STAFF REVIEW of Sanctum 2 (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Friday, May 31, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

Sanctum 2 Box art There’s a plethora of Tower Defense games out there for you to enjoy, and for the most part, if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. Then two years ago Coffee Stain Studios tried something a little different with the tried and true formula with Sanctum, allowing you to not only build your grid in the traditional Tower Defense gameplay, but also control a character in first person with a weapon to help your towers defeat the waves of oncoming enemies. Sanctum 2 is finally here and brings us the sequel to the very niche Tower Defense/FPS hybrid game.

Being that Sanctum 2 is a hybrid of the two genres, it really does play into both types of games’ strengths. The main core will have you setting up your towers to defend the ever important Cores from the enemies while blending the chaotic action of a first person shooter, especially when it comes down to just you when your towers fail. The blend of strategy and shooting feels very natural and it’s been quite a while since I’ve enjoyed a Tower Defense game like I have Sanctum 2.

As one of the Core Guardians, you’re tasked with protecting the Core; large blue spheres of raw energy that survivors depends upon. You’ll do so by preventing the enemies from reaching the Core by placing towers, forcing them to funnel in a path of your choosing while you shoot them from afar. The trick is though that you only have a set amount of resources and towers to place, so every placement needs to be strategic, though you aren’t given much preparation time in between waves to do so. You want to create the longest possible path from the enemies entrance point to your core so that you have the most time possible to shoot them down via your towers and with your own gun as well. Choosing the right towers and weapons to add to your arsenal, since you can only equip a set amount per match, is going to make a huge difference in your strategy and outcome. Every type of weapon and tower are suited for a specific type of enemy and placement strategy, so there is a bit of a learning curve to see what works best for you.

You get to choose from four different hero characters, each with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, weapons, and customization. You get to choose your two weapons, tower types that you want to build in the next match, and perks that can make a difference in how you perform and play. You’ll need to constantly be switching weapons when your clip runs out, as the offhand weapon seems to reload when not in use as well, and you’ll need all the damage output you can muster to prevent waves getting to the Core. Later levels and waves become very intense, with tougher enemies getting by your towers with ease and only you to rely on finishing them off before they make it to the Core. Each weapon handles differently and also has a secondary shot to diversify your attacks and tactics. As you complete missions, you’ll level up, earning ranks, weapons, perks, towers, and other unlocks for your character.

While you can play through the campaign solo, and is completely viable, it’s much more entertaining (at times) to play with up to three other friends in co-op, and I highly suggest playing with friends, as playing with random people can sometimes turn out to be more frustrating than it is anything else for multiple reasons. The issue that WILL rear its head is that while playing co-op, players other than just the host have access to the building stage in between rounds as well. This boasts some major problems that I ran into almost every game with the random players either deleting towers for their own resources, or making holes in my well thought out pathway for no reason. One minute you could be building your intricate line of towers to kill the enemies in a specific way, the next you could turn around and all your hard work is taken by the random player in your game for no reason other than to grief. Coupled with the fact you have a limited amount of times between rounds to setup and upgrade towers, it almost comes to the point of only wanting to play with friends, as the one jerk can completely ruin your game with ease.

While I did really enjoy the game overall, there were a lot of smaller issues I have to bring up and mention as fan of the original Sanctum will need to know the differences between the two. Towers are limited and can only level up to rank 3. Even with the maxed out towers, I never felt like they were all that powerful, leaving me to do most of the grunt work myself, every wave. While you can somewhat force an enemy to chase you and deviate from its path, other players in your match can also do this and cause more harm than good by making them go the wrong way as well. You can only have two weapons at once and while your character is upgradable in a sense, the weapons are not. Should you die, the respawn timer is quite long and could determine a win or loss, and it never feels long enough between waves since you have to run back to the Core every time to physically pick up the resources before you can go place them where you’d like.

While I did enjoy Sanctum 2, it seems a heavier emphasis has been put upon the first person shooter side of the game rather than the Tower Defense portion. While some will enjoy that, fans of the first game may not warm up to the switch of momentum in gameplay. Sanctum 2 relies way too much on trial and error I found, as some waves will take a few attempts to find that perfect strategy of tower placement and weapon loadouts; making a single mistake of a misplaced tower could cost you dearly. If you’re fantastic at placing strategic towers and using resources wisely, you’ll still have to be quite good at the shooting aspect. The same goes the other way too, as you’ll need to place towers strategically if you want any hope of winning, even if you’re great at the shooting element of Sanctum 2.

While some might not like the change of it being more heavily focused on the shooter aspect rather than a broader and more in depth Tower Defense game style, the polish and aesthetics of Sanctum 2 make it look like a lot of love has gone into making the game. With almost endless replayability, not even factoring in online players that will keep things ‘interesting’, there are a lot of hours to be had in Sanctum 2 and many Cores to save, even with its limited amount of maps and towers.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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