You know how sometimes you see a game with a lot of potential, but it just isn’t able to reach it. That was my experience with Smoke and Sacrifice.
Smoke and Sacrifice is a survival game that puts players in the shoes of Sachi. Sachi is a resident of a small village that has a big focus on religion. The church controls the town and everyone is forced to take part in its practices. The most devastating of which requires the people of the village to sacrifice their first-born child.
Smoke and Sacrifice starts with Sachi going through this ritual. Even though she doesn’t want to, and obviously holds contempt for the church, she sacrifices her son. Right after this, she is given a strange pendant from a mysterious wandering merchant. She also hears some guards for the church talking about her son as if he is still alive. Then, for some reason, the game skips ahead seven years.
It’s at this point that things start going wrong in the village and the mysterious merchant appears again to push Sachi into investigating the temple during the chaos. She goes along with this and ends up in a world underneath her own. Sachi believes that her son is still alive somewhere in this world and sets out to find him. Why she waits seven years to do this I don’t know. Sadly I also don’t know much more else about the story of Smoke and Sacrifice.
That’s because a couple hours after making my way into this underworld, I gave up on Smoke and Sacrifice. This isn’t something that I like to do. When I’m playing a game for review, I do my best to reach the end, but that just wasn’t the case this time. See, the problem with Smoke and Sacrifice was the various bugs and glitches that I kept running into with the game.
Let’s start at the beginning. My first problem with Smoke and Sacrifice was shortly after starting the game. While heading into the temple to sacrifice Sachi’s son, the game froze on me. I ended up having to close the game down and start over again from the beginning. It wasn’t a good sign, but it was also only about 10 minutes into the game. So I figured it was no big deal. If only that was true.
This wasn’t the last time that Smoke and Sacrifice crashed on me while I was playing it. It happened a few other times as well. This wouldn’t be so bad, but Smoke and Sacrifice only supports hard saving. I had this in mind, but even saving often it was still frustrating to lose progress not because of my own death, but because of the game crashing. Losing 10 minutes of progress at varying points adds up over time and really just kills any desire to play this game.
There’s still another issue with Smoke and Sacrifice that I have to talk about. That’s the load times. This game isn’t all that complex, yet it still takes forever to load up on the Switch. I don’t know why this is the case, but it really wears on the player.
Also, the loading screen continues to remain even after the game is already loaded. I know this to be true because of what happened one time I started the game back up. The screen remained black with the loading symbol, but I could hear Sachi taking hits from enemies. When I finally got into the game, I was being attacked by a group of small porkupines and was already close to death. I let them kill me and reloaded my save. This time I made it in just fine because the load time wasn’t as long, but that’s still no excuse for issues like this.
It’s honestly really disappointing that Smoke and Sacrifice has all of these technical troubles. I can see that it’s a game with a lot of good ideas, but they just aren’t worth putting up with its problems. There’s a crafting system and a huge focus on survival. This system is well done and the game is good about leading players down the path to better items. It also has an interesting world and story. Plus, most of the gameplay mechanics work well. It’s just sad that the game is such a buggy mess.
Even with all that said, I do still want to talk about the combat in Smoke and Sacrifice. After all, patches are a thing that could give this game new life in the weeks after its release. The combat is easily the worst part of the game. It’s clunky and clumsy. I think that’s just what happens when combat feels tied to horizontal movement, but the game supports moving in more than just two directions.
Granted, players don’t always have to fight enemies. I was stuck on a particularly annoying enemy, a large porcupine, for some time before accidentally beating it. I unknowingly led this enemy to a group of wasps that didn’t like it entering their area. They killed it for me, and then I used a smoke bomb to disable the wasps and destroy their nest. These types of interactions are what show me the potential this game has, despite its various problems.
The visuals in Smoke and Sacrifice are strange to say the least. The game has and almost storybook like appearance with characters moving as if they are paper puppets. However, it chooses to go for a more detailed look for its characters and world, which just makes it all seem weird. It really just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t help but think of an uglier Angela Anaconda (Yes, I’m getting old.) while playing it. I think the developers were going for charming, but it just didn’t come across that way to me.
As far as the audio goes in Smoke and Sacrifice, there really isn’t much to talk about. The game is minimalist on music to really home in on that feeling of trying to survive in a strange world. That’s fine and all, but the player is almost never far from contact with other intelligent beings. It just takes away from the isolation feeling when there are loads of people wandering around the map. The sound effects are also solid, but don’t really stand out one way or another.
Overall, Smoke and Sacrifice is a game that I have to tell players to pass on in its current state. It feels a little too much like it is trying to copy Don’t Starve, but doesn’t bring as high quality of an experience as its inspiration. Add in various bugs and glitches, and it truly becomes a game worth overlooking.
Maybe these problems are limited to the Switch version of the game, but it doesn’t give me hope for the PC release. If anyone is playing the game on Steam, let us know in the comments below if you had similar problems.
Smoke and Sacrifice earns 2 GiN Gems out of 5!