Once again here we are, faced with another crafting and survival title in a genre that’s quite packed at the moment. Does Smoke and Sacrifice do anything different? Will it stand out in the overcrowded gamespace it currently sits in? Well, this title is a bit different from other games of its type as Its narrative driven with a nice story, questlines and no permadeath or rogue-like elements making it feel and play quite different from games of the same ilk.
Early on in the story, you have to sacrifice your first born child to the Sun Tree which is both quite harrowing and has quite an emotional hit. The people you live with in your village believe that the Sun Tree only protects them due to these sacrifices taking place, after a quick zap and your child disappearing you are left empty and wondering why this is allowed to continue. The story unfolds quite quickly after that as you end up following your child, trying to save him and uncovering all the scheming and conniving that’s been going on in the background. You’re then thrust into a massive quest of discovery, growth and intrigue.
The game reminds me a bit of Don’t Starve, it has a beautiful 2D view and involves a lot of collecting resources and crafting. That is where the similarities end though because if you die in Smoke and Sacrifice you are just returned to your last save which is very different for a game of this type but a welcomed change. It encourages experimentation, exploration and removes the fear and repetition of those first few hours of normal survival games being played over and over as you find your feet. It has a nice story with NPC’s and quests which is also a break from the norm with these titles.
The crafting and resource gathering, which let’s face it, is a big part of Smoke and Sacrifice is well implemented and never really becomes a chore. Most things are easy to come by and the crafting recipes are not overly complex, the recipes are found on NPC’s or on various stones and hides throughout the worlds quite large map. You can craft your normal array of goodies, armour, weapons, food and tools some of which can be upgraded or repaired. They need to be repaired due to them degrading but again, this is tastefully done and does not get too taxing and your not require you to constantly repair your gear.
Another thing you will have to battle during your time in this world is the smoke and smog, which will hurt your character on contact. It works on a cycle and half the time you will be fine with no need to worry but the rest of the time, known as smoke time, you will need either a source of light to clear the smog or use your pendant to clear the way. Your pendant runs on a light meter which can be filled in various ways including potions or other light sources. This pendant can also be used as a shield to protect you in battle which we will come onto later.
Combat is very simple but serviceable, you have an attack button, a dodge button and can use your pendant as a shield by pressing circle. It eats up quite a large portion of your light bar though so it’s best saved for when you’re in a pinch or need to flee from battle. The monsters you encounter all have different effects and statuses they can inflict and all need different tools to fight and overcome, they come in varying sizes and quite often made me rethink my tactics and try something new. This is where the lack of permadeath really shines, I could try different things on the enemies without worrying about losing all my progress, if I failed, oh well, I tried something different and eventually prevailed.
Smoke and Sacrifice is beautiful, the smoke effects, the character designs, the world and everything in it is beautifully designed and realized. The light effects from various sources are rendered nicely and give the whole world, especially during smoke time, a fuzzy look which works really well and gives the whole game an eerie look. The light of your lantern as it cuts through the smog is a great effect which constantly makes you feel a bit claustrophobic and trapped, it reflects off surfaces and it’s all rather beautiful yet dank. The various beasties and monsters you encounter are also very well designed and well animated. Sound wise the game is good if not memorable, the various sounds of the world and its music do their job of keeping you grounded in the game and immersed in the gameplay.
Apart from a few small performance hiccups, which were very rare, the game performed very well. It all ran rather smoothly and never crashed once. I had no issues with quests or game breaking bugs, there were just a few times it froze for a microsecond when in a large fight or the smoke effects got too much. As I stated though this was hardly noticeable and did not detract from the great experience I had playing this game.
I loved Smoke and Sacrifice, in an overly populated genre of survival and crafting it builds its own path on a strong narrative and a lack of permadeath which gives you the freedom to experiment and die without losing all of your progress. Its world is well realized, it’s enemies varied and it’s crafting and resource collecting uncomplicatedly enjoyable. It’s beautiful, uncanny, fun and I could not stop playing it. In fact, I am going to keep playing it to see everything it has to offer and finish up all the extra bits I have left in my quest log. Any fans of the genre will be right at home here and maybe even enjoy the small differences the game has to offer. Players put off by the normal permadeath, losing everything and starting from scratch everytime will love the slightly different system in this game. It’s not punishing to die, and while that will put some off, I found it a nice change to this style of game. All the facets of Smoke and Sacrifice work well together, it’s fun to play and is definitely worth your time and money.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*