There is an ethereal, other worldly beauty to Sanctuary. Indeed, it might be one of the more beautiful games you play this year. There are desolate forests of tall trees, blue flowered fields, large cubes spinning silently in the distance. It’s close enough to reality to ground you there, but just barely.
Sanctuary is, in the truest sense, an exploration game. Your controls are basic, WASD to move and a jump command that is rarely implemented. Instead you pick a direction you want to explore, and you walk towards it. Broken monuments occasionally litter your path, ethereal shapes in the distance beckon, but there are no answers here. The only sounds in the game appear to be your own footsteps, as if the whole world is holding it’s breath.
It’s this attribute that lends itself to the games sense of eerie calm. Maybe it’s the way the cubes spin, or the extreme stillness, but it feels like something is not quite right in Sanctuary.
There are a few very specific problems in Sanctuary. One reviewer on Game Jolt said that the game felt like a graphics demo, and that is a reasonable feeling. There doesn’t seem to be a true purpose to wandering the world, except the experience. There isn’t a Dear Esther narrator to guide your path. For some people, that won’t be a problem — after all the game is absolutely breathtaking. For those players who seek objectives and sign markers, this probably isn’t the game for you.
The other primary complaint with Sanctuary is that it is incredibly poorly optimized. I have a decent rig, nothing super expensive, but I can usually run most AAA games, as well as Photoshop and Lightroom and twenty open tabs on Chrome without any complaints. After I jumped off the edge of the world pictured above, I landed in another one full of tall white trees. I would’ve loved to have explored it, but the game ran at 2 frames a second. That is not a joke, or an over exaggeration. 2 frames per second. It was unfortunate, because the lag was so bad I was forced to put the game down long before I felt ready. This is both an indictment and point in the favor of Sanctuary.
Poorly optimized, so unfortunately you need a pretty decent rig to play it smoothly (can your computer run crysis?)
Which is an uncommon thing to say about an independent game. The game was created as part of the IndiE3 Jam, and definitely showcases several of the developers talents in the world of world building and graphic design, but it is unfortunate that you need a top of the line rig just to run the game.
Overall, Sanctuary is a beautiful experience, a kind of gentle, slightly creepy exploration into a wonderfully rendered world of secrets, full of metaphorical chests without any keys. Definitely worth the time spent. You can find Sanctuary on the developers Game Jolt page.