Game Reviews

Indie Snippet: Grimy, Dark Fantasy RTS-inspired ‘Sea Salt’ Demo Shows Unique Potential

YCJY, the creators behind 2016’s atmospheric, visually striking and challenging undersea “Metroidvania” action adventure romp, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, have unleashed a demo for their new game, Sea Salt: another genre-bending take.

In a tide reversal of roles compared to Aquatic Adventure, this time around the player controls a literal plague of decaying, fetid creatures that emerge from the bottom of the sea to run over, maim and/or devour human townsfolks. The gameplay style is a blend of action with RTS elements.

Just like Aquatic Adventure, the game’s atmosphere is rich and with even a quick glance at the environments and creature design, it all brings forth a flood of charm and a feel of untold history, all with an underlying sense of humor. Lovecraftian horror influences abound, fans of recent games like the more serious Bloodborne and the light-hearted Crawl (with which I find the game shares a major stylistic link) will appreciate this mixture of mood here.

In Sea Salt, the creatures you control, known as “minions”, swarm around in a cloud-like group, and what minions you start with, as well as what specific perks you get when controlling the minions (called “Abilities”), is all determined by the “Apostle” of your choosing. You’re not bound to the minions with which you start, as more minions can be added to your team by reaching and activating checkpoints throughout the area map.

(I’d like to add that the Apostle selection screen is done in the style of the inside of medieval European books, which is something I’ve been wanting a game to do for a while now, and it looks pretty awesome, so thanks guys!).

For now, the demo only includes one Apostle, a Mr. Aghra De Pesca, who starts with the basic locust-like “Swarm” minions, and whose resumé also includes “exploding worms”.

Other minions in the demo include the aforementioned “Worms” that De Pesca has an affinity for exploding, which move about very slowly but seem to do a lot more damage than the Swarm in addition to leaving behind trails of toxic sludge as well as white-robed figures who offer a ranged projectile attack, known as “Cultists”.

The scope of the gameplay in the demo consists of invading two towns, with the first one serving as more of a tutorial stage to get you used to the concepts and controls of the game, which I have to say, much like Aquatic Adventure, are a joy in their simplicity. Playing with a controller, you move your minions on the map by simply moving the left analog stick in the general direction of your destination, and a press of the right trigger serves as a one-in-all attack command.

What’s included in the Sea Salt demo is easy and does not require much strategy, but I can easily see all the elements present in the demo being utilized in a much more puzzle-ish fashion when and if the game is allowed to stretch its legs. As a tutorial, however, the demo serves its purpose and succeeds in enticing my interest, making me want more.

There are, however, a number of flaws in the demo, outside of a need of some basic proof-reading for the game’s written text, that I would hope to see ironed out. For example, and while perhaps this could be considered part of the challenge, it’s sometimes a bit confusing not knowing just how many minions you have in your possession at any given time, due to a lack of any kind of visual tally/counter or health bar. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if members of your team, especially “The Swarm”, didn’t get lost or muddled in the greys and browns of the environments. It’s hard to see your minions when they can blend in so easily with just about everything on screen.

Also, the lack of any kind of “weight” to your group of minions’ movement makes it hard to tell how and where you’re moving them; different minions walk in different speeds and it can be difficult to tell where the “center” of your team’s movement is. A lack of a pointer/crosshair only adds to the confusion, and it becomes a bit difficult to know how you’re precisely controlling the minions.

These are, however, all issues that I can see being fixed down the line, as the game appears to still be very much in an incomplete development phase. What’s is there, though, is beyond a great start and I’m really looking forward to seeing more.

And speaking of seeing more, Sea Salt currently has a campaign for it running on Kickstarter, from where you can download this demo and find out more details. Additionally, you can also find updates on Sea Salt as well as other projects by YCJY on Twitter.

Last year, Goomba Stomp interviewed YCJY regarding Aquatic Adventure and a whole lot more, so make sure to check that out!

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