On a frozen wasteland of a world, a small patch of fertile land survives thanks to the blessing of the Sun Tree. After sacrificing her son, Sachi discovers a darker secret lurking beneath its benevolent light. As she ventures into a hidden land where the very air threatens to steal her life and memory, will Sachi ever discover the truth of what happened to her son? Smoke and Sacrifice is an open world, narrative-driven RPG, where exploiting living ecosystems is the key to your survival. Craft, fight, survive and explore in your quest for the truth.
So begins your journey of discovery and danger in a rich and well-detailed game that will captivate your imagination and hold it hostage until you get the answers that Sachi is looking for. They do categorize Sachi’s adventure as an open world experience, however you will find that you cannot go beyond certain types of landscape until you craft an item that allows you to do so. You will also be captive to the smoke and must find a way to survive it or your time in this hidden land will be short.
Speaking of crafting, it’s literally one of my favorite things to have in games these days. It’s all well and good to pick up items you can just use immediately, like snagging an exotic weapon in Destiny, but I really love it when a game leaves it up to the player to collect items, in this case flora, fauna, and fallen enemy body parts. Then finding recipes allows for creating new and useful items for use on your adventure, which is way more satisfying. Some items you pick up have a shelf life; so many of them just disappear if you don’t use them. In some cases, you can replant them for later use.
The non-playable characters are an interesting bunch. They are fun to meet and more fun to judge based on how they treat Sachi. Some are eager to help you and further your quest; others seem to be in that ‘not so much helping but more like hurting’ category of involvement. Those characters are the ones you’d like to end the second you meet them. You’d think they’d be nicer to her. After all, she had to sacrifice her first-born child and the reasons for this sacrifice seem to make sense to her, but at the same time there’s some mystery surrounding the offering. There was another issue for her too; she named her child even though she was not supposed to do so. We all know that as soon as you name something you become more attached to it. It takes on a persona with you and a connection is made that is not easily explained. The first thing you have her do is go to her home, grab her child, and lay it on the sacrificial table. Then… it’s over. You are told not to linger and pushed right back into your life. So depressing.
The graphics are beautifully drawn. Many of the landscapes feel very creepy. I’m not sure what the dark matter is surrounding the walkable area, but it seems sticky or thick. Many of the enemies are dark and scary as well. They seem to be something you wouldn’t want to tangle with, but tangle with them Sachi does. She is driven to understand the sacrifice she made. It’s probably that mama bear syndrome heightened by the guilt of giving up her child.
The sounds and music fit the game in an extraordinary way. It really does enhance the feeling of hopelessness turned to endless possibilities like the game designers seem to want it to be. In fact, there were some sounds in the music that reminded me of Stranger Things on Netflix (shameless plug, if you haven’t seen it… see it). It just always fits the atmosphere where Sachi is. It would have been cool if her footsteps made a different noise on snow than they do in the green bogs. That may be a little nitpicky. I live in one of the colder regions of the United States; I know that cold snow crunches under your feet and green grass does not.
There are some minor flaws with the title that don’t hurt it in the overall scheme of things because the rest of the game is so good. When I’m playing on the television there are noticeable graphical hiccups as you travel. The game seems to suffer from a little slow down from time to time and it doesn’t seem to be linked to anything that’s happening on the screen apart from just going hither and thither. There are some spots where a plant is growing right next to a rock. I can’t seem to easily just pick the plant because the rock seems to overlap its detection zone.
The user interface also is slightly problematic for me. You push left on the d-pad to get to your crafting recipes. You push right on the d-pad to get to your inventory. You push up to get to your map. This doesn’t seem like an issue, but you use these same buttons to move through the interface. This means that if you want to go from your crafting menu to your inventory the only way to do it is close out of one to open the other. Like I said, minor but you do it a lot!
Another piece regarding UI is using items on something in the world. Let’s say you happen upon a chest. The chest says you need a certain key to open it. I have the key in my inventory. Instead of just opening the chest, you must go into your inventory, select a key, and then select “open chest” from a menu. How about a little context sensitive action here? The game is aware that I have the key for that chest. I know this because I have it after I save the game. So why not just unlock it?
They do allow you to mark certain items in your inventory as a favorite. Whether it’s a weapon or a tool, you can add it to this list and then you can switch between these items on the fly using your R and L buttons. I appreciated that feature the most of all the UI choices they made.
Whether you are looking for an engrossing story or a well thought out survival action-RPG, you won’t be disappointed with Smoke and Sacrifice. From the lavishly drawn environments to the interesting characters, it will entertain you on many levels. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys a good story and/or enjoys playing survival games like The Flame in the Flood. Be warned however, there are some enemies that can be very difficult. Patience young Padawan. You can do it.
Smoke and Sacrifice was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.