside the sanctuary and chatted with a local.  Then I descended and walked down to the water.

This too, felt a bit familiar.  Some bottles had been left by other adventurers on the docks, and I cracked one open.  "I love this woman!" it said.

What woman?

I stepped forward.

Ah.  Yes.  That's who killed me.

The Witch of the Lake.

For... a half-hour, I'd say, we fought.  The Witch can one-shot you, it should be noted.  She unleashes barrages of magic, and if you catch the full brunt of those glittering projectiles, you're done.  She launches a pulsing orb that slowly crosses the screen, then erupts with a dozen little black shots that beeline for you.  If one hits you, you're stunned for a moment, and unable to evade the rest.  And then you're done.

She summons little bat things in a circle around her, and they arc back towards you.  If one or two hit you, you're okay, but if most of them swoop into your tender human frame?  Done.

And we fought, on and on into the night.  It took me until about halfway through our time together to remember about of the air-dash that made my sojourn into the depths, earlier, possible - and it's what made her possible, too.

With enough distance, the homing shots from the orb can be jumped over, air-dashed past and evaded.  With proper timing, I can leap up and air-dash past the little bat-things as they swoop beneath me, shearing through the spot where I stood a moment before.

She wasn't the hardest fight I've had in Salt so far, but she was pretty damned close.  Or maybe she's tied for first place with The Third Lamb.

The Third Lamb was a bastard!!!

But those are also among Salt's greatest accomplishments.  Successfully producing the teeth-gritting resolve and cruel anger of Souls proper.  The knowledge that this seemingly-impossible thing can be taken down, with the tools at my disposal, if I can only figure out how.  If I can only match her dance, step for step, shearing off her health as we sway back and forth together.

It's also to Salt's credit that the sanctuaries (or their lesser cousins, the candle rooms) are almost always situated so comfortably close to a boss's room.  The Witch of the Lake is probably a hundred yards from the Siam Lake sanctuary, with not a single enemy between them to bother with.  It's just respawn, walk left, get killed, repeat.

This is as hard as Salt gets - or has ever gotten, in my experience.  But that's kind of the point.  If the Witch went down on my first encounter, I wouldn't remember her.  She would have been meaningless.  As meaningless as the combat in that horrendous Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo.

I've killed two or three or four of Salt's bosses on my first encounter, and I couldn't tell you their names - but after fighting The Third Lamb for the better part of an hour, you can bet I'll never forget that moniker.  After going toe-to-toe with the Witch that launched a thousand "help me!" threads on message boards, you can bet I won't forget her either - or the way it felt when, at the last moment, I threw caution to the wind and leapt up into the path of a salvo of projectiles that I really should have evaded, swung my sword through her dangling insect-claws, and ended her a half-second before she would have ended me.

And you can bet I hit the Share button on my PS4 after I did.   Please, feel free to bear witness to failure after failure after failure.  But of course, the failure's not the point.

The point starts at twelve minutes and twenty-two seconds.

And I only used three health pots!

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