The original Sanctum was a gem that stood out from the rest of tower defense games on the PC and Mac in 2011. It blended the hectic action of first-person shooters with the strategic placement and upgrades of the tower defense genre. While it was a great game that certainly felt unique, it suffered from lack of content and a less than stellar presentation.
Luckily for gamers craving more, Coffee Stain Studios has addressed all aspects of fan criticism and have gone up and beyond in several ways to improve the core Sanctum experience in Sanctum 2. With a story mode and wealth of additional features, Sanctum 2 is the Sanctum game we’ve been waiting for.
Sanctum 2 (PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios (PC), Reverb Publishing (PS3), D3Publisher (360)
Released: May 15th
MSRP: $15.00, 1200 Microsoft Points
To those of you new to Sanctum and FPS tower defense games, let me fill you in. Enemies will enter the map and head directly toward the place you’re supposed to protect, in Sanctum’s case, it’s called the Core. If enemies reach the core they will attack it until it takes enough damage to become unstable and end the match. It’s your job to protect the core by placing barriers to steer the enemies away from the core for as long as possible, while placing turrets to kill them and other fun towers to slow down their march. In most tower defense games, you place your towers and then hope for the best. In Sanctum 2, you’re thrust into the action after placing towers and are able to actively alter the turnout of the wave by shooting the enemies yourself. If there’s anything the original Sanctum did right, it’s the blending of two genres. If you love both tower defense and first-person shooters, Sanctum 2 is the best hybrid you could ever dream if.
If you love both tower defense and first-person shooters, Sanctum 2 is the best hybrid you could ever dream of.
Unlike the original Sanctum, there’s an actual story that’s not shoehorned in. It’s simplistic and told through static manga-style cutscenes, but it’s more than the original had. This time Skye isn’t alone in her Core-protecting endeavors. Sanctum 2 introduces Skye’s sassy little sister Sweet Autumn, laid back ladies man Haigen Hawkins, and their robot companion SiMo to the world of FPS tower defense. They aren’t just skins, but each character is their own class. Skye is your traditional assault class, Sweet is your grenadier, SiMo is a sniper, and Haigen is your shotgun-trotting point man. You can’t switch between their main weapons in the game, but you can swap out secondary weapons between each match. The emphasis on dedicated player classes complements the four-player co-op experience, but also makes playing solo feel a little bit restricted.
The first thing you will likely notice after the first wave is that build points are not awarded directly to your character. Two crates drop near the Core and you must grab them to gain the ability to place defenses. Since some waves start on a timer, it can be a pain to run back to the Core just to grab your points since it’s wasted time that could be spent elsewhere.
There’s an aggro system in Sanctum 2 that allows players to kite enemies around the map. This compliments the variety of classes and opens up new doors for strategic planning. One player can essentially play “ring around the rosie” with a group of enemies while the towers and other players unload on them. If you’re not careful, though, you will find yourself overrun and dead in a matter of seconds. In the original Sanctum, death was only possible by falling off of the map. This time around enemies can and will kill you, leaving you staring at a 10 second countdown timer before you can respawn and re-enter the fray – that is, unless you have a certain perk equipped.
My favorite addition to Sanctum 2 is its perks system. By playing the game and completing levels, perks are unlocked. They range from extra damage to enemy weak spots to faster running speed to a Core that does damage back to enemies, and those are just to name a few. With the right group of friends and perk combos, you can dominate the playing field in impressive ways.
Sanctum 2 raises the bar for first-person tower defense games. It’s not for everyone, but those who enjoyed the genre the orignal Sanctum gave birth to will find themselves addicted to Sanctum 2 for the foreseeable future. It can be brutal, but also rewarding - especially with a group of friends.