Spooktober and Lovecraft? Sounds alright to me. Today we’re taking a look at Sea Salt, a dark reverse-horror action-strategy-game by YCJY Games who I’ve interviewed at this year’s Games Com in Cologne!
Developer: YCJY Games
Publisher: YCJY Games
Genres: Strategy, Lovecraftian, Reverse-Horror, Action, Indie
Release Date: October 17, 2019
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy received from the Devs
After getting denied what they owed you, you’re desiring for revenge which is why you, the Old God Dagon, send out your Apostles. Those Apostles will summon unfathomable horrors to blight the human lands and make them pay for their greed and treason!
For everyone who doesn’t know all that much or maybe even nothing about Lovecraftian Horror, it’s basically a sub-genre of horror that emphasizes on the so-called “cosmic horror” and the unknowable or unknown rather than gore, splatter or the like. It’s named after H.P. Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) who has created tons of weird and terrifying horror stories, all bundled up in the “Necronomicon”. I really recommend reading some of his stories! My favourite is The Colour Out of Space, a short story about a meteorite that crashed into the “blasted heath”. That meteorite has a strange colour that begins to change the lands and people in those parts of towns! A lot of Lovecraft’s stories feature “The Old Gods”, like C’thulhu or Dagon.
Anyways, this post isn’t about Lovecraft himself or any of his stories but rather about Sea Salt.
Sea Salt plays similarly to “Rightclick to Necromance”, as you control your “minions” or “summonings” with one stick (or the mouse in Rc2N’s case) and attack with another button! Controls are very intuitive, which is something the devs really cared about, as they mentioned in an interview I did with them. You basically try to surround your enemies and innocent citizens, attacking them from all sides, while avoiding enemy-attacks and fire.
It’s an action strategy hybrid where you summon an army from the seas to punish those that defied you. The most important thing is that this game distinguishes itself from games like Overlord by not making you a hero utilizing your minions to wreak havoc – instead you’re actually controlling your swarmers, crabs, worms and other minions yourself, utilizing their strengths to the fullest while trying to make up for their own flaws.
Every minion feels differently! Every minion has strengths and flaws!
By seeking altars or collecting enough Gold, you’re eligible to summon more minions. In the beginning, you start with The Swarm. These minions are fast but lack health. They come in packs of 10, making it rather easy to surround enemies and increase your horde’s size by a great amount! Later you unlock The Worm, The Crab, The Cultist, The Fishman and other units as the game goes on and as you complete more of the story. While The Cultist has high range and damage, they are slow and don’t pack a punch! The Crab is rather tanky and also resistant to fire but doesn’t deal as much as damage as The Worm for instance.
The Apostles you select at the beginning of the runs, also have different starting units and different abilities like Aghra De Pesca, the Apostle you start with, who has stronger Swarm-minions, starts with 25 Swarmers and can let his Worms explode. I found this one rather enjoyable as he makes The Swarm stronger and as I like the whole idea of one Swarm growing and spreading horror among the lands, just like in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm but in a pixel-style with more gore and more Lovecraft in it! I also enjoyed just taking crabs upon crabs.
The bosses are quite fun to play against!
At the end of each area, you’ve got to face off against a boss of sorts making use of new mechanics you learned earlier. At first, you’re fighting against the captain of a ship you’ve boarded, surrounding him with your swarmers while dodging his bullets. Some of the bosses and minibosses are rather easy to fight against, depending on your units, as one of the Flamethrower-guys who had to face off against my crab army (I could add Noisestorm’s “Crab Rave” here but do I want to?).
Minibosses appear as normal enemies later on, too, creating a higher difficulty the further you proceed. While the whole idea of controlling a swarm of minions and killing innocent humans can seem rather easy, you actually die quite often if you don’t watch out. You don’t want to know how many times I died against Wharfmaster Glenn!
There’s a total of 16 different units to unlock, a bunch of different Apostles with unique abilities and quite a lot of story to uncover as you spread horror among the lands! Also, you can try to aim for those 19 Achievements or even bigger rewards in the game’s Arena, for all those completionists among you.
The game really shines when it comes to the presentation!
The game uses a dark colour palette with a lot of dark-blue-ish and green-ish colours that really capture that feeling that I got from other games like Call of C’thulhu: Darkest Corners of Earth. When I think of Lovecraft, I kind of think of those kinds of colours. The dark seaside with its grey to green colours in the sea, the dirty wood among the houses and the fog and shadows that are crawling over the lands. The game is very detailed and stylized, offering a lot to see in between human-slaying! Once you finish an area off you may explore and find small animations that you won’t notice if you wouldn’t look.
The animations are fluid, the special effects like blood and fire look nice while adding some sort of contrast to the dreary environment, and overall I really liked the whole presentation art-wise.
The music fits quite well and offers a lot when it comes to variety! The sound-design also fits quite well with all the sound effects coming off your crabs, worms and swarmers.
But let’s get to some flaws.
Overall there aren’t many flaws apart from some tweaking that the game still needs when it comes to the A.I. Sometimes your minions decide to take quite a long way to get to the same point as your other minions, which is rather annoying as they don’t avoid fire anymore when you press the attack button and may end up getting a few of your creatures killed by accident.
A different issue I had was the fact that there are no save files. You start a run with one Apostle and continue playing that specific run until you end up quitting. When you want to play more, you either click on Continue or New Game. If I wanted to play this specific Apostle later but wanted to try out a different Apostle I’d have to start a new game, losing all of my progress in my previous campaign, which I find rather annoying. I mean, the missions aren’t that long anyway, but you still need to skip all the dialogue and go through the tutorial and play the earlier and easier levels again from the getgo, which feels rather tedious to me.
I wanted to test out the Arena mode just a few minutes ago and ended up playing until Wave 15 where I ultimately died. Then I thought I’d try to play more of the Campaign before finishing up the review, as I really enjoyed playing Ivan Dorovich XIII just now and wanted to test out how many crabs are too many crabs. So, I hit Continue again and… I’m back at Wave 15 of the Arena mode. Really annoying! A quick little update or hotfix probably will result in this issue getting fixed and save files of sorts getting added to the game. If not, that’s a bummer but it doesn’t bother me personally too much.
Last but not least, the Conclusion.
Overall I’d say that Sea Salt is a highly enjoyable and quite challenging game that lets you be the bad guy once again – which I really like about games – while working with Lovecraftian themes and Eldtrich horrors to create the perfect game for in between during Spooktober.
I hope you enjoyed this review! Feel free to leave feedback or comment on your favourite Lovecraft story. :)