One of my first Lovecraft stories is “The Rats in the Walls,” a tale of how their incessant scurrying and scratching of rats have given the protagonist many sleepless nights. To the poor man’s horror, he discovered that right beneath his ancestral estate was a city his ancestors maintained for centuries, breeding “human cattle” to feed their cannibalistic urges. The entire place was eventually overrun by rats with a taste for human flesh, with surviving residents quickly devoured. This terrible twist both consumed and terrified me, filling my dreams with haunting thoughts of being eaten alive in the coldest of crypts.
But what if there’s an opportunity to turn the tables in these nightmares, and inherit the macabre powers of eldritch abominations instead? Perhaps I would plunder cities with carnivorous rats and poisonous centipedes, striking fear into the hearts of humans. That’s the main conceit of Sea Salt, an action strategy game that lets me become a calamitous force of evil. This comes in the form of an Old God known as Dagon; as the “Eldritch force of the sea”, I could conjure up plagues with just a wave of my hand.
There’s a twisted sense of gratification to be had when setting your horde of pestilence on hapless villagers, with Sea Salt’s pixel art capturing the dreadfully dismal atmosphere in these dilapidated towns. But this setup isn’t entirely unfamiliar; the action RPG Overlord, for instance, puts you in the position of a dark lord, as you also shepherd an army of gremlin-like creatures towards your enemies, mowing down anything that stands in your path. The dark lord’s malevolent nature, however, is suspect, and you can gradually mold him into an anti-hero of sorts if you decide not to carry out wanton slaughters of innocent folks.
On the other hand, Dagon from Sea Salt is incomprehensibly malicious, as it coldly commands its critters to viciously gnaw on their victims until they explode into a red, viscous puddle. It’s clear the game wants these moments to be relished as well—which, I presume, is also a reflection of Dagon’s perverse enjoyment of these massacres—as it accentuates every kill with a sickening but satisfying crunch.
To Lovecraft fans, the unspeakable horror of the Old Gods is already common knowledge, their motives so unknowable and unthinkable that any attempts to understand them would surely lead to insanity. You’re not even granted the satisfaction of putting a face to this monstrosity in Sea Salt, only catching a glimpse of Dagon’s ghastly blue hand impatiently tapping on an armrest during the title screen. But again, why would you want to? After all, what can’t be seen is often more terrifying. Discover the extent of your unhallowed powers in the Sea Salt demo over at its Kickstarter campaign.