Title: Smoke and Sacrifice
Developer: Solar Sail Games Ltd
Publisher: Curve Digital
Genre: Open-world RPG
Audience: Gamers aged 12 and up
Release Date: 15/01/2019
Price: £15.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
As she explores a shadowy realm in search of her kin, Sachi will encounter other wayward souls, each with their own story to tell. Taking cues from modern survival classics, Smoke and Sacrifice evolves the genre with its deeply personal story and a fully functional ecosystem. Creatures will forage, breed and prey on one another in the game’s living, breathing world. Players must trap creatures, bait beasts, train animal companions, and disguise themselves in order to survive. It’s only by fighting, crafting, exploring, and outwitting this harsh wilderness that you’ll uncover the fate of your child and the mystery behind your village’s sacrifices.
An open-world, independent, narrative-driven, Souls-like RPG? Surely not. Alas, all of these words find themselves fittingly associated with Solar Sail Games’ Smoke and Sacrifice. Indeed, when one first sets their gaze upon the sprawling world of wonder and mystery that Smoke and Sacrifice offers, you cannot deny its impressive scale. However, when one examines the world more closely and discovers heart-wrenching repetition, the novelty soon wears off.
This tremendous Indie effort will hook players in with its refreshing take on Metroidvania design, unique visual style and dream-like, ambient score. Conversely, its excruciatingly high demand for meticulous planning and a dire lack of variety runs the risk of dragging players right out of the experience. Therefore, is it worth paying the £15.99 for this title? Read on to find out.
Looks and Sounds
In prime position for discussion are the visuals, and to brand them a disappointment would be pure heresy. While the pixelated charm of many an Indie title will never fail to burn a giddy smile on my face, one cannot deny that this provides a worrying deficiency in visual variety.
Enter Smoke and Sacrifice. The art style so masterfully implemented into this game is unlike any other that I’ve seen in the Indie market. Rather than aspiring for retro graphics, Smoke and Sacrifice takes on the appearance of a digital paper puppet performance. This experience was so fresh to my eyes that I was placed under visual arrest. Coupled with the vibrant blues, whites, greens and reds of each of the game’s environments, Smoke and Sacrifice conducts an argument for video games as art that has no rival.
To my supreme joy, I soon discovered that it was not solely my eyes that were in for a treat. The calm, soothing and ambient music that graces the ears serve two equally important purposes: the first being that it fully immerses you in the game’s world. The whimsical wonder of the music, along with its sinister undertones, represent the beauty and terrifying hostility of the world of Smoke and Sacrifice respectively.
The second purpose is to place the player at ease. After barely emerging from an arduous clash as the victor, the relaxing tones which follow offer glorious respite. This is an experience only video games can provide.
Of course, some negatives must inevitably follow this praise. While I previously praised this game for setting itself apart from its Indie brethren, it seems that it too has fallen victim to disappointing repetition. The majority of the game’s environments look the same to the point where I was unable to identify one location from another without relying on the map.
Furthermore, I have only been able to take away one musical offering from the entirety of my 12-hour playthrough. While it initially served its purpose well, it soon became nothing more than simple background noise. I am not angry; I am just disappointed.
Gameplay and Replayability
Metroidvania. While this term applies to Smoke and Sacrifice, this title does not use Metroidvania design as one may think. While access to certain areas and gear can only be accessed with the correct items, Smoke and Sacrifice puts a spin on this.
Rather than simply acquiring the items, the player must craft them instead. This requires a lot more thought and encourages exploration as the majority of the ingredients needed for crafting require thorough searching and careful observation to discover.
If you expect all, or at least the vast majority, of these ingredients to be relatively hidden in the environment, a rude awakening shall soon find you. Quite a few of these ingredients must be retrieved from enemies felled by your blade.
These enemies range from the small Polyps and Hoglings to the rather large Porcupines and Pangocorns. No matter the size, every battle must be carefully considered, thoroughly evaluated and expertly carried out to avoid being swiftly sent back the nearest (or not so nearest) save location.
For those who revel in a more challenging experience, this quantity of methodical planning will be a dream come true. However, when this design philosophy mixes with the unholy swarm of enemies in the game, it can become immensely exhausting for those seeking a stress-free experience. I spent the majority of my playthrough avoiding any enemy I encountered which, in turn, meant that I soon found myself getting stuck as I was failing to obtain items necessary for progression.
Even ‘save’ locations in this title fail to become ‘safe’ locations as I died on occasion greater than the number one at a save point, deeming myself invincible. Enemy avoidance should come about due to strategical decision-making as opposed to a general annoyance.
Overall, Smoke and Sacrifice has me utterly perplexed, bemused and bewildered. On the one hand, if you have plenty of time on your hands and wish to dive into a deep experience that you can quickly lose yourself in then this title is an absolute must. On the other hand, if you want to relax after a hard day’s work, then, unfortunately, I cannot recommend Smoke and Sacrifice.
Regardless of which category you fall into – I dabble in a bit of both – Smoke and Sacrifice includes a sufficient number of objective positives that ever so slightly outweigh the negatives. Therefore, this game demands to be experienced first-hand. I may not be jumping back into the game’s world in the near future, but I was happy enough to sacrifice 12 hours of my time to experience what it had to offer.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Smoke and Sacrifice on the PlayStation Store on the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP4395-CUSA09925_00-SMOKESACRIFICEEU