We love supporting indie titles here at Darkworld Gaming so were pleased to be offered the opportunity to play Smoke and Sacrifice on PS4 upon its release on Xbox One and PS4 on 15th January. Smoke and Sacrifice was previously released on PC and the Nintendo Switch but is now available to players across all platforms who can dive in a get lost in this hand-drawn narrative driven RPG.
At the beginning of the game, you are immediately plunged into the story. You play as Sachi, a woman in the village who has to sacrifice her first born child to the Sun Tree as is tradition in this community. After the Sun Tree suffers a malfunction of sorts, the village falls into disarray and the Elders are nowhere to be found. As Sachi attempts to find them, she is transported to a fantastical world fulls of grotesque creatures, plants and a dangerous Smoke. As Sachi finds clues that her son, who was sacrificed all those years earlier, may still be alive she embarks on a dangerous adventure to seek him out.
The first thing that you’ll notice is the beautiful artwork and animation. The game is brought to us by Solar Sail Games which is comprised of Tancred Dyke-Wells and Neil Millstone who are industry veterans who have gone back to their roots to create this intimate story for players to explore. The art style accentuates the grotesque, creepy yet organic world below the surface with a mix of nature and mechanical steampunk-esque settings that Sachi explores as she fights and survives this dark, yet stunning world. As Sachi traverses different landscapes in this world, you move through frozen wastes, swamps and even industrial scenes, each with a unique and interesting look and feel which fit well together. The main visual point that sticks out however is the Smoke which covers these landscapes with a think black smog which can only be combated by torches that Sachi must craft using the resources Sachi has access to. This smog will try and snuff out the light but adds an effective constant enemy both visually and narratively.
Moving onto the gameplay mechanics, this is a game about survival which involves crafting, exploration, fighting and collecting resources. The game offers opportunities to learn new ‘recipes’ for crafting along the way so it’s good to keep a look out for these recipe stones on your journey. Crafting is clear and in some ways simple, it’s just a case of picking items up as you go along and taking a moment to check your recipes to make sure you have everything you need. Once you’ve accumulated the number of items required, at the simple press of a button you have what you need. Due to the Smoke, you will need to ensure you have a healthy supply of torches to drive off the darkness but it’s also worth crafting some food to increase your health if you take a few hits. There are a number of creatures and enemies that you will encounter throughout the game and crafting weapons which you can upgrade and repair will be integral to survival. As is common with many RPGs, managing your inventory will become important later so I found myself crafting what I needed and holding onto a few items for repair which I foraged and scavenged for whatever I could find to help Sachi survive this world. For some, the need for crafting may become daunting after a while and somewhat repetitive, but it is at least very simple so you can just crack on with it.
Once you have your items, you’ll need to use them! The navigation of your inventory is also clear and easy find your way around. You can swap items such as your weapons or net for example at the touch of a button so if you’re catching something and another creature catches you off-guard, you can switch quickly and start battering the hell out of it. Your map is available by pressing the down arrow on the D-pad for quick reference of your location although you will ‘discover’ the map as you go which is nice as encourages exploration however I did find myself getting confused and lost at times when trying to figure out where I should go next. I persevered and enjoyed wandering, fighting creatures bug and small, finding new locations, finding loots and discovering the secrets of this world which were not originally meant for Sachi who was considered a feeble human before she made her way down here. I liked the mechanic of having to visit terminals to save progress. There are a couple dotted around most areas so you have opportunities to stop by and save where you are but I would recommend getting your bearings on where they are on the map so you can make a mad dash there if needed. One thing to keep a look out for is the watch in the top right corner as this will tell you when the Smoke will be on its way so a wary eye should be kept on it throughout the game.
The only part of the game that didn’t thrill me was the combat system which felt clunky at times as you try and hit things hoping to kill it before it kills you. I found my weapons didn’t last long or weren’t particularly good at doing the job at times, in fact one of my clubs broke and I had to try and punch a much larger creature than I to death… needless to say, Sachi didn’t win that fight so I was glad to have saved a few minutes before that encounter. I would say the scenery, the art, the somewhat sad but also hopefully storyline are enough to make the slog of combat bearable.
Overall Smoke and Sacrifice is an enjoyable RPG which is a delight to look at and relatively easy to play. The story focuses on motherhood and the love Sachi has for her child which a really interesting direction for a game of this type to go but it does work and makes you want to finish the game, which you should. If you can handle the combat and the crafting requirement, you will find an enjoyable game in Smoke and Sacrifice across the platforms.