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SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition (PC) artwork

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition (PC) review

"Balanced, fun, and unforgiving in a very familiar way"

Sanctuary RPG is an ASCII roguelike that does not follow the steps of Angband/ADOM/Nethack, so if that is what you are expecting you might be disappointed. The exploration is done via menu choices, rather than moving your character around a map, and so is the combat, dialogue, and pretty much everything else. The immersion is achieved, instead, through some rather stunning ASCII art, an absolutely outstanding soundtrack, and various interactions with enemies and NPCs. The game mechanics, and various menus, are complex enough to keep things interesting throughout the game, but not so much to become overwhelming; this is also achieved by new features, skills, and areas becoming gradually available as your character levels up.

If what you are missing, however, is the unforgiving nature of old roguelikes, then look no further. Sanctuary RPG looks deceptively friendly at first, with its light humour and digestible chunks of text, but the moment you get distracted or overconfident, you're dead, no mater how overpowered you felt ten seconds ago. The game is rather difficult to master, not because the underlying mechanics are complicated, but because you have to be very careful with all your decisions, just like in any old roguelike worth its salt. I have played it for over 20 hours and never managed to get past act 2. For those looking for a less frustrating experience, the game also has a softcore mode, with reduced loot drops and no permadeath.

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition (PC) image

As some reviewers have mentioned, the combat does get a bit repetitive, again, like in any old-school roguelike, and that is exactly how most of my characters meet their untimely demise: I get distracted and miss a crucial step to heal or use an ability. This is a design choice, I believe, and one I understand and accept, however much it frustrates me to lose my precious wizards to it again and again.

Some of the text could do with a spell check, but there are no major grammatical mistakes, just a couple of sentences here and there that sound a bit odd. As much as the content has grown and been improved over the last year or so, I would love to see more dialogue choices for the NPCs you meet in every adventure, as those get a bit old after a while and lack depth. I also feel that some of the randomly generated loot needs a bit of a rebalance, but that may also be a design choice to prevent characters from getting too strong too quickly.

SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition (PC) image

I think my main gripe is with the small size of the community that plays this game. It is very difficult to find guides, and even the wiki is barely there. As such, it is rather difficult to compare strategies with other players. Many players seem to abandon this game after a few hours, which I think isn't anough to fully appreciate it. And while it is fun, and in-theme with the old-school roguelike vibe (I didn't have walkthroughs for Angband back in the 90s!) to discover the game by trial and error, sometimes it also gets a bit frustrating.

All in all, however, I truly love this game. It's balanced, it's fun, and it's unforgiving in a very familiar way, while also being surprisingly innovative. If any of its elements appeal to you, you can't go wrong for that price, give it a chance. And get the soundtrack too!


-Beautiful ASCII art
-Wonderful soundtrack
-In-depthmechanics and gradual learning curve
-An old-school roguelike that is not a clone of Angband/Nethack/ADOM
-Good crafting system
-Solid RPG elements
-Good replayability


-It could do with some more content and rebalancing
-The story is a bit lacking
-The encounters (events) can get a bit too random

Possible caveats:

-Absolutely unforgiving (in non-softcore modes)
-Repetitive combat (it's a design choice, but it can get frustrating)
-The community is rather small
-Very different from Angband/Nethack/ADOM, and somewhat less in-depth
-No new-school roguelike progression (a la Rogue Legacy), but progressing in the game will unlock new options
-It has a weird obsession with potatoes


OgNimaeb's avatar
Community review by OgNimaeb (January 08, 2016)

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