I recently got the opportunity to test out a new game from developer Solar Snail Games Ltd called 'Smoke and Sacrifice', an open-world, narrative-driven RPG with familiar 'Don't Starve' type survival gameplay. In my opinion, they need to change the title to 'Smoke and Sacrifice Death Simulator' because I spent a fair amount of time dying while I figured things out.
Unlike other survival games of similar style, Smoke and Sacrifice does one thing vastly different: it puts storytelling first. In Smoke and Sacrifice, you take charge of the games protagonist, Sachi, and her quest to find answers after sacrificing her first-born child. See, Sachi lives on a small piece of fertile ground with her village which remains isolated from the icy wasteland that is the rest of the world. The Sun Tree keeps the land as it is (habitable) and, as a result, the villages entire religion revolves around worshiping and sacrificing for the Sun Tree - most specifically firstborn children. Sachi soon finds herself in a world of darkness and smoke and it is at this point that your gameplay begins.
If you're familiar with the mechanics of Don't Starve, or most survival games at that, it won't take you long to feel at home with Smoke and Sacrifice. After talking to a Drear (a smoke-addled group of NPCs that provide helpful clues and recipes) you find yourself immediately in the act of gathering, killing and crafting - all while working against the clock. While in this underground there is a day and night cycle of sorts and if you don't have a lantern made and equipped when the smoke of night rolls in you'll find your life slowly bleed away until you die. One of my first deaths was a result of my lantern breaking and my lack of foresight in creating backups or even having mats to make a backup.
As you progress in the story you'll unlock more recipes that make your time in Smoke and Sacrifice easier but they don't come free. While some NPCs you meet will provide you with free recipes (like boots to traverse the frigid snow wastelands), others require you to help them out with various tasks. There are also recipes written on sign-posts (of sorts) that require you to make a special potion to reveal them. There have been one or two times where I found new recipe posts but lacked the mats to see what secrets they held.
Smoke and Sacrifice makes no effort to hold your hand when it comes to the story. I quickly found myself out of my depth as I blindly followed from NPC to NPC. I had to backtrack, kill, gather and explore more to be ready for the next steps. The difficulty in this is compounded by a lack of on-screen arrows to your next objective and I found myself frequently opening the map to see where, and how close, I was to my objective. But to me, this is part of the charm that Smoke and Sacrifice has to offer. It takes me back to my childhood when video games were actually hard and it is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Visually, Smoke and Sacrifice is a feast for your eyes. I love the artwork and general aesthetic that Solar Snail Games brought to the table. It's dark, gritty, polished and smooth and sets the tone that you're in a world that isn't to be trifled with. It shows, to me, that a tremendous amount of care was poured into the game by developers that want to tell an artistic, interactive tale and not just smash and grab some cash. It's one of the better games I've ever played using Unity as the underlying game engine.
All said and done, I think Smoke and Sacrifice is a game that's worth your time and money. It provides enough challenge to feel accomplished when you finally break through a part you were stuck on - without feeling beat down and frustrated. Gathering materials and crafting can feel a bit grindy, for me personally, but that's a general complaint I have with any survival game that I play. And to be fair, it's never been enough to stop me from pouring hours of my life into survival games. If you're a fan of Don't Starve, dark storytelling, beautiful animations, or all three, then Smoke and Sacrifice deserves a place in your steam library.
- Beautiful Graphics
- Superb Storytelling
- Solid Game Mechanics
- May be too hard for some
- Can feel a little grindy at times