Salt 2: Shores of Gold

The original Salt, a 2018 open world ship-themed survival and exploration game from Lavaboots Studio, passed a lot of folks by. I completely missed the boat myself, though it turns out, our sister site Retrovolve did cover it way back then.

Despite not playing the original game, I have had the pleasure of checking out the closed beta for Salt 2: Shore of Gold. Although there are some rough edges that could use smoothing and a skeletal framework that could use fleshing out, Salt 2 has a boatload of potential.

Now, this spoke to me particularly as someone who’s been looking for something akin to Sea of Thieves for years now. But whereas Sea of Thieves was designed ideally for two or more players, and almost feels like it punishes you for daring to venture alone, Salt 2 has no problem with you playing solo. Plus Salt 2‘s ship mechanics are quite simple and easy to manage by oneself. You simply lower the sails to start moving, then jump behind the wheel to steer. You’ll raise the sails once you reach your destination and the ship slows to a pretty quick stop.

Your boat also doesn’t move around in the splishing and splashing of the sloshing waves, despite not being anchored, so you don’t have a “Dude, where’s my boat?” kind of moment. You also keep your ship in your inventory, which basically means that, at any point while near water you can bring up the equipment wheel, select the boat, and deploy it just a few feet offshore.

Salt 2: Shores of Gold

I also quite enjoy the more cartoonish, very Sea of Thieves-like art style. I don’t really need realism in my pirate games. Maybe that’s because when I was growing up, I saw pirates more in cartoons than in live-action movies, so I have a cartoonish version of pirates in my head.

But dispatched enemies do leave a pool of blood in Salt 2, so it isn’t completely cookie-cutter, merely more stylized than photorealistic. And all of the resources you can gather for crafting are easily discernible from a reasonable distance, which makes scavenging a lot easier.

Perhaps Salt 2’s biggest draw, for me at least, was the ability to simply jump on your ship and sail a rather open sea dotted with chains of islands. It’s hard to tell how much depth any of the structures or caves will have beyond what I’ve played so far, though I admit that most of what I’ve seen has been par for the course. Of the handful of caves I explored, there were branching paths and booty to loot, and one cave even looped around and dumped me out at the entrance so I didn’t have to backtrack too much.

Salt 2: Shores of Gold

But for the most part, all of the structures I saw were simple wood shacks and shops, clustered together in makeshift settlements. These structures serve their purpose, but the two settlements I encountered (the two that weren’t hostile, I mean) were almost identical. Each one didn’t have enough of identity to tell it apart from the other. 

But it’s sailing that makes up a decent amount of your time in Salt 2, and I did enjoy that quite a bit. But I want to touch on some areas that need more work if players are expected to spend a prolonged amount of time in Salt 2’s world. 

First on my list is combat. This still feels incredibly rudimentary in Salt 2. You basically just press the attack button while hoping to chip away at the enemy’s health and kill them before they kill you. You can use heavy and light attacks by holding or pressing the attack button respectively. But it still just feels like a bunch of amateur flailing at best. And if you are fighting more than one enemy at a time, that can easily spell “Game Over” for you. Thankfully, death currently just means respawning a short distance away usually, so it’s not too punishing.

There are various weapon types to monkey around with, but they mostly feel the same. Even the bow leaves much to be desired, although it does at least mix things up a bit. 

Salt 2: Shores of Gold

I did come to enjoy having to use the compass, map, and sextant to find my way around the world of Salt 2 instead of relying on waypoints or glowing dotted lines. But it takes some getting used to, with no real tutorial to get you started. You pretty much just have to learn from scratch. And although I found that pretty rewarding once I did figure it out, I can see this turning a lot of people off. Adding short a tutorial would go a long way in giving players their sea legs.

There are survival mechanics, in that your player has a health bar and a food meter. You don’t have to worry about drinking or sleeping or stat debuffs, at least in the current build, which is nice for players who hate having to manage those things. I personally wouldn’t mind having a few more systems other than the already rather generous health meter, though. But if Lavaboots keeps things light in that department to not alienate a possible wider audience, I guess I can’t really complain.

I will be interested to see how deep the crafting system will be after a few more patches. The current version has a lot to craft and for the most part is pretty intuitive and straightforward. Since you have your ship that you can decorate with the stuff you make at various crafting stations, I don’t imagine building shelters on land will be an option. It’s not necessary to add, but it would be nice, because who doesn’t love just building a cool little house in a crafting game?

Despite my nitpicks, Salt 2: Shores of Gold is off to a great start. And even in the current state, I would certainly not balk at sinking several more dozen or so hours into it. But if developer Lavaboots can add more depth to some of the mechanics and systems, and tighten things up a bit, we could be looking at a solid entry in the pirate genre, which could certainly help fill that Skull and Bones sized whole in my gaming heart and really shiver me timbers.

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