Most people would sacrifice anything for their children, but what about those who sacrifice their children? It’s the first thing you do in Smoke and Sacrifice. The only way to survive in the desolate world is to keep the Sun Tree living, which requires the sacrifice of children. This beginning is unsettling and may instantly cause uneasiness to continue forward. What unravels afterward turns into an adventure of a mother who seeks to reveal the truth behind these acts. It’s a survival game that will test your patience and reward you for success.
Here’s what I liked:
Crafting to Continue — In order to progress, you must collect items and upgrade your equipment. It’s pretty much the bulk of what you’ll spend your time doing. Despite a slow start, the momentum proves worth the grind. Eventually you start learning where to get specific items for your crafting needs. It’s a paradise for those who enjoy looting everything they find. Though there is limited carrying space, there are boxes you can use to keep precious materials in. Hours of fighting monsters and taking their scraps really seems to pay off later when you need to craft needed resources. It was something that I didn’t enjoy doing, but eventually became a delightful burden.
Fast Travel is the Best Travel — Being able to travel from point to point on an open world map is extremely important to me. I hate wasting time with walking or running long distances. Luckily, in Smoke and Sacrifice, you are graced with teleportation stations. There are several in all areas and hastens your journey by quite a bit. To unlock them, you must use coins that you find by either smashing containers, digging them up, or killing enemies. They seem scarce at first, but eventually, you’ll have significantly more than you need if you aren’t spending them the wrong way. Usually, there is a computer you can save at really close to them as well. I think it’s the best feature!
Survival Combat — As you craft better gear, you’ll be able to annihilate enemies that once caused you to flee. The tougher the enemies you can defeat, the better the items you can craft for the next areas. If you have a ton of food you can take on the tough monsters even without proper gear. It was nice having a choice in how to tackle enemies. You can even get them to fight each other to make life easier. There are quite a few options in attacking enemies. You can use long-range weapons, melee, and even magic wands. If you have bombs you can throw them as well. Seeing the health of the enemies was very helpful in figuring out what hurt them the most. Not all enemies are damaged the same if you are using various elements. I always love being required to use different types of gear.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
The Smoke— I suppose it’s considered night time. The fog will settle in and there will be ghosts that are quite a nuisance, especially early on. You will slowly die if you don’t keep some sort of light source with you. This will require items and materials to keep it lit. It added a bit of unwanted pressure when the smoke time hit. While I see the importance of this, what I didn’t like was certain enemies will drop useless materials instead of the ones you may need. I chose to sleep using the nightcap most of the time when trying to get certain quests done. It felt like it really slowed me down. The only time I was needing the smoke to appear was at the end of the game when you need a lot of ghost dust. It wouldn’t be as bad if you could just skip night by sleeping, without needing to use an item.
Electrocution — Getting electrocuted or hit with something that shocks you causes you to drop an item. I have lost several items without realizing I had dropped them because of it. The items are random and amount to the full stack if you have more than one of a specific type. You can even lose weapons which will require them to be crafted and upgraded again. While attempting to pick these items up you can also be hit with even more electricity if you don’t kill the enemy. While that seems easy, there are some areas that are too dangerous to fight in with the absurd amounts of enemies that randomly appear. I’m fine with difficulty, but losing items made me flat out upset.
Walking into sludge — At the edge of many areas, there is some weird murky land you start to sort of sink into. It slows you down and if you don’t get out of it, you die instantly. Typically to move around a bit faster, you will jump around to traverse. More times than I can count I was landing past the edge of the land in the annoying areas. The worst part is while fighting enemies. If they die near the edge then all the materials dropped will vanish. This became increasingly annoying when fighting harder enemies and not being able to grab the reward. Also, it obstructed much of my travels, making me seek different routes to places which were within reach. It created many holes in the map that you couldn’t explore.
While I felt the beginning of the game struggled to keep my attention, I really enjoyed the rest of it. However, there are several things I think could really help improve the experience. I didn’t particularly like the character design but did have a great time surviving. The excellent fast travel and saving system made death not so crushing. At times the pacing was a little awkward and I cared little about any of the characters, however, I believe overall it was a better-than-average survival game.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Smoke and Sacrifice was published by Curve Digital and developed by Solar Sail Games on Xbox One. It was released on January 15, 2019, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.