As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of tower defense games. I’ll play the odd TD game every now and then on my tablet or phone, but beyond, that, I’ve never really found much appeal in the genre; especially when it comes to PC TD games.
Sanctum changed all that when it launched in 2011. If it’s one thing I like, it’s when developers get ballsy and blend genres together. It can be something like Borderlands where a FPS is mixed with a good, hearty RPG, or something like Natural Selection 2, where a RTS is mixed with a FPS. Whatever the case may be, I enjoy fusion…as long as it works.
Sanctum worked. It was an awesome blend of tower defense and FPS. I loved it and it was one of my most played games of that year. Sure, it wasn’t much more than a bunch of repetition, but it was fun repetition, and to me, that’s all that really matter. So, 2 years later…how does the sequel stack up?
To be honest, Sanctum 2 is more of the same thing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are improvements to the core gameplay that give it a fresh coat, while maintaining most of the aspects that were introduced the first time around. In the sequel, you’re tasked with mostly the same thing; collecting resources, building towers, and fighting off wave after wave of alien invaders. If you get overwhelmed by the enemy, chances are it was your fault and your poor planning is to blame. Or in this case, MY poor planning.
The enemy AI has improved dramatically, compared to the mindless drones from the first game that seemed to follow a per-determined path to each level’s power core. This time around, the enemy will come after you, something I found out very quickly. They will also take a much more varied path(s) to the core. Part of the strategy of the first game was to build “corridors” and force the enemy into a pre-determined path; that no longer works. Now, the enemies will just move around, or certain ones will just smash right through. Combine that with how painfully long it takes to reload, and you’ve got some pretty hairy situations to deal with.
When you’re not jumping around shooting at the alien horde, you’re building towers, which also sees some slight changes. Rather than upgrading your towers with a set resource amount, you can now upgrade incrementally, which is REALLY nice. You already have very few resources lying around as it is. It’s hard to decide when to recycle certain structures to put new ones up. But with the ability to incrementally upgrade existing towers, you now have the ability to distribute your resources much more to your liking. It gives you more control, and I love that.
The four playable characters in Sanctum 2 (Skye Autumn, Sweet Autumn, SiMo, and Haigen Hawkins) are enhanced by a variety of perks that you can set pre-match. Abilities such as setting the power core to deal damage with every enemy hit or unleashing chain lightning from your weapon give you an extra piece of strategy that you must consider depending on the level. At first glance it may seem that your character is overpowered, but with the smarter enemy AI, that is almost never the case.
Co-op play is both an incredible amount of fun, and also quite a bit of “hurry up and wait.” When the combat gets thick, it’s about as fun as it gets. You and a bunch of friends running around between towers while increasingly more difficult waves of enemies coming at you is simply awesome. However, only a limited number of players can build towers in between waves, and that makes for a pretty extended bit of downtime if you’re dealing with some builders that can’t make up their mind.
Aesthetically, the game maintains the very pleasing “sanitary future” look from the first game. A lot of the earlier levels look bright, white, and pristine, almost like a stylized 2001: A Space Odyssey look. Another way to describe it is a mash up of Portal-esque environments mixed with a Borderlands-esque character style. However, the nice thing about Sanctum 2 is the fact that we finally move away from the white laboratory walls and into some pretty cool looking exterior levels, such as jungles, construction yards, and some cool waterside levels. Variety is never frowned upon in my book, especially if you do it right.
With more characters, perks, varied environments, and a fun co-op mode, Sanctum 2 offers some great improvements upon its predecessor while maintaining the core Sanctum gameplay that makes the series so much fun. While playing through the game by yourself may start to get somewhat repetitive (it’s mostly just build, shoot, build, shoot, etc) jumping online with some friends definitely brings about a shot of longevity that a tower defense game needs. For $14.99, Sanctum 2 is a pretty safe bet for a good time.