“Your name is Lorphio. You are a Barbarian, of Goern descent. You were born a very old monk. You named yourself The Great One. Raised by an anteater, you became a god among women in bed. You’ve always regretted kissing that singing fish. One to enjoy the dark arts, you tend to stub your toe a lot. Today you found out that were adopted… a dark cloud passes overhead. You close your eyes. Out of nowhere, a woman jumps out at you and claws your left toe. Unsure of her intentions, you loudly scream ‘RAPE’ just in case. This is your story.” This is one of the randomly generated character bios I was given when I played Sanctuary RPG Black Edition. In addition to alleviating the monotony of restarting the game as a new character after the untimely demise of the previous character, these biographies are also fun to post on friends’ social media pages with no context whatsoever. SanctuaryRPG is a roguelike adventure game with ASCII graphics. A good portion of the games I have recently played on Steam have had a retro feel to them, and this game definitely tops all of them in this regard. The music sounds like the same MIDI player that was used in the NES days. All game play is done by typing the corresponding key with the action you want and then pressing enter. Basically, if you went to grade school in the Paleozoic era like I did, this game will remind you of the computer programs that were the height of technology at the time. But regardless of your level of nostalgia for the 1980’s, this game is worth playing.
You choose your character class among the usual assortment of character types you would find in a fantasy game and you can choose your gender, male, female, or other. The story begins with you learning about some great evil demon known as the Matron and your assistance is being asked in dispelling it. You then set off in your adventure, meeting people who give you items and assign quests as well as battling monsters and rogues. As the biography I opened the review with hints at, the game has a sense of humor about itself. Absurd biographies and slight variations in NPC dialog with new characters help keep the experience fresh, along with random encounters and randomized items as quest rewards or shop items. The game also has a mild potato fetish. Potatoes show up in random dialog and combat quite frequently. Oftentimes rotting. One bio mentioned that an hour ago I defecated on a potato. This is likely some mysterious inside joke among the programmers, but even without fully understanding the potato fascination, it does fit the game’s silly tone. This game’s default difficulty has permadeath, so in the process of playing it for this review I went through quite a few different characters. There is a softcore option where death is simply an inconvenience and allows you to respawn, which is a nice feature if you get tired of starting from scratch every time you die.
This game has a fairly deep turn based combat system in which you string together attack combos. Using keys 1-4 you choose your starting move, then input linking moves and finally the finishing move. Each move in a combo has a bonus or cost to HP, MP, or attack power. You might not always be able to finish a combo because you need to use a turn to heal yourself or reposition yourself. Some enemies can give you certain status ailments that put you at a disadvantage. Exposure, for example, increases the amount of damage you take, and spending a turn to reposition will get rid of the exposure status. You can also build up super powered special attacks. Unfortunately, some enemies can also do this and make things go badly for you pretty quickly. You are given a fair amount of freedom in character customization. When you level up you are given points to distribute to attributes you want to increase as well as weapon mastery points. I usually saved the weapon points until I upgraded my weapon and then put the mastery points into whatever type of weapon I had. Overall, SanctuaryRPG is a solid game. The format it is using is very old fashioned, I enjoyed it as I have fond memories of some ASCII games on a local BBS a long time ago like Hack and Slash but I see how it may be a deterrent to some gamers. However, getting past the retro presentation, the dialog, story, and combat are engaging enough where you can find an enjoyable experience.