Achieving Inner Peace with Sky Sanctuary

Update: Glitchr Studios recently updated Sky Sanctuary with the “Gold and Shadows” update, including some fun new toys for the training area and a leaderboard altar area, displaying the current top 3 users from the leaderboard. Dev notes for the update from the Steam page:

General

Unity has been updated to version 5.6. No more weird blue shadows! The power of shadowmasks.

  • Many third party plugins have been updated.
  • Sounds are now integrated with Wwise.
  • General rework of the sound engine.
  • New text engine (TextMesh Pro).
  • Reworked materials and geometry on many meshes.
  • Cutting engine now works with two or more swords to cut the same object with a coherent behavior. New content patch incoming!
Content
  • Players can now compete to be celebrated on whole new monuments for kyudo and tameshigiri modes.
  • Kyudo Skeet mode has been reworked. Enjoy the golden hense!
  • You can now train on skeets and sliceable projectiles in the beginner zone.
Bug fixes and optimizations
  • Drawcalls have been reduced by more than half: 30+fps gain on weakest setups.
  • Game should not be tanked anymore when you quit.
  • Henses are no more deactivated when colliding with a projectile that doesn’t get stuck in it.
  • Holographic shader should now work as expected (no more incoherent artifacts and SPSR fixed).
  • Minimum sword cutting volume is now adjusted to the real mesh volume instead of the bounding box volume.
  • Vegetation imposters are now batched together.

Original Review:

This little gem popped up out of nowhere, and covers some familiar ground, but more importantly, provides an arena for growth and shows great potential.

Sky Sanctuary, by Glitchr Studio, is your own private archipelago with a beautiful and serene atmosphere. It’s also your new samurai training grounds. This title smartly puts you in control; you are free to teleport around the islands and relax, meditate, bang a drum or just watch the sunset. Your sky sanctuary consists of a series of islands, each dedicated to different weapons training along with a dojo where you can view all the leaderboards. Its calm, vibrant art style adds to the immersion, and it’s clear the dev wants everyone to feel as if they are really there by their inclusion of signs to guide you around — meaning, you will have to explore your island and find the right training grounds for the weapon you want to train with. Though once you’ve visited a training ground, it is considerately added to a quick menu which you can use for quick travel to the different islands of your archipelago, leaving the choice up to the player – to go full immersion, or just quick travel and play some arcade games.

Glitchr Studios wants to help you achieve inner peace, and a deeper sense of serenity by asking you to “Empty your mind, focus, and unleash your combat skills.” This attitude is really what makes Sky Sanctuary shine.

The Art of Test Cutting – Tameshigiri

I was most excited for the simple katana slicing game (which I’ve learned is called “Tameshigiri”), and I was not disappointed when I finally got to test my skills. After making your way to the katana training island, you just teleport onto a circular platform in the sword training arena (this is how all games are initiated), and your friendly robo-sidekick Delios-Sensei will appear and provide you with helpful information. There are easy, medium and hard difficulty levels to choose from for the sword game. However, you must unlock medium by reaching a score of 15,000 in easy first, and then hard must be unlocked, as well, by getting 20,000 in medium.

Tameshigiri is the art of test cutting. In the game, you are given a set amount of time which depletes as you progress, but you also earn time when you make a successful cut — the better the cut, the more time added back. Beware, missed cuts will cost you a chunk of time. So go slow, focus, and strike with precision.

A tatami roll (those rolled up mats) is placed in front of you with an indicator of where to slice, and in what direction. The more accurately you follow the indicator, the higher a score rewarded. As you progress, you will find more indicators, meaning more cuts per tatami roll. For instance, on the medium difficulty, I was being tasked to make 4 slices per tatami roll, each slice a different angle, and a different direction.

Glitchr has done an outstanding job representing this ancient practice incredibly well in VR. Once I finally took a break, I quickly realized my core abdomen felt tight and a bit sore, along with my shoulders, and even forearms, as I was holding the Vive wand with 2 hands, and really focusing and trying my best for precise, accurate cuts with enough strength to follow through with the cut.

Japanese Archery – Kyudo

On the archery (or Kyudo, Japanese archery) training island, there are 3 different archery modes plus a “triathlon” mode which tests your skills through all 3 of the available modes in one go. There’s “Precision,” “Dynamic” and “Skeet” modes to choose from.

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“Precision” is short and sweet, you get around 10 arrows in total and a target is placed, first, about 10 feet from you. You have 3 shots at that distance, with a bullseye earning you 75 points. After those 3 shot,s the target jumps back another 30 feet or so. Another 3 shots follow, then finally it jumps way back probably 50 feet away, and you have 6 more shots, and your score will be shown, followed by your place on the all-important leaderboards.

“Dynamic” is easily my favorite. Sky Sanctuary’s samurai theme is rounded off well by a slight sci-fi/tech vibe ala your only friend and helper Delios-San, which we see a few iterations of through the archipelago. In the Dynamic game mode, you are presented with upwards of 10 different, moving, shifting targets and varying size. These targets are cutely held up by Delios-San’s little buddies, but this means they can hold the target up for you to shoot at, or they can hold it down which means you cannot shoot. They also levitate while they slowly move back and forth or up and down, adding plenty of extra challenge, especially for the targets that are the farthest away. Although, the farther the target, the higher the points. And of course, the closer to the bullseye, the more points awarded.

“Skeet” is more of a goofy, fun mode where 4 cannons pop up and shoot out chickens. That’s right, chickens. Your game will continue until you miss 3 hens, so you can keep going on and on until you miss a total of 3 hens. There is a combo multiplier in this mode, where every hen shot in a row earns you a 1x multiplier, up to 5x. So if you shoot 5 hens in a row, the awarded point per hen will add up to 25×5 points.

The “Triathlon” mode will just run you through all 3 of the game modes back to back and provide you with your combined score from all 3 games.

Sandbox Sanctuary

Aside from the archery and katana games, Sky Sanctuary is basically a sandbox. They’ve included a pocket/pouch system where you can place up to 3 pouches on your body. The pouches contain either smoke bombs or throwing stars, and are really more just for playing around, right now. There currently is also a flamethrower, fireworks and a lighter included in your sandbox training area, but the developer has stated there are “way more weapons to come.”

It’s understandable to look at Sky Sanctuary and feel that it’s light on content, because it really is in its current state. Personally, I have been waiting for a katana slicing game like this for some time now, so I am especially thrilled with this game for bringing Tameshigiri to VR and handling it very well. All of the in game physics and haptics feel great, they simply just work and feel “right.” And with its concept of being an archipelago, it is set up perfectly for more content. Glitchr can easily add in a new islands with new training modes and new weapons. The price point I feel is fair, at $12.99 I’d say it’s about where it should be, bearing in mind this is early access. There’s already a ton of work put into the title, and clearly a ton more still left to be done.

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A note from the games Steam Page:

“Be ready for new content: We have crafted 4 main islands with care, love and scalability in mind. Thus, we will easily connect new ones for upcoming amazing activities (soon tm).”

So if you’re an arcade fan, you enjoy VR archery and katanas, want to achieve inner peace and become a true samurai, check out Sky Sanctuary and channel your inner zen master.

Sky Sanctuary,$12.99 on Steam.

-dgtlhrt

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