I’m not really a man that likes horror games. I scare easily, find gore a bit unpleasant and generally don’t like being terrified. However, Sea Salt is a different type of horror game. It’s a reverse horror game, which sees you play as the minions of an unseen horror invading the world and taking the souls of all that stand in your way.
Death by Eldritch Horror
I really like the idea of Sea Salt. There are a couple of games that have done the whole ‘take control of a mob and do damage’ before, but I quite enjoyed the whole being an agent of pure terror. You control an apostle – who doesn’t have any attacks, but you bring with you minions, and can summon more either at summoning stations or by collecting the gold off fallen enemies. There are a variety of different minions to summon as well, although you won’t have access to many at the start. You’ll gain more minion cards from progressing through the game, killing certain units and also there are a few hidden away. Finding the hidden ones uncovers the excellent level design in the game, because unless you’ve got a keen eye, you’ll definitely be missing a few of them out.
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m not a fan of gore, but pixel gore doesn’t bother me quite as much, which is a good thing, as there is quite a bit in Sea Salt. Especially when you kill a boss, you’ll see Lord Dagon’s tentacles appear, grab their limbs and pull them apart in a spectacular bloody mess. All the levels are really gorgeous to look at with their subdued colour palette, and the card-view of the minions you pick up show exquisite detail of the nasty creature you’re about to unleash on the world. I do think the minions and enemies on the map do tend to look a little boring, but everything else is truly fantastic.
The strategic element in Sea Salt is something to marvel at as well. The level design gives you the ability to choose various paths to swarm humans in, which means you can really pick a perfect moment to sneak up on people and give them no chance of survival. You also have a wide variety of different units to find and play with, giving you even more strategic options. You can choose to have a team of ranged mages that will blow people to kingdom come, or you can swarm them in a zerg-like rush using flimsy but fast and effective creatures that will eat anyone they come up against. You can mix and match as well, and throw in a bunch of support creatures like a team of healers to keep your team healthy and happy, or pop a random madman in who will cause panic and, potentially, lure the enemy in towards you making for an easy kill.
Sadly, Sea Salt does have a fair few failures that can’t really be ignored. The biggest of all is the length of the game. While I definitely appreciate the effort that has gone into Sea Salt, I can’t see why they’re charging so much for what is essentially a three hour experience. In fact, I’d probably say you could get through a single play through in under two hours, and the rest is padded out with getting additional apostles, units or to see other branches that you didn’t traverse. There is also an arena mode, but honestly, you’ll struggle to get more than a few hours out of this game.
What wound me up more about Sea Salt though, was that I couldn’t see a way of restarting a level. Maybe I was blind, but if I was stuck, the only option I had was to keep retrying the room I was in, or instead restart the game from scratch, neither of which was very appealing. There very well could have been a way of restarting the whole level, but damned if I could see it. It got particularly frustrating as, after a particularly poor bit of planning from me, I went into a room with only two healers, no offensive units. There was one summoning portal, and the enemies in it were pretty tough, so even with the best strategy I could muster up, I was still failing hard.
The last thing that I’d say was a disappointment in Sea Salt was the music when you’re actually in the game. In menus it’s pretty decent, there’s some classical style music playing that really fits the mood, and puts you in that Cthulhu frame of mind, but when you’re actually playing the game and running around slaughtering humans? Nada. You’ll hear no music, just the sounds of your creatures roaming, attacking and the cries of the civilians as they flee or die. It’s a bit of a weird design decision, as I would expect something to accompany the killing of dozens of people, rather than the often irritating noise of them screaming.
The Final Word
If there was more to Sea Salt, it’d be a terrific game. Sadly though, if you get it, you’ll have spent £15-17 on three to five hours of gameplay. The lack of ability to restart a level as well really drove me up the wall, and seemed like a massive oversight, but the game is still quite fun. I liked the strategy of picking a perfect demonic team to capture and kill as many people as I could, and the level design is pretty great too.