I’m sure we all like to indulge in dark fantasies sometimes. Some people play Grand Theft Auto to get their kicks, others play as a sergeant to the dark and old Gods for their happy fun times. If you ever thought it would be amazing to control a horde of nightmare abominations, then Sea Salt will quench that thirst faster than drowning a man lost in the ocean.
Sea Salt could be classified as a reverse horror game, in that you are a monster controlling a horde of smaller monsters to wreak havoc on humankind. It’s fun, challenging and, unfortunately and fortunately at times, downright annoying. But if you stick with it long enough, you'll be sucked into a pixelated dark world where the thing that goes bump in the night is you -- and you brought friends. Lots of friends.
The game starts in a cathedral of Dagon. The leader of the religious faction of the land is communicating with his Lord. As expected, the dark God of the Deep requires blood sacrifice, and what the cardinal did not expect was himself being on Dagon's list. After refusing to sacrifice himself in faith, he orders his men to build up defenses. Little do they know that not only are they protecting him, but if he were to be killed, hundreds of lives would be saved. So come for him you do, commanding a large hoard of fiends. You'll kill every human in your path while hunting down everyone on Dagon's hit list.
You start off the game by selecting an acolyte of Dagon. These are represented as Tarot cards. The point of the cards is to basically fit the game to your play style. Do you want a huge horde of every type of horror, or are you a specialist? Perhaps you only want to do a ghost run, or perhaps you want to command a swarm of insects. It gives you a little room to replay, seeing as each acolyte offers a nice twist.
Controlling your swarm of minions is rather easy. In fact, in small numbers, they are rather responsive to our commands. However, once you get to a certain size, it's like they lose all cognitive abilities and are harder to steer in the pixelated world. An unruly mob, you could say. The horde could have been a bit more responsive in greater numbers, and I don't know why their AI has to tank, but it's not too bad and we could just cook it up to them getting too comfortable.
Each creature type has a list of stats, from attack to even how much "horror" they inflict on humans. Fear is actually a very powerful tool in your arsenal. The more scared the humans are, the less organized they become. Running around in a panic makes them easier to pick off. Some monsters can even multiply once a human has been slain, bloating your numbers further. Overall, it’s a rather straight-forward system and most of the challenge comes from having to deal with the multiple enemy types and their placement on the game map, funneling you or your enemies to their deaths.
This is pixelated horror at its finest. It would fit in nicely with some of the SNES classics, at least as far as the graphics go. It is absolutely beautiful to look at and explore. However the monsters and humans sometimes don't really pop out of the screen at you. There were numerous times I lost sight of where the horde was and my monsters would split apart. This weakened my forces and I would die a lot because of this (playing on hard mode didn't help this). This game takes place entirely at night, so the characters being brighter would have helped to differentiate. However, it in no way detracts from the overall experience.
The audio is crisp, clear, and wonderful on the ears. I'm happy to say that the game did not try to emulate the sounds of old. Every musical track is played in it full 32-bit glory -- or at least they sound like 32-bit WAV files. They could be 16-bit MP3s for all I know. What I do know is every time I beat a boss and the tendrils would rise up and rip my enemy apart, the bones snapping and flesh tearing is as good as it has ever sounded. Also there was a lack of voice acting, which is fine. Not every game needs that.
Overall this game has some hang-ups, but overall it was an amazing experience. It's one of those games where you may not spend as many hours in it as you would in Morrowind or Skyrim, but it's a title you will ALWAYS come back to whenever you're feeling just a little too monstrous.