Many of my game reviews reference titles from the 1990s, and even the 1980s. We now venture back one more decade…to the year 1975! A programmer by the name of Will Crowther created an interactive experience on a mainframe computer which later became part of a game genre called “Multi-User Dungeon”, or MUD.
Crowther’s first MUD was a simple text input program named Adventure, and would go on to inspire one of the most beloved graphical titles of all time: Adventure for the Atari 2600 (1979). But the advent of graphics would not spell the end for the command line. A series of text games called “Zork” launched around that time, and continued for a decade on just about every platform available.
So here we are in 2015; the 40th anniversary of the MUD. Enter SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition from Black Shell Games; a faithful reproduction of classics gone by, with a few enhancements “barely” noticeable to any but us really old folks.
This RPG begins in the usual way, with players selecting a character class and initial stats. Soon enough, you will encounter NPCs, monsters, dungeons and towns. As you explore the world, you engage in combat and earn loot, just as you would in any modern RPG. The difference is that you must really use your imagination to visualize the surroundings. ASCII characters only go so far in representing a massive environment! Soon you’ll get the hang of it and the world will become your oyster…or rather a rough oval shape made from semicolons and underscores.
Fear not, brave adventurer. The illustrations are the least of your challenges. The important thing is to master the stat assignment pages and other duties relating to character upkeep. Real-time battle is displayed as a spreadsheet of which even the most seasoned Lotus 123 user would be proud!
All in all, SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition is a great time. I recommend playing it in the traditional legacy mode where death is permanent (no re-spawns in the 1970s) and loot drops are plentiful. If you instead choose to enable re-spawns, your loot chances will be considerably penalized. So go for it…it’s not like your wasting your boss’s dot-matrix paper any more.