The Bestest Best Exploration Of 2014: Salt

Salt has been a real treat this year – a real alternative. Where survival games have (rightly) mostly focused on intense difficulty, Salt put its emphasis on just idling about. And that’s a fantastic thing to have in the mix. Even in its early alpha form, with minimal goings-on, it’s still the most pleasant exploration I’ve had this year, and that makes it Bestest.

John: I can argue against this inclusion. Salt, a game in which you play a maybe-pirate, sailing from little island to island and not doing a great deal more, is in its very early stages. I suspect that with time, it’s going to become a much better exploration game, with more variety, more biomes, and most of all, more to do. So is this a little pre-emptive? Should we be handing this award to Minecraft for the forty-third consecutive year? Well, the pleasure I’ve had playing the game this year says otherwise.

There’s no other game this year for which I’ve had a little notepad file sat on my desktop, constantly edited as I further explore the infinite seas, jotting down co-ordinates and brief island descriptions. There’s no other alpha game I’ve so curiously booted up just to check out the changes in the patch notes.

(Highlights include:

– Large spiders no longer let loose a pirate grunt when they see you.
– Fixed a bug that caused your boat to sometimes be launched into the air when resting at a campfire.)

The “less is more” mantra really applies here, so spotting in the patch notes something about how “the Queen” now has fewer “friends”, but moves faster, and having absolutely no idea who the Queen is, nor what she uses her friends for, is such an incentive to begin sailing once again. Learning fishing had been added had me searching around for bamboo like a loony. Reading about improvements to ship types I didn’t even realise exist makes me desperate to own them. I mean, this is how excited I get about ships:

And here’s me finding a pirate village:

And since I’m posting videos, here’s 25 minutes of my playing it:

It’s a properly lovely game to play. Calm, gentle and yet still letting you hit plate-faced pirates with an axe. Pootling about on your boat is such a lovely alternative after burning down villages in Far Cry or burning down friendships in Dragon Age. It’s £11 in Early Access, or £9.60 if you buy it directly from the developer (you get the updates there too, and indeed a Steam key, and this way the devs get all the money.) And indeed there’s a free trial version. It’s well worth a look, and gets better every month.

Back to the complete bestest best PC games of 2014.

46 Comments

  1. cthulhie says:

    I’m not quite understanding whether this is an endorsement in its current state or, like, a provisional recommendation for people to check it out because someday it’ll be a game that’ll appeal to more players? Even with all the caveats in the writeup (or because of them?) Early Access is really skewing my ability to parse what’s really quite a straightforward “I liked my time in this world.” Booted up with the expectation that it were a complete game, would it be enjoyable? If not, does that mean we can only be appreciate its goodness while it’s expressly labeled incomplete?

    Damnit, ambiguity! The very premise of a GOTY list is that we’re making an unqualified judgment of the “best” thing, and I’m forced to have to think about and interpret this? Gaah!

    • Monggerel says:

      Simplicity who art in whatever, hallowed be thy name etc. deliver us from blahblahblah amen.

    • B.rake says:

      I think the line is “enjoyable in its current state with the caveat that it may change into something less enjoyable”? When multiple early access games like this and Neo Scavenger to show up on best-of lists… does that open up the possiblity for them to repeat in the year of their completed release? Maybe this is just an editorial sleight of hand so RPS can preserve chunks of the list for reuse in future Totally-Not-An-Advent-Calendar Bestists Listists.

      • Rindan says:

        I can’t speak to Salt, but Neo-scavenger is an amazing finished game as far as I am concerned. Yes, the developer can add more, but as it stands, it is easily one of the best and most engrossing games of 2014.

        Early access is, in large, a pile of shit, and I wouldn’t touch it without the guidance of someone who has waded into that pile of shit for you, but there are some real gems. On the whole, I dislike Early Access, but I won’t let me general dislike taint my opinion of the good stuff you can find.

        • B.rake says:

          Yeah I get that impression about Neo Scavenger and a couple other games. Jokes aside, it’s clearly something people are eager to engage in and should probably be evaluated on the basis of that experience (besides, aside from abject scams and half finished abandonware, its not like major publishers don’t often release games that are in the same disheveled state as many Early Access projects).

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      “it’s still the most pleasant exploration I’ve had this year”

      “It’s a properly lovely game to play.”

      “Pootling about on your boat is such a lovely alternative”

      “It’s well worth a look, and gets better every month.”

      He quoted, passive-aggressively.

      • Caelyn Ellis says:

        Stop quoting yourself, John. Stop quoting yourself!

        • jrodman says:

          And he could not stop, for the Angel was forcing him to quote, WITH HIS OWN MOUTH.

      • cthulhie says:

        I reject the apparent clarity of these statements. I get that you’re encouraging a close reading the text, and that’s all well and good, but you’re not allowed to post that because the author cannot encourage a belief in the death of the author for paradox-based reasons. Instead I’m taking a kind of a mixed new historical/reader response approach (which is to say, “I am reading this in a current time and place”) to question whether anything in this article can be understood as printed. I’m even viewing those videos and could easily be watching in-game footage of ArmA for all I know. For all anyone can know.

        What I’m saying is that I liked Eidolon.

        “Early Access is really skewing my ability to parse what’s really quite a straightforward, ‘It’s still the most pleasant exploration I’ve had this year.'”

        He amended, aggressively. You can tell the aggression because it contains nested quotes. Nested quotes don’t understand comfort zones and are always pushing into other quotes.

    • Neurotic says:

      You’re over-thinking it, man.

  2. reggiep says:

    I’m envious of the amount of time you have on your hands to devote to such boring and meaningless endeavors.

    • Arren says:

      Do try the hors d’oeuvres.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      …the man took the time out of his day to write on the website about toys.

    • airmikee says:

      Funny, that’s what most people that don’t play video games say about all video games. If it’s not your type of game, that’s one thing, but to say it’s ‘meaningless’ implies that any other video game has any real meaning or substance.

  3. soupydavis says:

    Thank you for letting me watch that video of you repairing a boat. I was having a terrible day, and it reminded me about the existence of mirth. I registered an account here just to say so. I look forward to boat-driving adventures of my own!

    • Anthile says:

      Whatever floats your boat, man.

      • ShDragon says:

        Echoing Soupydavis here. (though I didn’t have to register, but I did just become a supporter).

        I had no idea this existed and now I must have it in my life, and you fixing your boat is exactly what sold it. I really was running around flailing in excitement (In my head anyway)

      • RARARA says:

        Both you and Alice should continue to produce video content.

        We also need an update on how your career as a professional adventure gamer is going.

  4. johnnyr says:

    So we’re including unfinished games in the “best of 2014″ lists now?

    Not everyone is interested in playing unfinished games, and they definitely don’t belong any GOTY lists unless the category is literally called” Best unfinished game of 2014″

    Just my opinion.

    • LTK says:

      You must be new to the RPS Advent Calendar.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      The bad news is, when picking our favourite games of the year, we took leave of our senses, threw all the rules out of the window, and picked our favourite games of the year.

      • johnnyr says:

        That is bad news, because it kind of invalidates this list, at least for people like me who want to play actual games and not alpha versions of incomplete ones. =(

        • plugmonkey says:

          When does a game become an ‘actual’ game?

          When, indeed, is a game ‘finished’?

          How does this invalidate the list? Is it not one of their favourite games of the year?

          So many questions.

          • All is Well says:

            A) Usually when The Steam tells us so, unless it only involves walking, rummaging around someone’s house or mountains. Those never become games.
            B) After at least seven patches and four mods, in most belief systems. Also all the DLC has to have come out. Unless it’s only or mostly cosmetic, as these types of DLC make the game less finished.
            C) Contrary to what anyone might have told you, there are extremely strict rules for what is allowed on”Greatest X of the Y”-type lists. One of them is that everyone reading must be able to agree on every single entry. If something is entered onto the list, and the readers cannot agree that it is indeed one of the greatest X of the Y, it means the listers have failed. They must then abort their attempt at listing and try again next year, lest they anger the gods.

        • B.rake says:

          Still waiting for the devs to patch Tic-Tac-Toe so I don’t draw all the time.

        • Urthman says:

          It’s exceedingly silly to claim that a list of “My Favorite Video Games of the Year” can be invalid if it, in fact, lists my favorite video games of the year.

      • Bobka says:

        And my friends said I was crazy when I included Age of Empires II on my GOTY list last year!

    • airmikee says:

      Since 2014 was the first full year of Early Access availability for public consumption, why not include something that isn’t quite finished but still worth opining about on a blog list?

      I don’t buy into EA games either, but I’ll definitely add this to my wishlist and watch it develop until it is released.

    • Tacroy says:

      To be fair, 2014 was kind of shit in terms of games releases.

      Nobody wanted to put their games up against the likes of Watch_Dogs, TES:O, Wildstar, Destiny and Titanfall, so when those either flopped or were a flash in the pan we were kinda left with nothing.

      TES:O or Wildstar could have easily been a contender for this category, if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re not that great overall.

      • Rindan says:

        Anyone who was holding back something great out of fear of TESO or Wildstar should has my utmost pitty. Hell, anyone holding back any MMORPG out of fear of any other non-WoW MMORPG is a fool. The MMORPG scene is a steaming pile of unoriginal, formulaic, shit. The Doom clone years, a time largely considered to be a really boring me-to lull in gaming design, looks like the fucking renaissance next to the pace of MMORPG innovation. If someone has an MMORPG that isn’t another fucking WoW clone with tweaks and it even vaguely fun, for the love of all that is holy and just, release it. You will roll around in money as the bored to tears masses happily leap onto the first MMORPG that isn’t a fucking dull, formulaic, MMORPG slog.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Next year, I predict a category, “Bestest idea for a video game that I overheard someone talking about in a bar, but it sounded really awesome of 2015.”

      I mean, as long as we’re giving out participation trophies here, why not?

  5. stahlwerk says:

    I really like what you’re doing with the bestest list this year. Already, so many games I wouldn’t have thought to give a second look before, that flew under the radar or were just drowned out by bigger releases.

  6. Hex says:

    Wow, Walker is really on a roll today with the comments. Best laughs I’ve had today.

    • Shiloh says:

      It’s the tiny bundle of joy behind it, I reckon. I remember being a tad crabby myself at various points during my kids’ early days/weeks/months/years/whole bloody lifetimes.

  7. Shiloh says:

    I do like the look of this. I quite fancy a potter around an infinite archipelago without the stresses and strains of staying alive. At least, I’ll quite fancy it once I’ve got bored of Unreal World. Hmm, that day may well never come though.

  8. Moth Bones says:

    Well, it took 59 seconds of the first video to convince me that I want this. And it even has a demo so I can double check! Brilliant. Cheers, RPS.

    • Moth Bones says:

      I’ve now been playing this for four hours, pottering about. I piloted a raft across a moonlit sea. This game is beautiful, relaxing, mysterious. Make up whatever seed you want for a different world every time; the one I’ve just done seems to have only the starting island and two small/tiny satellites.

      I’ve got a similar feeling to when I got Minecraft in alpha, only even more enchanted. The graphics on this may be basic and crude close to, but the feel of them is gorgeous – the sun flashing through the swaying palm trees, sunset over the ocean, glimpsing a deer through the trees, watching a deer breakdance. It’s pure pleasure. And I haven’t done anything more advanced than craft a raft from materials present in a chest on every starting island. It’s easy to have fun.

      It’s fab. Try the demo.

  9. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Love you John <3

    Please more videos like these and some more rolling sharks in forest with commentary!!!

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Indeed. I grant that second video the Most Loveliest Video of a Grownup Game Journalism Discovering a Thing in a Game That Probably Doesn’t Even Work Yet. He just sounds so happy!

  10. Shardz says:

    You guys sure like your stripped down stylized graphics over there at RPS! The less colors, the better, I guess. This is right up there with Proteus (which you guys favored, as well!).