Sanctum 2 Merges First-Person Shooting and Tower Defense. Intriguing…
It’s great to see Coffee Stain Studios is taking a much-needed baseball bat to the ol’ bees nest for Sanctum 2, the upcoming sequel to its cool first-person shooter/tower defense hybrid, upping the danger and the action in the process. For instance, unlike their more docile brethren from the original game, Sanctum 2′s swarms of alien bug creatures want to gnaw your face off and curb stomp you into nothingness. They don’t mind taking a quick detour for a little human snack as they malevolently march towards your power core.
Sanctum 2 stays largely faithful to the foundation that made its predecessor an intriguing draw. Defending your sci-fi stronghold’s power core against waves of pestilent invaders is a two-step process. The strategic building phase of each round gives you limited resources to work with for laying down defenses along designated zones on the battlefield. Once you place your allotment of barriers and assorted deadly turrets, your defenses lock in for the round, the vile menagerie of aliens parades in, and you jump into the fray with guns blazing. The fact that your foes are more aggressive this time around ramps up the tension, but other welcome additions and refinements also make this sequel a much punchier, faster-flowing experience.
The original game only had three maps, though matches still had the tendency to drag on over the course of 20 to 30 waves of foes. Sanctum 2 cuts that down to around 10 waves per map to keep the action moving along, but it also greatly increases the number of stages to a total of 16 diverse locales spread across four areas. A mix of futuristic cityscapes and natural forested vistas provide a nice contrast to complement the sharp visual detail etched into each setting. The stages themselves are equally varied, featuring multiple branching paths for enemies to travel, areas that cannot be built upon, environmental dangers like fire pits, and alternating entry points to contend with.
Enemies are smarter, deadlier, and more persistent than ever too. This increased sense of danger and the feeling that you’re always teetering on the brink of being overrun makes Sanctum 2′s battles deliciously chaotic. Your defensive barriers used to route enemies are now lower to the ground, letting you hop up on them easily – at the tradeoff of being within reach of enemy attacks. Even with a well-placed swath of defenses and turrets placed between you and your foes, you never really feel safe. That’s a good thing in this case, as it adds to the tension and excitement.
Between flying creatures that zip over your walls and slow-moving armored brutes that can soak up a ton of hits before they go down, you never know when a group will overwhelm your fortifications. Then there are the occasional boss behemoths that thrash a straight path through all of your defenses like there were made of twigs and duct tape. Frequent panic-inducing moments give the gameplay more impact to keep your pulse pounding.
With lots of burly bugs to battle, having more options to squash them with is also appreciated. Instead of only one character to pick from, Sanctum 2′s quartet of playable heroes each sport a unique weapon loadout and abilities that can be further customized as you unlock additional gear, perks, and towers. Based-on characters’ primary weapons alone, there’s not a lot to get excited about at first glance. The usual suspects – assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, and rocket launcher – are all accounted for, but alternate fire modes, super-charge options, and swappable secondary guns round these options out. It helps that classes play quite differently too, and your choice of what perks and turret types to plug into your limited number of gear slots adds a lot of customizability to the mix. Graciously, the progression system carries over regardless of your character selection, giving you access to more goodies as you level-up over the long run.
So far, Sanctum 2 feels more fully fleshed out and better implemented than its predecessor.
Played solo, the main campaign is pretty fun, but it really shines when you team up with other human players. Communication plays a key role in strategizing both during the building phase and in combat, and I found getting into a groove with my teammates really made a huge difference over tinkering on my own. So far, Sanctum 2 feels more fully fleshed out and better implemented than its predecessor. This unique indie sequel shows great promise and is already shaping up as a prime go-top pick for online co-op shenanigans.
Nathan Meunier is a freelance writer for IGN. Check him out on Twitter and don’t miss his book, Up Up Down Down Left WRITE – The Freelance Guide To Video Game Journalism.