Impressions of SanctuaryRPG – A turn-based ASCII RPG from Black Shell Games
In a recent wander-about over on itch.io, I came across SanctuaryRPG from Black Shell Games. First thing worth noting: It is free. Mind you, I paid for it, but you don’t have to. I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded up the game (except for a text-based RPG of some sort), but I have enjoyed my time with SanctuaryRPG so far, for sure. According to the web site, “SanctuaryRPG is a critically acclaimed strategic turn-based monster slaying and dungeon crawling adventure set entirely in the retro ASCII-art world of Sanctuary” that draws “inspiration from both modern roguelikes and traditional Japanese RPGs.” I can certainly see both influences. You can play the game without permadeath but, first, that would make you a bad person and, second, I don’t know how that goes because I haven’t tried it yet. So there’s the roguelike aspect: Death is either permanent or, at least, very punishing. There are also the occasional random event wherein absurd events may end up healing, hurting or leading to treasure. I’ve made it to level 20 with my current character as of this writing with about an hour into this character (my previous best was level 11) and you always need to be paying attention. I have a tendency to move too fast, having learned how to use my combos and feeling reasonably good about my health. Not paying attention leads to death in SanctuaryRPG. Fast. In combat, you have several different attacks to choose from each of which combos into other attacks. As you attack you work towards building your Ultimate attack, which you can use to destroy your foes even more quickly. The combat very much plays out like a turn-based JRPG: You make your selection from the menu and the enemies attach you simultaneously. You have to watch out for status effects, taking time to heal or break free of an Ensnare effect or, again, your character just won’t last long. I tend to play the combat fast, like I’m under a timer, but that’s not a requirement. In fact, events (like the ability to grapple) may occur during combat as well if you are paying attention. The ASCII art is great, too, and conveys a world that feels surprisingly alive (if silly and obsessed with potatoes – Seriously, this is a goofy game) for something made of text characters. I actually tend to forget that the game is just ASCII art, anyway. There’s a lot to do (so far, I can run a tavern, craft new equipment and do coliseum fights) and there’s never any waiting around since a new area or new equipment or whatever is usually only a couple of button pushes away. It also reminds me quite a lot of my days playing MUDs, which is nice, as well, since that gives me the warm fuzzy nostalgias. Still, even if you don’t have that experience, SanctuaryRPG is quite a lot of fun so long as you can get past the fact that it doesn’t have graphics not, you know, made of text.