When Sanctum was released on Steam in 2011, it was met with mostly positive reviews. A sequel seemed most likely. So of course, unsurprisingly, in 2012 a sequel was announced for Xbox LIVE. Fast forward a year and here is Sanctum 2. Sanctum 2 is a first-person, tower defense shooter developed by Coffee Stain Studios, who are responsible for the predecessor. The Xbox 360 is a bit oversaturated with tower defense. It’s a long list comprised of Grid Defense, Trenched, Orcs Must Die, and South Park: Let’s Go Tower Defense Play, and many others. All of which are great games in their own right. Jumping into a niche genre doesn’t automatically make it a worthwhile, game however. Plain and simple, regardless of genre, it’s either a good or bad game. Read on to find out whether it’s worth your time or not.
So what with a bevy of other tower defense games you can choose from, you might find yourself asking just why Sanctum 2 would be worth buying over any of the others. Well Sanctum 2 is also a first person shooter, and a pretty good one at that. It plays just as smoothly as the rest of the AAA titles that you might be into. Of all the shooters, it’s most reminiscent of Halo. The art style and the enemies bear a striking resemblance to the weird little creatures of the Halo universe. Like most shooters, your character is limited to a two-weapon loadout. You will unlock more as you progress through the 20 levels of the game. Most of the weapons are futuristic phaser type guns, as you might expect. All the weapons have a more explosive secondary fire option and will reload themselves if you switch to your other weapon. The enemies come at you in waves, of course and after each wave, you have the opportunity to collect resources. That’s where the tower defense comes in.
Coffee Stain Studios hit the nail on the head with the gun-play, but what about the tower defense? Well it’s not overly innovative or fresh. But it works just like any other tower defense games. You require resources to build defensive barricades and automated sentry guns. You’ll find yourself making tough decisions as to whether you should upgrade your sentry gun, add another gun, or carry on building barricades. Mazing is certainly key as it makes your enemies take longer to get to you. But that’s where you make the strategic decisions on whether defense is the best offense, or whether going all-out John Rambo with the ammunition is the best offense. I opted for a bit of both, and it seems to work just fine. Those that are more in tune with tower defense may like to get more tactical with it, which can definitely be done. Mazing enemies into a thin tunnel is an excellent way to bottleneck the hordes and take them down with the utmost efficiency. So the core aspect of the game is solid, and works extremely well. Better than the few other tower defense games I have played, in fact.
You can choose between four characters in the game. Each of which have their own special abilities and an arsenal of unique weaponry. Hagen Hawkins carries a shotgun, and has more health than the other characters. He is more suited to taking down the heavy opponents, and the ones that need to be eradicated before they do any major damage. The other characters have their own blend of special abilities and weapons. This means that in co-op play, every member on the squad will be of the utmost importance, and will have their own special task to carry out. This plays into the games heavy strategic style of play.
The art style on Sanctum 2 is absolutely gorgeous. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s eerily similar to that of Halo. The enemies get more and more gruesome as they come out of the woodworks. The weapons all have a sleek look about them. They look like believable weapons of the future. Hell, even the ammo that flies out looks quite pretty. I’d go as far as saying that Coffee Stain Studios have made a game that looks worthy of a full retail release. If there was a bit more depth to it, I’d say that the game should be a full retail release. It’s definitely of a higher standard than most XBLA titles.
Sanctum 2 does have a bit of a story. Full emphasis on ‘bit’. Between missions, you’ll be met with a simple comic strip during the loading screens describing the current happenings and the reason for your mission. There is no real narrative to the story, but I get the feeling that it’s all about the gameplay. The comic strips are just a nice extra for you to have some understanding as to why this world exists. The lack of a real story becomes apparent immediately as you are thrown into a tutorial level with no explanation of why or what you’re doing.
Overall, Sanctum 2 is a delightful and very different entry into an already rich genre. The first-person shooter aspect invigorates the game with a real fresh take on the tower defense game. The tower defense works just as it should. Any tower defense aficionados will feel right at home playing this game. Throw in a beautiful backdrop and an amazing art style. Along with a campaign that can take 20-25 hours of solid gameplay. As well as 4 player co-op, and you have a game that’s been bred for success. Sanctum 2 should be a successful outing for Coffee Stain Studios, and I look forward to seeing what they produce in future. The game should be a welcome addition to fans of tower defense, shooters, and all gamers alike.
Sanctum 2 is currently available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 1,200 Microsoft Points.