Initially, you can see very little; all you have is a weak flashlight that severely limits your vision. Use the [arrow] keys to move around the randomly generated map, [X] to charge your shield (if available), and [Z] to interact with certain terminals and fire your weapon. But you might not want to do that unless you absolutely have to, since you have a limited amount of battery power and each shot uses it up. Most enemies are minor annoyances. Robots, however, are another story; you can spot them at a distance because of the glow they give off, and you'll probably want to steer clear whenever possible. A single hit from a robot laser means instant death, and with narrow corridors like these, maneuvering can be difficult.
Keep an eye out for terminals; each one you boot up provides a save point. They also allow you to communicate with Rusty, someone who stayed behind (wherever "behind" is), but is still pulling for you and can be of great help. Unfortunately, most of the terminals you'll find need to be jump-started with some of your battery power... a significant chunk, in fact. Looks like you'll have to hunt down some robots after all, since they drop valuable batteries when destroyed.
If you die, well... stop it! Your group has a limited number of followers, and as long as somebody is still alive, you can continue the journey as a new person. More people join your group the longer you last and the farther you go, so learning how to keep your eyes and ears open for danger becomes important if you want to last. Of course, the farther you go, the more dangerous the robots you'll face become.
Analysis: If pressed by a pressing sort of person, I might describe Sanctuary 17 as a "kinda roguelike". It's got the randomly generated levels and items, but is realtime rather than turn-based. Strategy will get you far; trick robots into firing on each other, and learn to be an opportunist... whoever said shooting someone in the back is cowardly probably wasn't talking about deadly robots. While the tools at your disposal are initially pretty meager, if you're lucky you can find better items within boxes in certain rooms; from more powerful weaponry to lanterns to night vision goggles. With the simple, pick-up-and-play style and intriguing story, Sanctuary 17 is pretty addictive. Unfortunately, it can be pretty frustrating sometimes, too.
The problem is that since the map is randomly generated, you tend to see a lot of long, meandering corridors, and the game doesn't really offer much in the way of scenery to liven them up other than "Robots!", "Oh God, other robots!" and occasionally, "STUPID, STUPID SPIDER CREATURES." It really makes you wish the layouts tended to be more involved than just hallway after hallway. As such, you can go a long time without anything happening, and it's easy to get discouraged, particularly when your heroes are so inclined to burst into squishy redness at the slightest provocation. The end result is a somewhat uneven experience, swinging between periods of atmospheric exploration that have you going "Oooo" and keyboard-snappingly frustrating instant death that has you going "ARGH".
Fortunately, the game's randomly generating layout comes to the rescue when you least expect it to. After several playthroughs (okay, attempted playthroughs), I was still finding new rooms and bits of plot that fascinated me, and it was enough to keep me coming back for more, at least until I finished it. There are apparently three endings to discover, but if you've played Sanctuary 17 all the way to the end at least once, you've probably seen most of the little events and rooms it has to offer, and trying to complete it two more times might be asking a bit much. Still, if you've been looking for that elusive "something different", Sanctuary 17 will provide, and despite its limited appeal, is still worth a look.