As much as I’d like to say that engrossing gameplay, intriguing plot, replayability, unique concepting or any other thing might be the best reason to try a game, we all know that’s a lie. The first reason anybody takes interest in a game is the graphics. And the beautiful hand-painted artwork in Smoke and Sacrifice had me interested immediately.
But once the charm of the graphics wears off, a game must have more to offer than pretty visuals. So did Smoke and Sacrifice hold up to scrutiny? Let’s have a look!
I already told you how gorgeous Smoke and Sacrifice is, but allow me to share more about it.
The hand-illustrated world is densely populated with a monsters, NPCs, treasures, loot and crafting items. The backgrounds are all lovely and look good up close at higher resolutions. When textures and huge creatures scale bigger, they are truly impressive as they fill the screen. Even the interface is well-done and lovely.
Smoke and Sacrifice was created to have “a genuinely intimate story in a compelling world.” Developer Solar Sail Games wanted to get back to the roots of the genre and they seem to have done that. The plot opens with a few short cinematics to introduce some characters, introduce the situation and get the protagonist to her destination. The way the story unfolds reminds me of classic 16-bit RPGs like Illusion of Gaia or Secret of Mana.
The plot is pretty interesting. Enough that I don’t really want to spoil it. But you’ll find yourself chasing down characters and crossing vast, unfriendly wildernesses to progress the plot. You’ll meet interesting (and impressively rendered) characters of good and evil. You’ll make friends and get rewards along the way.
There are side quests, too. But unlike too many modern RPGs, you never find yourself overwhelmed with side quests. They are a good way to grind for crafting goods and unlock new recipes, but there are not so many that you’ll get completely sidetracked. I like it that way. More isn’t always better.
Solar Sail has achieved a striking balance between crafting, fighting, and character development. Every enemy I encountered leaves some kind of loot behind, from which the player can craft all manner of food, weapons, armor, bombs, potions, traps and all sorts of random stuff.
While it’s cool that there are so many different options for craftable items, I found a lot of the items to be less than useful. Bombs in particular seemed to be hard to aim, and cumbersome to switch to. You also have daggers, swords, clubs and hammers to use, and most of these are far more effective and immensely satisfying.
This game uses save points, which are a thing I had all but forgotten about. I’m so spoiled by games that save automatically, that I often forgot to check in at a save point. I would make 30 or more minutes of progress, then die. Then yell at the game. So don’t make that mistake. Save whenever you find a save point. Just like the olden days!
There is such a variety of enemies in the varied environments that I never got tired of finding new ones. The pugbears were a personal favorite of mine. And the high-resolution graphics were able to scale to such large sizes that some of the large enemies were really impressive. Their attacks are sometimes easy to time and sometimes random.
Big, tough enemies can be very hard to put down and a few large-scale enemies soak up damage like a sponge. But overall the balance is good, and those bigger enemies are challenging but doable. Bringing you’re your first giant bird-dinosaur will leave you with a real sense of accomplishment.
Value (Is it worth the money?)
I think Smoke and Sacrifice is well worth its price.
Fans of classic JRPGs and those of us who fondly remember those 16-bit action RPGs will identify with this game from the opening scenes. The plot is engrossing. The characters are interesting. There are hours and hours of crafting, new recipes hidden all over the place, and lots of interesting and beautifully-rendered environments to explore.
Definitely. Check it out.