Salt and Sanctuary
Salt & Sanctuary is a 2D action game heavily influenced by the Dark Souls series, featuring weighty combat, stamina meter, dodge roll with invulnerability frame, fall damage, respawn system and dark atmosphere.
What I enjoy most: Mastering and conquering each enemy, boss and terrain - one zone at a time
You can create your own character and choose your starting class. Each class has its starting stats and equipment; some also starts with healing or offensive spells. Regardless of your choice, you will start the game on board a boat that is assaulted by a giant sea monster. Once you defeated it (or it you), you arrived at an island world, with beaches, towns, towers, caverns and castles for you to explore - all filled with enemies and monsters, with a few friendly NPC scattered throughout.
Sanctuary refers to resting places located throughout the world. Some of these are dedicated to a specific religion at the start of the game; others are empty and can be claimed by the player. Each religion offers its own perk and compliments a particular playstyle.
All claimed sanctuaries allow the player to rest, refill the standard healing item (a la estus flask), level up using salt (i.e. experience point, a la souls), and allocate points on the skill tree. Unlike dark souls, skill points are not restricted to stats, but can also be spent on specific equipment type or other abilities (e.g. boosting the standard healing item).
Each sanctuary can also be populated by up to 4 standard NPC/vendor, which provide various goods and services, as well as a slight boost to different aspects of the zone.
Combat & Equipment
One drawback of the skill tree is that it forces you to specialise in a certain type of equipment. Because the player is expected to put skill points into specific equipment type, there is less room (or a much higher cost) of switching to other equipment types - even if you happen to find a cool weapon or you just want to try something new for fun.
On the other hand, the combat itself is very similar to dark souls, where you can dodge roll (making use of the i-frames), block or parry while finding the perfect time to attack. In general, even low level mobs can kill you in a few hits if you are not careful; but one of the joy of Salt & Sancutary (as in Dark Souls games) is trying to master each enemy in each situation -- to the point that each enemy, no matter how frightening and overpower it first appeared, can be easily dispatched without breaking a sweat.
Movement and Exploration
Without any automap, exploration can be a chore, but it does convey a sense of lost. Like Dark Souls game, there are many shortcuts to unlock, which give easier access to players who got to know the world better. The verticality of the game is more Castlevania than Dark Souls, but having fall damage means many death from falling... at least for me. And when your character dies, you respawn at the sanctuary you last rested at, minus all the salt you collected. In order to reacquire them, you need to go to the place you died and kill a particular enemy there.
Like in the Dark Souls games, many places are gated by bosses; but there are also movement abilities like wall jump and reverse-gravity that open up places to go. When one revisits places armed with new movement abilities, it does feel like a metroidvania. And the layout of the world is such that you do revisit many places throughout the game, and you might be able to feel that you are finally the master of the world (even if there are still enemies everywhere) - which to me is one of the core feeling I look for in a metroidvania.
Salt & Sanctuary is probably more Dark Souls than Metroidvania - but of course it is both. If you have not played any Dark Souls games, the fall damage, the respawn system and the lack of automap definitely take some getting used to. But if you can accept them as they are, and you are not the kind of person who always need to 100% the map of any metroidvania (because there is no way for you to verify that in game), you can definitely enjoy it purely as a Metroidvania.
List of metroidvania elements
Name of game: Salt and Sanctuary
Developer / Publisher: Ska Studios
System: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, and Nintendo Switch
Year of publication: 2016
Style of combat: Melee & Ranged (Souls-like)
Use of magic: Yes
Combat-focus versus Platform-focus: Combat-focus
Death mechanics: Respawn (Souls-like)
(Fall damage): Yes
Levelling / Farming for XP: Yes
Farming for Gold / Item: Yes
Skill pick-up: Yes
(Stats allocation): Yes
Gated by movement abilities: Yes
Gated by bosses: Yes
Type of world map: Single map
World generation: Fixed map