SanctuaryRPG is a game about numbers… and letters, and symbols. As a matter of fact, all of these elements are used to convey more to the player than just stats and actions, even the game art is comprised of keyboard characters. This makes for a unique game in 2014 but, perhaps, vaguely familiar to those who have been PC gaming for 30 years or more. Also, for those of you who haven’t been PC gaming for 30 years or more, this art style is called ASCII.
What you’ll find on-tap with SanctuaryRPG is a fantasy, role-playing, roguelike that features turn-based, menu-driven combat and a Mad Libs-esque story. The most surprising element that I listed is the former. When you start your story the game gives you a brief background to your character which seems to be random. It will always tell you your character’s name, class, origin, and various other facts like how your character was born, raised, and what their biggest regret was. For example: my ranger, Brunhilda, was born with a bag over her head, raised by a giant, and her biggest regret was being impaled by a frozen fudge-covered banana. Thus, the game begins.
There are three campaign types in the game: Classic (featuring permadeath, for those of you who like buying new keyboards), Softcore (featuring -20% item drop rate, for those of you who like running around naked), and Survival which, I assume, is an arena-style system that tracks how many stages you can clear. Being the hardcore individual that I am, I chose Classic. After clearing the tutorial battle, I was confronted with a random encounter and slaughtered. That was the end of Brunhilda.
The game promptly informed me that I had failed with a rather lovely depiction of Death wielding a scythe in the game’s quaint ASCII-style graphics.
Once I returned to the main menu, I decided that I was far too careless with Brunhilda the ranger, so I decided to try once more with a barbarian named Samuel. Once more, I was greeted with the character background.
This time, I decided to actually pay attention to the battles rather than click through the available actions. SanctuaryRPG throws a ton of information your way during battle and, afterwards, during the level-up section. Perhaps being an active participant in the hold-your-hand-style of modern games has given me a little bit of ADHD, but I feel like the amount of information thrown at the player (while important, at times) is a little much. For example, in the battle menu, you are given four actions. The first three are typically attacks and the fourth is to heal. There are effects listed after the attacks such as “No MP” and “50% ATK”. I was able to figure this out, sort of, but I still never really understood what my attack was going to do until I executed it.
One thing that you’ll notice is that some attacks are labeled “Starter”, the second round there are “Linker” and “Reposition”, and then “Finisher”. Essentially, there are attack strings that you can build-up for increased damage. I think that this is a pretty cool feature that made combat more interesting. You have the option to continue your attack string, reposition to avoid a charging enemy, or heal yourself. It creates a more strategic element to the game.
SanctuaryRPG isn’t all about its combat, though, and the game seems like it could weave an interesting story. In the few hours that I was able to invest (that is: hours invested without dying) I destroyed The Terminal, met a busty bar wench, tried to save a village from a bandit attack, given a quest to kill the busty bar wench by a shadowy figure, killed said busty wench, assumed control of her tavern, restocked beer, sold said beer, and participated in my other humorous and interesting tasks. The character injected into SanctuaryRPG by its creators is apparent in the first few screens and throughout the time that I spent with the game.
As I mentioned earlier, I was only able to put a few hours into advancing a playthrough. That being said, I am interested in spending more time in the world of SanctuaryRPG if for no other reason than to continue the unquestionably ridiculous story that will unfold. The battle system, while overwhelming at first… and for a little while after, is enticing enough to hold my interest, even if my wits have been dulled by “modernized” games.