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The Salt Mines is an online multiplayer mode that is accessed via the Pixel Lobby. It was introduced with the game when it launched in Early Access in February 2018, and would go on to receive significant design updates and relauncing as "Salt Mines 2.0" in Early Access Patch #18 (September 11, 2019).
The lobby room for the Salt Mines is in a hidden location in every Pixel Lobby:
- In Pummelin’ Plains, the entrance is hidden behind the waterfall. Players must jump in the river to access it, and then walk up into the waterfall.
- In The City of Reine, the entrance is hidden behind the derelict shop left of the Hat Shop.
- In A Dreary Place, the entrance is hidden in the hole near the center of the lobby. Players must jump down the hole to access it.
Inside the Salt Mine lobby room, a gate guards the entrance to the mines proper. If there are no players currently in the mines, any player can open the gate. Once the gates are open, players will have 25 seconds to enter the gate before the salt mine run starts.
Once the run starts, any player outside that wants to access the mines must pay Salt to gain access. The salt cost to enter the mines increases as the timer goes down and the difficulty level goes up. Once the second phase of the mine runs starts, the gates will close, and can only be opened again once the run is finished. Players in the mines can leave at any time through the main menu. If all players are eliminated from the mines, the run will end.
The player will not be able to change their character once they enter the Salt Mines; who they play as is determined by which character they are currently using as their avatar.
The first phase of the Salt Mines lasts 15 minutes. In the elapsed time, players can mine for salt, open chests, and battle predators. The Final Showdown phase begins once the 15 minutes have elapsed. Whichever player has the most salt on hand will transform into a bear, and must chase down and defeat the other players, while the rest of the players must either outlive the bear or beat them in battle. If there is only one player surviving at the end of phase 1, the run will end without moving on to the Final Showdown.
The mines have ten levels of difficulty, each which determine how the predators behave in battle, how much salt is yielded through fighting and mining, and how bright or dark the mines are lit. Defeating predators is required to raise the difficulty level. When a difficulty transition happens, it's signified by the sound of a wolf howling, followed by the room flashing black. In each transition, the amount of salt, chests, and predators will reset. The background music becomes more intense after every two levels.
The levels are named:
- Level 1: Feelin' Fine
- Level 2: Almost Anxious
- Level 3: Slightly Spookified
- Level 4: Getting Ghostly
- Level 5: Halfway Haunted
- Level 6: Quite Quiversome
- Level 7: Tremendously Terrifying
- Level 8: Notably Nightmarish
- Level 9: OHGODMAKEITSTOP
- Level 10: AAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Salt is found in nodes and mine carts throughout the mines, and players can mine it by pressing the Heavy attack button (keyboard default D). Mining produces a loud noise that may attract nearby predators; the larger salt node that's mined, the louder the noise. At random, a salt node of any size may suddenly rupture much more salt than expected (making a louder noise), or reveal a chest. Salt nodes also have a small chance of restoring health.
Predators are located throughout the mines, and must be defeated to move to the next difficulty stage and earn more salt. The complexity of their battle AI and their total amount of health is determined by the current difficulty level.
Predators have three distinct behaviors. Sleeping predators will not attack, and can only be provoked by waking it up, either by standing too close or by mining too close. Scouting predators will have a purple glow on the floor beneath them, and they will wander around the room looking for a player to fight. Attacking predators have a red glow beneath them, and a sound effect will play to warn that it's chasing a target. Predators will also teleport between rooms to maintain a presence among the players.
Occasionally, Fluffles the wolf will not chase the player, and instead howl and summon Phantoms before disappearing. Phantoms resemble the six player characters but with unique skins, and have higher health and more complex AI than the other predators. They will not fall asleep, and their spawning may sometimes prevent players from leaving the room.
Chests are scattered throughout every room of the mines, and each one costs Salt to open. Chests are opened by pressing the Magic button (keyboard default Z). Chests are typically on the floor, but sometimes may be hidden in salt nodes. There are three major varieties of chests:
- Health Chest: Restores some of the players health. Costs 100 Salt.
- Dynamite Chest: Gives the player one stick of dynamite. Costs 60 Salt.
- Treasure Chest: Gives the player either a hat, a mask, or an accessory. Costs vary based on raririty (200, 400, or up to 800).
Health and Dynamite Chests open immediately, while Treasure Chests require a countdown. During the Final Showdown, Treasure Chests will stop spawning entirely, while Health and Dynamite chests become significantly more rare.
If a Treasure Chest has spawned in a room, an indicator will appear on any entrance leading into the room, and a sound effect will play upon entering it. Once a player has begun to open a Treasure Chest, a ten-second countdown will appear before it opens. When a player successfully opens a Treasure Chest, a message will display on screen for every player in the Salt Mines. If the item produced is one already in the player's inventory, it will return all of the Salt spent, as well as gift extra salt (a total of 300, 600, or 1200, depending on which Treasure Chest was opened). If the player was being pursued by a predator before attempting to open a Treasure Chest, the predator will disappear.
During the countdown, if another player with enough salt to open the same chest appears, they may approach and contest for the chest. The two players will then play a single-round fight. Both players will earn an item after the fight is complete, and the winner of the fight will get an item of rarer value than the loser. In the last ninety seconds of the first run, all Treasure Chest will no longer be able to be contested, allowing players to open them immediately.
Dynamite is used by pressing the Light Attack button (keyboard default A). Once thrown, dynamite will travel in a straight line based on the player's last line of movement, and explode after one second. Every player will receive one stick of dynamite at the beginning of their run, and additional dynamite can be obtained from chests.
Dynamite explosions have a small blast radius that will kill all predators within it, instantly mine salt nodes, and stun other players. Stunned players will lie on the ground for several seconds, leaving them vulnerable to predators.
If the round successfully ends after 15 minutes with more than one player still in the mines, the Final Showdown phase will begin. The salt multiplier will stay at whatever percentage it last was until the game ends. The mines will become brightly lit, all predators will disappear, and the players will have thirty seconds to mine salt and open chests. After thirty seconds, whichever player has the most salt on hand will transform into the bear, wearing whatever hat the player was wearing. Health from all players (including the bear) will start to slowly bleed out.
When playing as the bear, the rooms will be uniformly lit with a red hue, and the player will no longer be able to mine salt or throw dynamite. In order to win, the player must navigate the mines and defeat other players. The bear will roar when it spawns, roar each time it defeats a player, and makes loud stomping noises when moving. If a player is in another room, an indicator (a doughnut) will appear on entrances to that room. For each player defeated, the bear will regain health and earn salt.
When not playing as the bear, all of the rooms will become pitch black, with the only a small ring of light around each player. The objective is to either survive the bear long enough for it to bleed out of health, or to defeat it in battle. Players can mine salt, and salt nodes may spawn Health or Dynamite chests. Each time a player is defeated or withers away, a message will be shown to all of the other players. The game ends once all of the players are defeated, or if the bear is defeated.
Once a player has been eliminated from the Salt Mines, a scorecard will appear showing how many predators the player had defeated, how much Salt they mined, how many chests they opened, and the either how much damage they did to the bear, or how many players the bear had beaten. The top of the scorecard will show what character the player was using, how high the difficulty had become, how long the player survived, and what beat them (if applicable). The bottom of the scorecard will show what cosmetics had been earned, if any.
There are also seven possible bonuses that can be earned, which yield additional salt. The bonuses are as follows:
- From the Beginning: Enter the Salt Mines during the setup phase. Adds 200 Salt.
- Taste for Salt: Mine a significant amount of Salt. Adds 400 Salt.
- Reverse Hunter: Fight a significant number of predators. Adds 600 Salt.
- Final Showdown: Survive into the Final Showdown. Adds 300 Salt.
- Bear Slayer: Defeat the bear in the Final Showdown: Adds 800 Salt.
- I AM BECOME BEAR: Transform into the bear during the Final Showdown. Adds 500 Salt.
- Apex Predator: Defeat all of the other players as the Bear. Adds 600 Salt.
- During Halloween, the chests are replaced by pumpkins, and all of the predators will wear a random Halloween hat.