SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition, ASCII is Alive and Kicking

SanctuaryRPG

You know back-in-the-day when text based adventures were massively popular? Entire worlds came to life with nothing more than text on a screen, and you explored the mysterious world using the power of vigorous typing. SanctuaryRPG is kind of like that, only with graphics… but not as we know it. Curious youngsters and the grumpy old folk who played games like NetHack and Rogue should know what ASCII is, but for the uninformed, ASCII is essentially graphics through the power of letters (and punctuation etc.). In short, it’s old…really old.

Steam has been rather lacking in ASCII games, and whilst they do exist (Tales of Maj’Eyal has an option to switch to ASCII for example), Black Shell Games are the only guys with a game made purely from the old tech, and boy is it a treat. Swords, armour, jewelry, monsters, landscapes and more are all represented, fully constructed from your keyboards repertoire of symbols. They even go as far as having a small, somewhat archaic cutscene just to show off.

Of course, as we all know, you can’t just have style without substance, and once again Black Shell Games show us how it is done. You explore the world by punching in where you want to go from a menu, whether that be exploring the wilderness to encounter monsters, start events, complete quests etc. or simply navigating the town to pick up some new gear. It is all very intuitive, but it is also very deep, and incredibly difficult. Combat in SanctuaryRPG is a turn based affair with a fully integrated combo system, rewarding you for continued assaults on enemies, often ending in devastating finishing moves that obliterate health bars. Adding to this, you have a movement and distance mechanic which resembles something akin to NEOScavenger. Additionally the in-depth character progression system allows you to customize your hero to your hearts content. Of course that is without mentioning the diverse class selection, region and race selection all of which drastically change your play style. Death however, is treated in two ways. It is either permanent or massively punishing, and when nearly every enemy has the potential to kill you if you drop your guard, you will be frequently visiting the game over screen until you get the hang of it all.

What we have here is an experience that, despite its rather unorthodox style, is deeply engrossing and hugely rewarding. And did I mention that the game is hilarious? If this is the kind of game people can produce using a “dated” art style, with some pretty old-school mechanics mixed with some modern conventions, then I want more of it. ASCII is back, and I am hooked.

Why You Should Play Sproggiwood

Sproggiwood

There are a lot of games out there that need to be played, and too many of those games are hidden away beneath the tide of AAA tripe that we were burdened with last year. Whether it be undelivered promises, bugs, glitches, pain-in-the-backside DRM, or micro-transactions, 2014 was a bit of a letdown to many. One of the many games which might have slipped under peoples radar is Sproggiwood.

Sproggiwood is a charming little title from indie developer Freehold Games and is essentially a Rogue-like inspired by Finnish mythology, and covered in an adorably huggable aesthetic that is kind of cardboard-y, kind of cushion-y and undeniably cute. Don’t let those cutesy visuals fool you though, beneath their soft exterior is a challenging game worthy of its genres lineage. You go from level to level as a Cloghead (basically a human with a strangely oblongular cranial structure) of your chosen class (of which there are 6) collecting loot, gaining experience, learning new skills and eventually slaying a boss after a couple of floors. If you survive the trials set before you, you are awarded with money, loot, another dungeon and a small story segment to keep things going. Whilst death is not permanent, you do have to restart the dungeon from scratch, and whilst in the early missions you are not likely to die too much, the game does ramp up and forces you to use your noggin if you want to survive.

Unlike most Rogue-likes, Sproggiwood actually has a plot, and whilst pretty simplistic, it is fairly amusing and is interesting filler in-between your dungeon delving. Unfortunately, the game is pretty linear, with each dungeon being laid before you in on a singular path, with no side quests to speak of. You can go back into old dungeons with new classes to gain more gold and stars, and eventually complete the dungeon 100%, and whilst this is a challenge, it does eventually boil down to backtracking.

Between dungeons you do have a few things to do should you wish too. You have control over a small hamlet, that grows with time and is essentially a large shop/storage area. Here you can buy weapons, armour, consumables and accessories in addition to town upgrades. These range from increasing every heroes health, to making the store cheaper to adding additional loot to dungeons. It gives you a reason to spend your hard earned gold, and to replay dungeons a few times to maximise your profits. You can even customise the look of your village by adding decorations, moving buildings etc. which is a nice little touch that helps break up the dungeoneering just enough to keep the game feeling fresh.

Sproggiwood is by no means a perfect game, and as a Rogue-like, it is not the most difficult of experiences. But it makes up for it with charm, humour and all-round solid gameplay. You can complete Sproggiwood in about 10-15 hours, and it is pretty much the perfect introduction to the genre, and a light hearted distraction for veterans.