We'd been playing Smoke and Sacrifice, a new RPG from UK-based indie studio Solar Sail Games, for just a few minutes when our character Sachi was forced to sacrifice her newborn son.
A few minutes more and our village was beset by thick, choking smoke. We had to craft a lantern quickly to keep it at bay.
So there's the title explained, but when we asked the developers what they're most proud of, besides the remarkable feat of creating what is a very large open-world sandbox RPG (complete with crafting, combat, exploration and a rich narrative) with a team of just four, and they'll talk about the dynamic ecosystem.
Co-founder and coder Neil Millstone described how the player can interact with these systems, and experiment to find new results.
"The ecosystem gameplay is (we think) an original concept, and we hope players will have great fun discovering all the different interactions we've hidden in there. Each species of creature in the world interacts with several others and in many cases the player can interfere with that, feeding food to some creatures, breeding others, taming them, and a lot more besides. The feeling we're trying to evoke is of a world which has creepy, sometimes icky things to see if you're in the right place at the right time, and most of the time there will be a way to exploit what you've seen to your advantage, if you can just figure out how."
We witnessed this for ourselves, when we happened across some slimes. Whereas previous individuals had glooped over to us to engage in combat, this pair slid together and soon produced an offspring. It made us feel a bit… odd about subsequently bashing them with a spiked club.
Wandering the lush, hand-painted landscape is a joy, and there's always something interesting a new to discover. A new quest, different NPCs (each of whom seems to have something fresh to say, with way less repeated dialogue than we'd expected) and completely new creatures and biomes.
Not long after our encounter with the amorous slimes we found a mini-boss; a large, angry boar. We quickly found that taking it on in the usual way (bashing and dodging) wouldn't pass muster. It hit too hard and its ranged attack - flinging a bunch of quills our way - was more lethal still. But, duck behind a stalagmite or tree just as it charges and it knocks itself out briefly, leaving time for a few swipes with our trusty (and upgradeable) club.
Eventually we triumphed, netting a key (used to open scattered chests) and stacks of crafting gear for our efforts.
The crafting too is surprisingly deep. In our short time with the game we crafted roughly a dozen items; from armour and weapons through to utility items like nets and lanterns. All items degrade with use and eventually need repairing, but some can be upgraded with the right ingredients. By the end of our playthrough we were sporting some pretty natty armour, and a dangerous-looking bone sword.
Some of the screenshots we've seen reveal a host of far more powerful items available later in the game, which again illustrates just how much there is to Smoke and Sacrifice.
Overall it was a joy to play, and we're looking forward to getting our mitts on it again when it launched.
Smoke and Sacrifice will be out on Nintendo Switch, PC, and other consoles later in the year.
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