Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival adventure game in the same vein as titles like Don’t Starve and Crashlands. It follows the story of Sachi, a mother who seeks the child she had sacrificed in a dark world where nothing is at it seems. After a routine sacrifice of a newborn to the sun God, Sachi’s world is turned upside down when her home town is attacked. From there, she is sent to an underground world where smoke poisons the locals and breathes life into horrifying monsters.
Your task, as a mother seeking her child, is to explore, fight–and above all, survive.
From the moment you enter the underground, you’re taught how to craft rudimentary objects that will help you safely make your way across the wilds. Crafting is hotkeyed to the left directional pad and can be accessed at any time, though some recipes will require additional work benches. Unlike other survival games, work benches cannot be crafted and are stationary, meaning you’ll need to travel in order to access them. That task is made easier by fast travel tubes littered liberally across the world. In order to activate them, you’ll need a Drear Coin, but after they’ve been activated you can travel at will. Drear Coins can be found in breakable objects and are also given as rewards for completing tasks for the locals. Next to or in proximity of these tubes are terminals where you can save your game. It’s important to do so as frequently as possible because there is no auto save function.
Your inventory is limited, therefore management is very important. Perishable items have a health bar, as do equipment. Equipment degrades with use and will break if not repaired while perishable items will go bad and disappear. Equipment can also be upgraded if you have the ingredients to spare. One of my complaints is that the durability of equipment feels very low even after upgrading. After only a few swings, they’ll require repair and the pieces that can’t be repaired have to be rebuilt from scratch.
Smoke and Sacrifice’s story is task-driven and each new area you visit will require you to help the locals in order to proceed. The game doesn’t hold your hand and sets you loose in an open and unfriendly world, where you must make heads or tails of not only the lay of the land, but the way things work here. As an impromptu visitor to a strange land, you will uncover years of lies from religious officials and even get swept up into a rebellion. Good stuff.
Much like Don’t Starve, Smoke and Sacrifice has a day and night cycle where the darkness brings dangerous new creatures. You can keep track of the oncoming darkness via the clock in the upper right corner of your screen. During the time when a thick cloud of smoke engulfs the underground Sachi is prone to suffocating, but
you can create lanterns to stave off the darkness. There’s also a pendant you get as part of the story, which provides light and can also be used to create a protective shield. It’s charge does not last long and should only be used as an emergency backup. Horrors stalk the night, appearing only when the smoke is thick, while some regular monsters get stronger.
Smoke and Sacrifice’s art style and animation is distinct and I think that’s the first thing that caught my eye. What really drew my attention, however, was the unusual protagonist: a mother. As such, I was prepared for a heartfelt story and the game delivered. Its greatest strength is its atmosphere, which is created through bumps, hisses, and roars in the darkness. You’ll keep a tense eye on the timer at the top of the screen because the moment the smoke roles in, you are in peril. It’s a good way to instill a sense of urgency in the player and also forces you to consider survival while it’s saf(er) to gather supplies and secure passage to wherever you’re headed.
If you’re low on supplies, stay near a terminal at night. It will recharge your pendant and as long as there are no monsters nearby, you’ll be safe. You can also stand near lantern plants as long as they’ve trapped a firefly.
Keep a good stock of fire flies. Lanterns can be repaired.
Keep a good supply of sour juice and rubbing kits. You’ll periodically unlock new recipes through use.
Save often. If you die, your last save is reloaded. There is no auto save.
- A dark and twisted setting that bears witness to an interesting story.
- Little details like sound effects create a tense atmosphere.
- The ability to dodge in combat is invaluable, especially when being chased by something much stronger than you.
- There’s a real sense of progression.
- Items break after too few uses. The beginning is a real struggle as such.
- Very few of the locals have anything interesting (or even unique to other NPCs) to say, making the world feel less authentic.
- Exploration is somewhat bland. Map segments are relatively small.
- Even during the day the underground world is dim, which makes sense thematically, but can make it difficult to see.
. Bottom Line.
A great first entry from this studio that brings its own iteration of the survival genre to the table. If you’re looking for a meaningful story to accompany your challenging and somewhat stressful trek through the wilderness, look no further than Smoke and Sacrifice.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.