Tower defense meets first-person shooter. We have seen the formula before in the original Sanctum. It was an enjoyable experience, but also felt somewhat bare-bones. It did some great things and now Coffee Stain Studios hopes to capitalize on the mechanics to make an even better experience with Sanctum 2. For the most part, they do a good job at improving on the already proven formula.
For those that don’t know or who haven’t played the original, Sanctum 2 is a tower defense game that takes place from a first-person perspective. Players control one of four characters that move around a battlefield placing blockades, turrets and other defenses to try and stop the incoming hoards of aliens. These creatures run in a predetermined line that leads to the main core of the area. If they reach the core, they begin attacking it until it is destroyed. Players must fight and create defenses to stop this from happening. While all this is going on, players can attack with their own weapons, first-person shooter style, so they are never solely reliant on towers for defense.
The four classes players can choose from have different skills and weapons. Each has a unique ability to utilize, and there are secondary fires for each weapon. Players can also outfit these characters before the match with perks that can increase damage, heal the core after each wave and many other special attributes. Weapons and perks can be obtained through leveling up, with each match offering up experience points that go towards the player’s profile level.
Setting up towers before a wave is very simple. Before each wave begins, players can gather up resources that spawn around the core. These resources are used to create blockades and attacking towers. Once getting a good lay of the land, I could then begin constructing a maze-like blockade funneled the aliens around, keeping them from going directly to the core. This becomes a game on its own, when trying to find the perfect meandering path that will have the enemies taking the longest time to reach the core. Setting up turrets and land mines all play a part in creating the perfect “death tunnel” for the waves. Certain waves have a building time limit depending on the level and stage, so time can be of the essence. When everything is ready, players can initiate the waves and begin their assault.
In the later levels, things get crazier with multiple spawn points for the enemies and even multiple cores to protect. It can become a hectic struggle and while the game eases players into the overall mechanics, it can be a rather difficult ordeal if they are not prepared. However, if one is looking to spice up the carnage and make things even more challenging, they can activate the Feats of Strength. These modifiers will augment the enemies to make them even more deadly. Finishing a match with a Feat of Strength turned on will also offer up better experience bonuses.
Playing solo has its benefits. The enemies are slightly weaker in this mode, and I had full control over what to build and where to build it, but after a while it got a little stale, especially when waves slowed and it became more of a shooter than a strategy game. Luckily, there is four player co-op throughout the entire experience. Four players can take on tougher waves and work together to save their cores. Throughout my play through, the online was smooth with almost no lag at all. Although, it was difficult to find a game at some times due to small connection errors, but it was never a big problem. In fact, I found that the drop-in drop-out mechanic while I was in an open room got me more players than actually searching for games.
The co-op plays out the same as the single player. Originally, there were the same amount of resources that would drop before a wave just as it would during the single player. This often times left co-op players with nothing to do or build during that particular phase because one player picked up all the resources. The other problem was the fact that there could only be ten towers on a map at a single time so even if I got some resources, I couldn’t build what I wanted to without removing an already constructed turret. It felt boring at times watching my co-op partner doing all the work. Luckily, since the launch of the game, Coffee Stain Studios has listened to the players and patched in some rather big changes. Now, 15 towers can be place during co-op and the big change: resources now drop for every player in the match.
The game visually looks great. The futuristic look mixed with lush outdoor environments fit the tone of the game very well and the original soundtrack is fantastic. It all fits the overall presentation perfectly. The PC version utilizes the Xbox 360 controller to the fullest and it feels great.
Sanctum 2 does a good job of improving on the first game. There are new maps, characters, a fresh perk and upgrade system, enemies; almost everything is new. When creating the perfect maze full of machine guns, lightning towers and land mines while blasting aliens with my co-op partners it felt almost Zen-like. The feeling of having a well-oiled machine working together with partners had me smiling the whole time. It has a lot to offer and the fact that the developers are improving the game after launch and listeing to their fans speaks volumes, I had a really fun time with Sanctum 2. For the $15 price point it comes at, you are getting quite the package.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on PC.