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The Bestest Best Exploration Of 2014: Salt

Hold the vinegar

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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.

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