Salem is a sandbox crafting MMO set in 17th century New England, where players must learn the skills needed to bring civilization to the New World. An expansive crafting system and lexicon of skills are available to forge your own colony in the wilderness.
|Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Type: Crafting MMO
Release Date: June 19, 2015
PvP: Open World
Pros: +Sprawling, persistent world. +Deep crafting system. +Huge assortment of skills to learn.
Cons: -Steep learning curve. -Developer/GM abuse issues. -Cumbersome UI elements.
Salem is a sandbox MMO developed by Mortal Moments, set in 17th century New England and featuring fantastical elements like witchcraft and strange creatures. Salem heavily emphasizes crafting as players explore the eternal autumn of its world. Almost every object is interactable, from auburn leaves to grey boulders, and objects can be combined in numerous ways to create new materials. Through a huge library of skills, players build tools and equipment to start their own village in the New World. To survive players must become a honed artisan, building a character's specific skill set and working with other players. One is not alone on the frontier, and devious players can steal your life, permanently. Salem is one of the few sandbox MMOs with permanent character death if killed by another player. To stay alive, work together with fellow players to form a community and survive the elements, before plunging headfirst into the unknown of the wilderness.
Salem Key Features:
- Persistent World Altered by Player Interactions – chop down a forest and farm, or hunt animals to extinction.
- Emphasis on Crafting – create an innumerable number of items, from fishing poles and hatchets to toys and frog stew.
- Simple Client – using Java, Salem can run on nearly every modern day computer.
- Permanent PvP Death – founding a new world is dangerous when your neighbors may be murderous thieves.
- Enormous Library of Skills – choose your own path, whether it be as a farmer, hunter, fisherman, or more.
Salem Featured Video
By Sean Sullivan
Salem is an underrated MMO, designed for players who love crafting in unforgiving sandbox worlds; its depth can only be explored through example. Upon entering the game I was greeted by a horrifying grey troll, only to discover that it was me. Who gave Mortal Moments my picture? For the uninitiated, all babies start out as horrible little monsters before growing up into beautiful little people. To customize your character you talk to a man or woman locked in the troll pen with you. Honestly, I wanted to stay in my pure form—to make Plato proud—and show off my beauteous nude troll body. But the Gods of Salem are not merciful, and I settled on becoming a grisly dude, eager to mine for ore and test unfaithful women’s sorcery by drowning them.
Talking to the barber beyond the gates of my captivity I opted for a Cartesian haircut, with a brimming mustache to charm the pantaloons off the new world ladies. I named my character “Descartes,” and right-clicked my privateer to set sail for the New World. Upon disembarking I posed for a photo with the natives, but discovered I didn’t have enough silver to pay the crown. I was forced to gather Hickory nuts for Chief Lend-A-Hand to earn some coin. I pass on the tutorial in most games, but Salem creates its own rules so it's best to sit and listen to the Chief as you run through the game’s mechanics.
Navigation is simple, predominantly consisting of left-click to move and right-click to interact. Your middle mouse button can be held down to rotate the camera, and almost all interactions can be initiated by right-clicking. If you spot a silvery rock jutting upwards in a field, right-click it to start lining your bag with flint. Right-click a tree and collect pinecones to tear apart and munch on later. Almost every object in the game can be interacted with, from crimson leaves to hackberry trees. The tutorial has you gathering a variety of these objects to appease the Chief, before your debt is forgiven and you’re shipped off to Providence. After smoking a peace pipe I was ready to seize my destiny in Salem.
Exploring the Wilderness
Dropped off in the middle of nowhere I began to explore. The environments are attractive, reminiscent of Don’t Starve, but are also simple enough to run on nearly any computer. Some players may be put off by Salem's Java graphics. But I found it charming, and its distinct atmosphere is guaranteed to leave an impression—whether it be good or bad. You’ll see fall foliage with paved auburn leaves, marshlands traversed by anxious rabbits, and dense woods appropriate in a Brothers Grimm story. It’s an inviting landscape, one that evokes a fairy tale world where witch trials are common. The music is particularly good, signaling a fantastical feeling that reminds me of Fable. Sometimes xylophones play a carousel beat, or solemn string instruments set the tone of surviving alone in an expansive world. It was impossible for me to discern just how big the world is; it seems to be endless.
Exploring is not without a price; one’s health must be monitored. There are four humours, inspired by Hippocrates and other ancient Greek and Roman physicians, that must be watched to survive Salem: blood (health), phlegm (endurance), yellow bile (strength), and black bile (cunning). Black bile is the only one outside the realm of typical attributes, representing your characters’ mental properties, affected by committing crimes, studying, and more. As Descartes, I knew that black bile was to become my favorite attribute.
And then there’s gluttony, a deadly sin, but also the only way to increase your humours. Most food has two values, one indicating its healing effect and the other is its gluttony value. Gluttony value affects one your four humours if you gorge on that food. Feast on everything in site, a sinful Thanksgiving. But you can’t just eat and fill your humour. You have to enter Gluttony mode. You must be mentally prepared like a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest contestant.
While looking through my inventory for a fruit that would increase my black bile, a stealthy puma mauled Descartes, leaving him to bleed, and stunning him for eternity. You can only be permanently murdered in the game by other players. Non-player deaths result in a Looney Toons stylized stun, momentarily disabling you. I gave up on the revolutionary philosopher, and started again, equipped with the knowledge not to explore too far. And by this point I had learned what skills to priotizie.
Becoming An Artisan
Your character has various Skills he or she can learn, from Childish Things to Fishing, and those skills unlock new actions and craftable items. You can’t farm until you’ve learned to till the land. But to learn skills you have to study. And the way we study in the 17th century is by examining the natural world. So, as you wander about picking up objects, you’ll notice that some of those objects have the option “Study.” Doing so allots Inspiration points to a Proficiency. You can see a full list of your Proficiencies by pressing “Ctrl + T.” And certain Proficiencies need a certain amount of points before you can learn a skill. Yes, it sounds confusing at first, and it took me a bit to be habituated to Salem’s unorthodox approach to skills. It’s best demonstrated by example.
Let’s say I want to learn Small Game Hunting. Nothing is more offensive to my sensibility than fluffy, white rabbits. So, I’m determined to shoot them and hoard their pelts. To fulfill my dream I’ll need 500 Inspiration points in Flora & Fauna and 1300 points in Hunting & Hideworking. To get those points I need to study items that I’ve picked up on my travels. Having stripped a log, I see that Wood Choppings will allot me 50 points in Flora and 75 in Hunting. I’m going to be studying a barrel of Wood Choppings. Each time I study one Wood Chopping, I increase my inspirations points in both Flora and Hunting until I've reached the required amount to learn the skill. After which, I can highlight the skill and learn it. And as you study your Black Bile drains, so you’ll likely be forced to eat as you level to restore your humour.
Some skills require more Inspiration points in a Proficiency than you start with. Before completing the tutorial you’ll have 500 points in each proficiency. To raise that level you must max out Inspiration Points in a proficiency, then press the “+” sign next to it, to increase its capacity by 200 points. Any other proficiencies that are also maxed out when you click the “+” will be raised by 100 points. In this way you improve your skills, and make more techs available. But it also forces players to consider strategically approaching their skillset. It takes such a large investment to advance, unless you plan on being a Renaissance Man.
Settling in the New World
The point of a complex skill system is to enable you to build complex structues, right? At times Salem’s crafting can be excruciatingly frustrating, learning after hours of playing that you missed one intricate step, and now must level a new skill to craft that cabin. But it’s rewarding when you finally find the ingredients you need to construct that one item. Let’s take crafting a fishing pole as an example, something I yearned for, only to later realize how extensive dropping a line can be.
I unlocked the Fishing skill early on; it only requires minimal proficiencies and I thought it would be a good way to collect food, learn to cook, etc. So, to craft a Fishing Rod you need 4 branches, 1 flint, and 2 fibre materials. Where am I going to get fibre? Thanks to the Wiki I discovered that cooking Milkweed Roots in a Fireplace gives you Milkweed Jute, that must be washed off by water before it's usable (a nice added step). So, I constructed my Fishing Rod after dusting off my new fibre, but oh wait now I need to construct a lure. Well, to make a fish hook you need to have researched Blacksmithing. But, before you unlock Blacksmithing you have to have unlocked Coaling, requiring 2950 proficiency in Sparks & Embers. And that doesn’t go to mention the housewife-grocery list of items needed to complete each step along the way. I wasn’t going to be fishing for quite a while.
It should be obvious that Salem is not for players seeking instant gratification. You will slowly build up your lexicon of craftable items and skills, and discover a sense of satisfaction from your dedication and persistence. It's a game that requires patient discovery and attention. Only the most hardcore of survivors can endure the pilgrimage.
As I traveled, staying close to the water to pursue fishing (at some point), I eventually came across an encampment, seemingly abandoned. If only I had been more familiar with the game’s rules, I would have stayed far away. Attempting to steal any player-owned item gives you a debuff called “Crime,” and it is brutal. For a long period of time—there is no timer to indicate a countdown—your character’s black bile regeneration and phlegm regen is cut off, so you can’t train proficiencies or build a campfire (or anything for that matter). You're stuck, tagged as a criminal, like a 1960's Catholic student wearing a dunce cap.
I did not experience PvP. Hours of investment are needed before you're anywhere near ready to ponder raiding another player's base, and from what I understand it's near impossible without a group. As far as what type of PvP systems are in the game: you can duel other players or attack their town. But to commit crimes you have to have Crimes turned on, from the adventure menu. A feature I like is that crimes leave scents, that can be detected if a player has learned Tracking. Little exclamation points pop up above the spot of a crime, allowing players to pursue the criminal. But pursuing New World deviants requires a large skill-set and a deep understanding of the game's various mechanics. Unless you’re particularly cunning, building a defense will be your primary outlook for quite a while.
Final Verdict – Great
Salem is the answer to players who desire a hardcore survival game that holds crafting central to its gameplay. It is not for players looking for a solely PvP experience. Within Salem is the feeling of accomplishment, of dedicating yourself to completing a project, whittling away at each step. As you transform the environment around you, slowly but surely, you become overwhelmed with a sense of satisfaction. If you play survival games to craft in a persistent world then pick up Salem to start your own colony.
Salem System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Celeron E1500 Dual-Core 2.2GHz or Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4800+
Video Card: GeForce GT 330 or Radeon HD 6530D
RAM: 2 GB
Hard Disk Space: 3 GB
Salem is a Java-based MMO and will run smoothly on practically any PC.
Salem Music & Soundtrack
Salem Additional Information
Developer(s): Mortal Moments
Publisher(s): Paradox Interactive (2011-2013); Mortal Moments (2013-present)
Lead Developer(s): John Carver
Community Manager(s): Totaly Meow
Creative Director(s): Marp Tarpton
Assistant Artist(s): Elbert Lim, Alexandra Menshikova
Assistant Sound Technician(s): Arthur Reeves
Voice Actor(s): Chris Sharpes
Game Engine: Java
Platform(s): PC, Mac OS
Release Date: June 19, 2015
Development History / Background:
Salem is developed by indie video game development studio Mortal Moments. The game was originally announced in January 2011, under a two-man development team called Seatribe—Björn Johannessen, Fredrick Tolf—with Paradox Interactive acting as publisher. Seatribe previously worked on mythological survival game Haven & Hearth, but shifted their resources to Salem. On July 8, 2013, Paradox Interactive stopped supporting the title. But the game has remained in production under Mortal Moments, and released on June 19, 2015. Salem drew widespread attention due to its permanent death game mechanic in an MMO sandbox world.