Indie

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition Review

SanctuaryRPG, already successful, gets a huge makeover in this expansive Black Edition.

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition for PC

With so much buzz around “retro” games lately, it’s tough to know which ones get it right and which ones fall short. Taking the idea to the extreme, SanctuaryRPG released in April 2014 to a good reception. Entirely rendered in text and ASCII art, this charming and difficult adventure RPG won the hearts of the internet with its slick design, minimalist appeal, and depth. Building on this critical success, Black Shell Games has brought the much-improved SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition to Steam, rounding out an already-impressive title with an avalanche of new content. What brought the success of the first release, and how does this new take on the formula stand up nearly a year after the initial release? 


SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition is a first-person roguelike RPG. Filled with a ton of quests, enemies, and loot, the amount of content packed into this stripped-down package is pretty staggering. Players will begin their journey by creating a character from one of six available Classes — Barbarian, Paladin, Assassin, Wizard, Druid, and Ranger — as well as selecting a region and racial origin. Three regions, each comprised of three unique races with their own benefits and drawbacks, are available from the get-go, and further regions/races are unlocked by completing chapters during play. The final steps to fleshing out a character are selecting an ASCII-art portrait and choosing your difficulty; both Classic and Lunatic offer permanent-death challenges, while Softcore mode eases the blow in exchange for a 20% reduction in item drops.

SanctuaryRPG Black Edition Blue Slime

The first enemy you’ll encounter on any journey, this Blue Slime serves as a battle tutorial and good scrap for trying out a new race or class option.

I made a point of trying out each class SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition has to offer, as well as a broad variety of available races. While play is generally similar from one combination to the next, there’s enough variation that you’ll want to play around to find something that suits you. As a majority of the game is spent in combat, finding the battle style that suits you is key. Combat consists of chaining together attacks, repositioning to gain an advantage over your foe, and making use of powerful Ultimate attacks and Heal abilities to keep yourself in the fight. Additional skills, such as the protective Barrier or damage-returning Riposte, become available at later levels.

SanctuaryRPG Black Edition Chest Selection

Along the way, players may find chests containing powerful (or not-so-powerful) loot, crafting supplies, and more.

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition is about more than just fighting, though. A unique crafting system in which players must monitor heat, durability, and quality in order to create new armor, charms, and more. Players are also able to run and invest money in a tavern, build up their home, visit the local blacksmith, temple, and library, and fight in an arena for glory and gold. Procedural dungeons, available at random intervals through the arena, present higher-than-normal challenges and phenomenal payout for those able to best them, and the story unfurls as your chosen champion hacks, slashes, or spellcasts their way through numerous areas in pursuit of the evil Matron.

SanctuaryRPG Black Edition Enemy Approaching

The ASCII art is undoubtedly crude compared to nearly any graphics-focused game, but for what it is, the detail and design is pretty excellent.

In addition to raising stats and using skill points gained by leveling up, players will find a torrent of stat-boosting armors, charms, weapons, and shields to increase their hero’s abilities. Class and racial bonuses stack into this, as well; for instance, a light-armor clad Assassin gains massive bonuses to defense and dodge, as well as dealing additional damage after a reposition action. Combined with, say, the Flammkin race’s natural ability to Burn an enemy on reposition, you can put together some pretty devastating combinations if you’re mindful along the way and have a bit of luck with the loot. Keeping an eye on the perks you’re getting from each of these sources, players can create some truly potent protagonists, cutting through fields of foes without breaking a sweat. With permanent-death looming, though, it’s important to be mindful of the flow of battle.

SanctuaryRPG Legendary Sword

High-stat weapons and armor can turn even the weakest of player characters into a serious murder machine rapidly.

All told, despite some initial misgivings on my first impression, SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, addicting games I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing lately. While the simple look and chiptune soundtrack may make players think that there’s not much to this title, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The sheer number of story quests, side missions, and loot, combined with a vast variety of character possibilities, establish far more than enough content to justify the $7.99 price on Steam and GOG.com. Players of the original SanctuaryRPG will find all-new scripts, tons of new areas, and more fresh or redesigned content than they can shake a stick at. Honestly, this is one I can’t help but recommend to anyone — if you’re into zany, deeply-detailed, or minimalistic RPGs, do yourself a favor and buy SanctuaryRPG right now via one of those links.

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