Smoke and Sacrifice Review: A Mother’s Love
Kalvin Martinez / Jun 26th, 2018 No Comments
Survival for the sake of survival can ring hollow. Without a reason to persevere over great challenges, the action itself feels empty. Struggling to make your way forward without motivation is an exercise in futility.
Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival game where the reason for surviving is crystal clear. Sachi soldiers on and endures deadly beasts and harsh environments to save her son. It is this motivation that drives the entire game and makes it so compelling.
My Son, My Son…
Life would cease to exist if not for the Sun Tree standing in place of a dead sun. The land would be cold and uninhabitable with deadly Pugbears roaming freely. It is for the good of the community that its citizens sacrifice once a year. The price is high, but the reward is continual survival of the last farming community. It is unfortunate that the only thing that can sustain the Sun Tree is a citizen giving up their first-born child.
Sadly, Sachi has been chosen this year to give up her son, Lio, in the Rite of the First Born. With great sorrow, she offers him in tribute to the Sun Tree thinking it’ll help the community survive another year. However, something goes wrong. The Sun Tree fails and darkness falls over the settlement.
Spurred on by a mysterious Tinkerer, Sachi decides to head back to the ritual site. There she discovers the dark secret of the village: underneath the Sun Tree exists a gloomy, murky underworld. To learn the deeper truth of what has been happening to the children offered up in sacrifice and find out if Lio is still alive, Sachi must survive the dangerous lands of smoke below the village.
As a narrative device, sacrificing someone to benefit a collective is incredibly effective. Whether it is Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” or The Hunger Games, the act carries weight and emotion. In Smoke and Sacrifice, this device helps you empathize with Sachi immediately and gives her a crystal clear motivation.
The interactive nature of video games adds even more magnitude to the action because rather than being a passive witness to the event, you become the main character. As Sachi, you are forced to retrieve Lio and personally hand him over for sacrifice. Her sacrifice becomes yours, and thus her journey to reclaim her son is yours.
Outside of this strong narrative device, Smoke and Sacrifice has a story that draws you in further the more you learn about the world. Every step you take to find Lio brings you closer to solving the mystery about the smoke and the Drear. Your survival isn’t simply about survival, it is about finding your son and stopping the tyranny of evil men.
Avoid the Smoke
One of the biggest drawbacks to most survival games is their endless, often directionless nature. They can feel amorphous where you’re never quite making any progress. Smoke and Sacrifice never feels like that. Thanks to a strong story driving the gameplay, you always know where you stand.
More than that, you don’t lose everything when you die thanks to save points sprinkled throughout the game. However, death isn’t without penalty. Every time you die, you’ll restart at your last save point. If you made a ton of progress prior to saving, you’ll have to re-do it, but you won’t have to start from scratch, which makes it easier to experiment without fearing having to start over.
Still, Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival game, and to that end, it delivers strong survival gameplay. The underworld is a dangerous place filled with deadly creatures, hostile bots and ferocious avian monsters waiting to hurt, maim and kill you. That is simply what inhabits the world, however. The land itself may be more unforgiving.
The environment itself varies between harsh conditions like extreme cold, poisonous swamps, electrified industrial areas, sweltering heat and, more importantly, nighttime with suffocating smoke. To aid your chances of survival is a deep crafting system, which is paramount to any good survival game. Not only will you need gear to withstand these perils, you will also need to arm yourself with weapons to protect yourself from the creatures dwelling in each area.
Progress in Smoke and Sacrifice is tied to crafting new gear. In order to move to a new area, you need to track down recipes to craft footwear that protects against specific environmental hazards. You can further withstand the environment by crafting full sets of armor. Gear degrades though, so crafting restorative items and keeping them handy is key to continuous exploration.
Not all recipes are given to you via the story. Most more useful recipes are found by venturing out into the harsh unknown. Whether it is from stone edifices jutting coldly out of snow or mysterious yet strategically placed hides in the wild, you need to utilize tools to illuminate or copy these recipes to cook delicious foods or useful traps. Probably more relevant are the side missions given to you by the Drear. By gathering key resources for them, you’ll learn practical recipes to further your expedition into the smoke.
We’ve talked a lot about how to protect, arm and survive the environment and its creatures, but not about how the actual act of combat feels. Fighting these creatures is not easy. Many of them are far more powerful than you and can easily overwhelm you. To come out victorious, you’ll have to think quickly and act fast.
Dodging attacks is key to survival because each attack is deadly. Any one enemy move can end you if you aren’t careful. By dodging prodigiously and waiting for an opening, you can land blows, strikes and shots on enemies to whittle down their health before delivering that all important death blow.
Players start off with simple weapons to take out weaker enemies, but gain new recipes and access to the workbench and later the blastforge and manufactory, which allows them to craft some gnarly weapons, such as a sword that lights enemies on fire. Gaining more powerful weapons and accessories helps open up combat and adds some variety to the game.
Still, fighting has to be done strategically because you’re limited by your resources and degrading equipment. Knowing when to fight and run plays is important to survive.
Smoke and Sacrifice also has some interesting boss fights that play into its biggest gameplay strength as these battles are story driven. Bosses hold important information about the underworld and how to find Lio. This raises the stakes and adds intensity to the fights.
Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival game with heart and emotion at its core. It is a tough journey that forces you to use your wits to endure the underworld’s smoke and harsh environment, but it isn’t survival for survival’s sake.
Sachi’s survival is one about saving her son and finding out truths that will help her village, which makes the struggle all the more worthwhile.
Smoke and Sacrifice was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.
tags: Curve Digital , review , Smoke and Sacrifice , Smoke and Sacrifice Review , Solar Sail Games