In the bleak, dark world of The Sanctuary, get ready to fight for your soul with Soulblight from My Next Games. The game, as you might expect, starts off with a basic tutorial intended to help the player learn the controls. It’s a simple, but effective way to learn the basics of the game. The actual controls take a little time to get down, but there’s nothing too complex here. Once you figure out the essentials and become accustomed to accessing and using items the game is much more fun—and quite challenging. Wait. Scratch that. The game is downright ruthless!
Its tough difficulty hits you straight away with little warning. Adding to the stress, however, is the drive to keep trying until you beat each challenge. The rewards vary from money to equipment, but they’re need to make progress in the game. The real interesting aspect of Soulblight, however, is the “tainting mechanic.” Ostensibly the game’s version of experience points, tainting aids in character development during the game.
Your actions have consequences that influence your character’s development throughout his journey. This mechanic adds a cool layer to the gameplay that I found intriguing. I had a good time when I proceeded to make a series of rash decisions that resulted in my character becoming an overpowered, drunken maniac. It’s fun to experiment with different outcomes every time you play the game.
The graphics are good, with stark colors that both match and enhance the environment. Within The Sanctuary, dark and twisted relics exist alongside shops and steampunk decor. Prior to each stage of the game, the player is given a choice—forge on ahead or select a taint that will give him an advantage one way or another. In a nice aesthetic touch, the environment itself reacts to the player as he walks, building a bridge into the next area once he’s chosen a path.
As a 2D action-RPG, the action takes place in an overhead view. It sort of reminds me of an old SNES game called Brainlord. It even plays a bit like it, but that’s where the similarities end. Taking the influence of older games and combining them into the roguelike genre works for this title, but it doesn’t quite have that retro feel that so many indies go for these days.
The Sanctuary is detailed and each room is packed full of secrets, treasures, and bad guys. There are weird creatures that say cryptic things as well. They don’t attack you, but you are given the option to listen or kill them. If you kill them, it changes your in-game experience. It’s little things like this that got me hooked.
Unfortunately, some of the levels can seem a bit repetitive and while I enjoyed the “Gauntlet with an exploration element” style of the game, I felt the formula wearing a bit thin after completing several sections. Ultimately, though, I enjoyed the uniqueness of the mechanics and overcame the game’s harsh difficulty after several attempts.
Musically, the game is rather drab. The atmospheric tunes are fitting, but not too memorable. They are, however, performed/synthesized well and work as a non-distracting background sound. The sound effects are cool and remind me of the computer and console games I played in the mid-‘90s.
At first, I didn’t much care for Soulblight, but found myself rapidly warming up to it as I dove deeper into The Sanctuary thanks in part to the steep difficulty. It takes all the best parts of the roguelike genre and adds an extremely unique role-playing element, making it worth at least a few playthroughs. If you’re not a fan of high difficulty roguelikes, this probably won’t be for you, but everyone else may want to give it a try.
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Soulblight is a challenging action RPG with a unique twist, harkening back to the golden age of 16-bit action RPGs on the Super NES. High difficulty and roguelike elements may turn some off, but if those are things you like, then check this one out!
Based in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.