I'm a huge fan of clerics in fantasy games, from the concept, the aesthetic, the rp posibilities and the range of combat posibilities open to them. Unfortunately, they tend to be less the holy warriors I'd imagine and more like a mediocre Monk with some minor healing spells. So imagine my surprise to find the Cleric class in Salt And Sanctuary to not only be able to hold it's own through the game, but is actually incredibly fun and powerful to play. This build is basically based on my first character I created (and still the easiest time I've had with the game!)
Starting Class: Cleric (Obviously, though the Paladin could easily fit a Heavy Armour version of this build - I simply prefer the mobility of light armour)
Starting Creed: Devara's Light (When hitting the beach following the Boat, answer no to the Stranger's question when he asks if you are a follower of the New Gods - he will then ask if you are a follower of Devara instead)
Origin: This is completely cosmetic and effects nothing in the game, however for this build I prefer Jonas' Landing or Kulka'as just for the White Forehead Sigil. It looks rather cool for a cleric :P
Starting Effect: Crystal Sphere or Amber Idol. Neither are required as both can be found in the game world before they would be needed for use, so it is mostly up to you. I went Idol, though.
Skill Progression: Class 2 Cleric > Class 1 Pikeman > Class 3 Light Armor > Class 3 Pikeman > Class 5 Cleric
Warning! Reading past here will contain spoilers!
A Little Bit on the Unspeakable Deep
I highly recommended beating the Unspeakable Deep in the game's opening, for both the quick salt boost (You should hit level 12 by the time you light your first Sanctuary) and the items he drops which are useful for item leveling later in the game. It might seem daunting at first, but it is actually surprisingly easy and doable once you know how. Youtube has plenty of videos of how to do it, but the basic gist is:
Once you have killed the bandits attacking the boat, strip your characters armour, leaving them armed souly with the starting dagger (or the mace if you're feeling lucky). The reason is, in this coming fight, the armour wont protect you, with a single hit easily killing you. Rather you want mobility and stanima.
The Unspeakable Deep only has 2 attack types, both of which are highly telegraphed, and both of which are tackled with basically the same tactic.
The First Attack Type has the Deep rising on it's legs, before slamming it's fist down into the deck, spawning a shock wave that travels a short distance in both directions.
The Second Attack Type has the Deep crouching before pouncing forward (similar to a cat) causing again a shockwave in it's vicinity.
Both of these Attacks are often repeated, there is no particular pattern to their variation.
In both cases, once the telegraphed section begins (the standing, or the crouching) simply roll behind the beast. So long as you are fully behind the Deep's model, you are safe, giving you a chance to get 2 strikes in.
It is possible to get more in, though I wouldn't recommend it, unless you're feeling particularly confident, as the Deep can launch into the Standing Slam animation very quickly, and his shockwave can often hit you if you're stuck in your attack animation too long.
It is also possible to get two hits in on his face during the Crouch-Pounch period. However this, and particularly any more attacks, isn't recommended as his pounce can sometimes hit you as you try to roll away - you want to be behind him soon as possible.
It is also possible to stun the Deep out of animations, but again he recovers quick, which is why careful, limited attacks - preferably 2- are most recommended, so you are ready to roll away to safety at any moment.
The most daunting aspect of the fight is how long it takes, and how easily it can screw up, but if you are patient, it can become almost instictive (to the point every character I have made since has killed the Deep)
You only get one shot, but given how easy and quick the character creation is, I recommend simply remaking your character and having another go til you get the flow of the battle.
Just stay calm, be patient, don't get cocky, and you'll do fine!
Say Your Prayers
Your first goal is to get to Cleric Rank 2 and access to a Stone Cleric to gain access to the Blessed Weapons Prayer, which will be your best friend for a long time. It will cost you 5 Black Pearls in total, which you should already have if you killed the Unspeakable Deep. If not, 5 levels are easy this early in the game. The first Stone Cleric you can find is outside on the battlements sticking out of the Festering Banquet so it's equally easy to get to. Once done, and the Blessed Weapons prayer has been bought, your general habit should be to pop this spell before any difficult looking fights, and enjoy tearing through your enemies with Holy Fury. There is also an improved Rank 4 version called Divine Blessed Weapons which is even better, though by the time you can realistically buy it/found it in the game, you're close to getting the Purifier, at which point I am unsure how useful it will be for at least your main weapon (I have yet to hear whether the buff stacks with weapons already flagged with holy damage, so for now I am assuming it doesn't, at least until someone tells us otherwise!)
All the prayers have some worth though here are the others I find most useful:
Guardian Blade: This Rank 5 Spell is probably THE reason to go the Cleric route. It summons a large glowing supernatural blade that follows you, attacking anything you attack. This prayer has an insane lasting time, and has a beautiful habit of stun locking and interupting enemy attack animations. I can't count how many times this baby has saved my skin in a boss fight. Pop it whenever going into battle and enjoy.
Divine Armour/Etheral Intervention: Rank 1/Rank 3 spells, useful for any enemy you find particularly crushing you a little too quickly with either overwhelming physical or magical attacks. Etheral Intervention was particularly a God Send during the optional Murdiella Mal fight.
A little note about the Healing Prayers Mend/Spirited Mend/Rejuvination. You'd think they'd be the centre appeal of the cleric route, and whilst useful in early game when the number of healing objects are limited, they actually become redundant quickly, for reasons I'm about to go into. They have their place, especially as a last ditch option, but other than that, they aren't as useful as you'd think.
You Gotta Focus
Focus is the primary stat for the Cleric. It's your energy bar for your spells, and once it is used up, you won't be able to cast again until you've reenergized via either visiting a sanctuary or via an item. I highly recommend throwing points into willpower whenever you can, as this will boost the amount of focus you have. This is also why the healing spells ain't all that great - they consume huge chunks of focus that could be spent on other more worth while and low cost spells, all whilst there's healing items that do the same thing.
Two big things to comment on in regards to maintaining focus:
GET THE SAPER CHARM! Anyone who has played the game will know now that the HP leech mechanics kind of suck, and aren't worth the bother. The Saper Charm, which leeches focus, is another story. The Low Cost of the Blessed Weapons/Guardian Blade/Appropriate Armour Buff prayers coupled with the Saper Charm often results in your Focus Bar refilling before the next time you need to pray again. Definitely worth it.
Ranking up in Devara's Light Creed also gives you access to a potion called the Orange Phial, which functions both as a healing potion as well as providing a slight resotration of your Focus. The gain isn't huge, but coupled with the saper charm, you should find yourself rarely low on Focus.
Clothed In The Divine Protection of Devara (But also maybe armour)
I'll fully admit that I don't fully understand how armour works in this game, and so right now I'd tell you your armour preference doesn't matter much, though I do have some recommendations.
Going Light Armour seems the best choice. You begin with Rank 1 already unlocked, it allows you to be more mobile, and a lot of the armour sets are often robed based, which is befitting a holy cleric.
Specific Recommenadation would be the Evanescent Set of Light Armour. The stats are pretty decent for light armour, the white robed look goes great with the Cleric concept and the general look of Devara's Followers, and it can be accessed relatively early, bought from The Candlelit Lady hidden below the Watching Wood. However, if you prefer an earlier set (or prehaps wish to go heavy armour) you can adjust the Light Armour Rank Progression however suits you. (I've since switched the chest piece for the Bloodbrow Curaiss which goes with the cowl head piece and robed bottoms of the Evanescent set rather nicely, giving the Cleric a more warrior look whilst still maintaining the robed holy concept)
Do Fear The Reaper
Weapon Progression is pretty simple. The starting mace is handy enough for the first two bosses and areas, though you can suplment with whatever weapon you find that you like, just be sure to stick the holy damage buff on for the big fights (The Queen of Smiles goes down like a chump against holy damage, it sure does wipe that smile off her face!)
Once you have defeated the Queen of Smiles, head onwards, towards the ladders that lead to the shortcut just under the Village of Smiles Sanctuary. Head onwards from the ladders instead, heading down into the darkness, until you come to a locked gate you can open (a bloated monstrosity is on the other side, as well as the passage to the Watching Wood as well as the path downwards to the Candlelit Lady).
In front of the gate is the Haymaker, which will be your main weapon for a good while. You could feasibly use anything else, however, seeing as this is the weapon we will be eventually transmog'ing into the Purifier, might as well get used to it. Don't forget the Square > Square + Upper Right/North East on the Left Thumb Stick to pull off the awesome bo-stick style twirl move. Be the badass holy warrior you were born to be. Stick the holy buff before fights and just got to work)
You want to aim to head to the Dome of the Forgotten as soon as possible (I believe the earliest is following the Red Hall of Cages but I could be wrong) as we need to defeat the Untouched Inquisitor (one of two bosses in the area) for the Untouched Inquistor Ashes, along with an Amber Idol, which are used to transmute your Haymaker into the Purifier. You'll also need a pretty steep 10,000 salt, which this early is still a little daunting, so a bit of farming might be in order. (You should also have found at least one Amber Idol - if not chosen as a starting affect- in the world, along with access to a alchamist. Be sure to check the wiki for their locations if you haven't.
The Purifier is a pretty awesome weapon, that looks great, hits hard, and stacks off your Wisdom skills which works in tandem with leveling your cleric skills. I used it for the rest of the game and now into New Game Plus and it still works wonderfully.
(Some people would recommend the Trinity Bardiche, a level 5 poleaxe that stacks even better off Wisdom and has an edge damage wise. Feel free to if the weapon appeals to you, though I'm not a fan)
Offhand/back up weapon is always recommended on any build, and its completely up to you. I found myself rarely finding the Purifier struggling, so I just stuck the Kaltic Razor on for appearence purposes (plus i just love the dagger animations). I'd suggest going with something that compliments the build though, such as swords, which balance nicely with the dexterity nodes whilst leveling Light Armor. In the end though, go for what feels good!
Go forth and raze your enemies with righteous fury! - DTS