Sanctum 2 review

  • Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
  • Genre(s): Sci-Fi

Sanctum 2 is a game that has one foot in the first person shooter camp and the other in the tower defense camp, it’s a master of neither but manages to do a good job with both and deliver a fun time.

The story to the game is pretty straightforward, humans have settled on the planet Lock III, building settlements powered by cores, a big colourful ball of energy, that if destroyed destroys the settlement. The local alien inhabitants, called Lumes, aren’t happy about all this, so are attacking.

Spitfly

You play as one of four ‘core guardians’ whose job really are quite self explanatory, they guard the core. Each of the characters has their own little backstory, weapons, and unique abilities that will suit different play styles.

The mission for each level is for you to prevent the various waves of Lumes from reaching and destroying the core. It’s simple, straightforward, and serves the game well, allowing for a variety of maps and environments as well as a variety of enemies. The enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well, some are small and fast (and bloody annoying), some fly, some explode upon death, some burp plasma at you (at least I hope its plasma), and others are big, slow, and very well armoured with just one weak spot you have to aim for, which in the case of one Lume appears to be its backside.

Armored Heavy

There is one thing however that I don’t quite understand, if the cores are so vital to the survival of the settlement, why don’t they take more care with where they place them?  Sure the weather is nice outside but are we sure we should place something of such strategic value outside the complex where there are few defences and there is a Lume nest nearby? Something like the core should be, well the core of the settlement, built right in the middle of it, maybe underground, surrounded by various lines of defences, not outside so the core guardians can catch a tan.

Each level is divided into two phases, the planning phase and the active defence phase.

The planning phase at the start of each wave plays as a tower defense game, but in first person. You have a limited amount of time and resources to place blocks to create a path for the enemies to follow and prolong their journey to the core before going back and placing down your towers. As you survive each wave you are given some more resources and more time in the planning phase to bolster your defenses. You can place more blocks to make the path for the enemies to follow longer, you can place more towers, or you can upgrade your existing ones to be better.

The two towers

The path you create with your blocks, along with what towers you pick and where you place them is the key to survival. Sanctum 2 forces you to think tactically about these decisions as they can make all the difference, it does however require a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best and means you might be forced to replay some levels multiple times. The good news though is that even if you fail a level you still earn experience points and get to level up, unlocking new perks, towers, and weapons, so failing never feels like a total loss.

After the planning phase is complete you enter the active defense phase, the game moves from a tower defense game to a first person shooter. Instead of sitting idly by watching your defenses hoping it all works like you would in a traditional tower defence game, you get to run about and help out, jumping over the blocks you placed, sneaking up on enemies to target their weak spots, and even offering yourself up as canon fodder to slow the enemy’s advance. That last one is a recommended strategy but can work as a last ditch effort.

Two cores

Initially you have very few options as to what perks, guns, and towers you can select for your character but as you progress through the game and level up you unlock more and more of them. Even once they are unlocked you don’t have access to all of them at once, at the start of each level you must pick the loadout for your character, picking their secondary weapon, up to four towers, and up to three perks. I say up to because again, as you level up you unlock the extra slots.

There are towers that slow the enemies down, slow-firing towers that do a lot of damage or have a long range, lightning towers where the lighting can jump between enemies, quick Gatling turrets, mine-producing towers (you have to place the mines manually), and even towers that summon a helpful drone. A nice selection indeed and picking the right combination is key, although not easy.

Perks provide you with an edge, like giving you 40 percent more damage to enemy weak spots or healing your core so much after every round.

 

The campaign can be conquered in single-player or via online co-op with up to four people. Single-player is by far the harder of the two options, with things becoming easier the more of you there are. However the online co-op presents that age old problem of teamwork, I’ve already mentioned how tower selection and placement is the key to success, the more people you have the harder it is to coordinate tower and block placement. It also becomes a free-for-all as to who picks up the resources at the end of each round and if that person is not on the same page as everyone else it can prove costly, and hilarious in that frantic chaotic way as you try to survive the next wave.

Victory!

Conclusion

Sanctum 2 is a great mix of a tower defence game and a first person shooter that is a lot of fun, both alone and with friends, with a lot of replay value. If you are a fan of tower defence games or want a first person shooter with a little something different, you should check it out.

Green thumb

Get Sanctum 2 on Steam

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