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Salt: The Continuing Adventures Of A Man With A Boat

Videogame Piracy

It hadn’t been my plan to keep playing Salt over the weekend, but that’s what happened. The early access (although not yet Steam Early Access) game has only been out for two weeks, but the alpha is already receiving regular updates. Following my first adventures, I've been videoing my progress, and you can see the latest below.

Since I first wrote about the game on Thursday, the way fight works has been significantly improved (a very minor part of the game, it should be stressed), with blocking added, and more realistic attacks from pirates. A whole bunch of bugs have been fixed, most importantly the windowed game properly capturing the mouse cursor. And disappearing items are reappearing once again. If this is indicative of the speed with which new content is going to arrive, it’s going to be worth sticking around. As it is, I’ve been sailing the ocean blue and have found a fairly hefty chunk of what’s in the game so far.

Awkwardly, writing about everything I’ve found rather spoils the point of playing the game at this stage. What you know going in is you’ve got islands to explore, the ability to craft a very simple raft to reach them, and occasionally doll-faced pirates to bop over the head. There’s a limited selection of basic crafts to do, food to find or hunt, and stuff on the horizon.

So I’m not going to list what I’ve found so far, because that would be sucky of me. Instead, below are some more of my adventures, plus a couple of videos that reveal two of the game’s minor surprises.

At the end of my first report, I’d stumbled upon a proper actual pirate ship. However, it needed a lot of work. Driven by an all-encompassing need to see this ship sail once again, I hungrily foraged the increasingly depleted islands for the supplies I needed – logs, cloth, and the like. (The depletion was coincidence. I’ve since found islands so replete with resources that I could craft a five-storey mansion from the contents of my pockets.) It was a worthy struggle, and my moment of joy when setting off in that boat was ludicrous. Here, I can prove how ludicrous I was:

I have, I think, now exhausted what is currently in Salt. But then I’ve thought that rather a few times before stumbling upon something new. I’m, if nothing else, often wrong. What’s interesting is how much excitement I’m allowing for what are, genuinely, the most minor inclusions. Sailing from similar island to similar island, collecting materials for crafting items that haven’t been added to the game yet, the gentle busywork of it is hypnotising. Suddenly seeing a few straw huts perhaps doesn’t seem like it should be a moment of, “WAIT! WHAT?!” in the world of gaming. And yet, that was my experience:

And this has kept me happy for many hours, as I aimlessly sail from island to island, jotting down their coordinates (as determined by my sextant) in a Notepad window and naming each according to a feature (8W 4N – Mountain Island, 13W 8N – Isle Of Boring, 12W 11N – Statue Isle). I’m keeping a North-Westerly course (with my compass, stolen from a pirate cartographer) for the sake of going anywhere without going in circles.

And although I think by this point I really have seen everything that’s included in the game so far, it doesn’t seem to stop me from enjoying continuing on. It reminds me of the early days of Minecraft, where the tiniest extra detail, new item to craft, or extra plant to pick, becomes an impossibly thrilling treat. Which is wholly daft, of course. But still.

As I said, the game is only about three weeks into existence, released at a very early stage, so you can expect all sorts of bugs, as well as a sparseness to the world. But there’s no denying that it’s occupied my flitting mind for a good few days already, and I’m reading changelogs to see what’s being added. There’s a free version to play, that’s limited in terms of scale and updates. The full version is currently a little awkward to buy, unfortunately - $15/£11.30 seems a decent price when there’s an extensive free alternative to see if you want to invest - but you have to go through FastSpring’s rather frustrating system, which currently demands far more personal details than it needs, even when choosing Paypal. (You can, however, put in entirely spurious details. I gave it an old address and a made up phone number, and that seemed fine.) Oddly, Salt doesn’t appear to have been submitted to Greenlight, and isn’t opting for a more user-friendly system like a Humble widget or Desura appearance. I think it’ll need to make some moves there if it wants to catch a wider eye. You can now vote for Salt on Greenlight.

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