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Smoke and Sacrifice blends story into a survival sandbox

Smoke and Sanctuary

There are very few truly original ideas, and fewer still in games. The survival sandbox genre as we know it now is the result of a thousand micro-evolutions, ideas bolted onto each other, and talent transferring between studios.

As such, Smoke and Sacrifice’s initial similarities to Klei’s excellent Don’t Starve aren’t that surprising, and are hard to hold against it when the game looks this pretty (in a grim fantasy way). More importantly, the game seems to be putting its own distinct spin on a now-familiar concept, putting story front and center in a genre where it’s typically secondary, if not totally absent.

If the trailer above is any indication, Smoke and Sacrifice takes a somewhat more proactive approach to storytelling than Don’t Starve. You play as Sachi, a young mother that has been forced to sacrifice her newborn son in order to preserve the Sun Tree that warms her island home. It seems that at some point buyers remorse sets in, and she goes off looking for her spirited-away child, leading her into a vast and even more hazardous underground realm.

Developers Solar Sail Games describe the game as an open-world, narrative-driven RPG, although set in a hostile environment that will require no shortage of harvesting, crafting and manipulation of local flora and fauna to survive. The titular Smoke is apparently a major environmental force that alters the behavior of monsters, NPCs and even the player character upon exposure, so that should add another interesting wrinkle into the mix.

Smoke and Sacrifice is quite obviously nice to look at, although I feel some of the animations are perhaps a bit stiff at present. While I am entirely in favour of the monster designs shown so far, the faces on the human characters do seem to a be a little over-detailed, looking almost mismatched to their bodies, but that’s just picking nits on an otherwise visually striking game. I’m definitely interested in seeing how well the storytelling focus gels with the freeform sandbox elements.

Smoke and Sacrifice is due out at some point this year, although neither Solar Sail Games nor publisher Curve Digital want to be more specific than that at present. A small official site for the game is up now, but not much else.

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