RPGs lend themselves to beautiful, diverse environments with fantastic stories and engaging tactical combat. While there is an interesting battle system in Sanctuary Saga, it fails to deliver an enthralling narrative. This RPG Rogue-lite hybrid is developed by Boomer’s Workshop and published by V Publishing and features a lot of fantastic ideas. That being said, some of these ideas fall flat, leading to a fairly average game.
A Tale of Survival
Sanctuary Saga takes place 6 months after a failed foundation in a continent known as the Untamed Wilds; a bountiful land that happens to be very dangerous, with monsters and the undead inhabiting it. After being overworked, Syrena and her guild try again to settle in the Untamed Wilds. She joins with other guilds from across the nation such as the thief guild led by the sly Ethan and the Dwarrodwarf clan led by the brute Dolgrim to name a few. They adopt a Caravan lifestyle and help her settle in this foreign land until they can find a suitable foundation for their Sanctuary.
Sanctuary Saga exhibits a great premise but fails in the execution. Most of the story progression is done off-screen by random NPCs, rather than being shown to the player through the cutscenes or the gameplay. In the later parts of the story, the party is told that the lands are becoming corrupt. However, because of how few environments there are, we don’t see this through our expeditions. The world and the story don’t feel connected, which breaks the immersion of this story for me, unfortunately.
While the story may be lackluster, the interactions between the party members grant an entertaining experience. By fighting alongside each other, characters gain relationship points (Or RP for short). Gaining enough relationship points levels up the relationship level between characters. Upon leveling up a relationship between two characters, a small heart-to-heart appears, showing us more of this cast of characters. These conversations feel very real, detailing the emotions of the characters as they traverse the dangerous landscapes. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each one of these conversations and I personally believe this to be the highlight of the story.
Life in the Caravan
Sanctuary Saga is split into two sections. The expeditions where you explore the Untamed wilds, and the Caravan. The Caravan acts as a hub for the main party. Although it is quite bare with little to do, it houses very important aspects of the game. It is here where the party can upgrade their gear with resources found on expeditions. Each character requires two different resources to upgrade their equipment. Furthermore, each resource has different drop rates depending on the biome, for example, it is easier to find hides in the cavern’s biome. While this may be the case, there is a trader that allows the player to exchange resources for a small fee. Also in the Caravan are NPCs that will give you side quests. Each one of these must be accepted before going on an expedition and can reward you with relationship points, upgraded skills, or resources.
The Caravan is a very interesting place, showcasing some of this game’s more interesting choices. This includes the lack of experience points. In this case, your party’s level is tied to your equipment. The stronger your equipment the higher your level becomes. Furthermore, your progress is tied to your level. Once you have four party members at the next level and complete an expedition, the story will progress. Additionally, your party will face the same enemies throughout the adventure. While this system works well, it’s hard to see any visible improvement with your characters due to the same enemies leveling up alongside the player. I also wish there were more ways to prepare other than leveling up. Still, it’s a nice resting spot after the expeditions.
Life in the Wilds
Upon completing your preparations in the Caravan, you will want to set out on an expedition. An expedition takes place in one of four biomes, each having its own diverse set of enemies, puzzles, and bosses. Each expedition consists of three areas and at the end of areas two and three you will fight a boss. While all this sounds exciting, unfortunately you are most likely to repeat areas, as well as bosses and puzzles. This makes the grind for resources a slog, which causes expeditions to become very repetitive. Additionally, resources aren’t plentiful enough to where you can skip battles either, so you must be prepared to fight every single battle.
Fortunately, while the game has many grinding aspects, the game’s battle system itself is very fun. The game takes place in rows. Using attacks and defending will move your position in the row, affecting what skills you can and can’t use. On top of this, the enemy can push your allies back and forth through the row as well, making it necessary to adapt to an ever-changing situation. I love this combat system. I found it satisfying to make it through difficult battles, and it forced me to use every resource available to me. However, the hit rate of attacks feels low, causing me several turns of missed attacks.
Finally, in combat, you have the ARG meter. Getting hit by enemy attacks will cause this meter to go up. You can lower it by healing, avoiding attacks, or using ARG meter healing skills. This is the main combat feature highlighted in the promotional material. Having a high ARG meter will cause the character to argue. What does arguing do? Well, you miss a turn. This is a huge disappointment due to how fixated the trailer was on this feature.
Sanctuary Saga, Concepts lost in translation
Overall I had fun with Sanctuary Saga thanks to its great battle system and charming pixel art visuals. However, the lackluster story and the repeat walkthroughs of every area hurt the experience for me. If there were more enemies to fight, more dungeons to go through, or even more story sequences to play through I feel as though I would have had a better time as is. Fortunately, the developers are continuing to work on this game, even after its launch, but as it is now, this game is simply a decent experience.