Smoke and Sacrifice is not what I expected to be. One of the first screenshots for the game that I saw was similar to the one at the top of this post. It looks bright and safe and a little mundane and reminded me of any number of early towns or villages you visited in RPGs like Suikoden or Breath of Fire. There’s a field being tended to and glowing Sun Trees that are obviously very important to these people and it just feels smalltown farm-like, but then things take a turn towards darker.
See, our leading protagonist Sachi must unfortunately give up her son as part of the village’s first-born rite; basically, she is sacrificing her child to appease the gods, but the good news–if you want to call it that–is that any future children she has will be safe from this custom. How nice. Years later, when suddenly the Sun Tree fades and all the priests vanish, she learns there’s more to this ritual, such as a whole underground world.
Smoke and Sacrifice is an open-world, narrative-driven survival RPG, where exploiting living ecosystems is the key to keeping air in your lungs. Sachi must constantly craft gear, fight off monsters, and explore a massive open world as she searches for her long-lost son. Along the way, she’ll meet strange characters and take on quests for them, as well as learn what really was happening with the Sun Trees and the first-born ritual. The game quickly goes from bright to dark to seriously messed up in a matter of minutes, and you’ll quickly forget all about that fertile land above, now replaced with a gothic wasteland of strange bugs and foreign ingredients.
Unlike many other survival games, there’s a solid if sadly morbid story to follow and no permadeath to deal with. Instead, you can save your progress frequently at a few save points dotted around the map, which are in the form of glowing computer screens, with death bringing you back to your last hard save. I recommend saving all the dang time. I have suffered the sad experience of collecting a bunch of ingredients for a half hour, stumbling into a combat scenario I wasn’t ready for, and having my weapons and lantern degrade at just that moment, losing all forward progress. It stinks and is maybe the harshest part of Smoke and Sacrifice.
The combat in Smoke and Sacrifice is both punishing and a little plain. You can up your chances of making it out alive by crafting an array of armor and weapons, such as a bone machete, but you never really feel that powerful. Instead, you are better off learning every enemy’s pattern and taking them out slowly and methodically. There’s a dodge move, but it is more of a jump away than anything I’d call extremely responsive, like rolling in Bastion. I wish there was a little more strategy or options for combat, but so far it is just mashing the attack button and hopping away when it looks like the enemy will strike. I did just start crafting smoke bombs, so maybe it does get a little more advanced, but I won’t hold my breath, especially when breathing in this underworld’s air is deadly enough.
I got this game for “free” from being a Twitch Prime member, along with a number of others that I hope to get to…eventually. I think I’ll poke at it some more as I am interested to see where this dark story goes and if Sachi finds her son while also wreaking havoc on the naughty priests that forced her into this situation to begin with. Weapons, armor, and lanterns constantly degrading quickly might be too much for me to deal with though…time will only tell.