The first Sanctum was a first person tower defense game, with first person shooting aspects added to help give the players something to do during waves instead of simply watching your towers do all the work. It was a somewhat new concept in how well the tower balancing was executed while giving almost limitless designs and combinations. The drawbacks were simply trademarks of it being a new Indy title, a simple lack of content for missions and poor textures clearly showed the limitations of the budget and time they were working with. The first person shooting elements needed much more work to be entertaining in the long run however the game’s much heavier focus on the tower building distracted enough from this flaw that the game remained fresh with each new layout you created.
With the release of Sanctum 2, I was looking forwards to an updated version of the first giving more customization, towers, maps and maybe a few thrilling scripted events during the campaign missions. As I launched the game for the first time, ignoring the many technical errors of the initial release and completed the tutorial I started my first mission. As expected the graphics were considerably improved as they took on a more comic based look, similar to the art design of borderlands 2, although it has been done before it definitely gives sanctum 2 a much more unique appearance. The new addition of a progression system allows players to level up to unlock perks, new weapons and towers that rewards players who play on harder difficulty settings with a shorter grind.
Once I decided to get started building I suddenly realized I was only allowed to build seven blocks of wall, which meant I had to obey the map design when creating my maze for the enemies to pass through. This immediately felt very limiting, as one of the great aspects of the first is that it allowed you to create as many walls as you desired, and simply expecting you to create your own design within the map layout. With a limited number of wall blocks, the game forces you to take the basic route that the map often implies for you to take making it feel like I had little choice at all when it came to the design, just simply having to do what everyone else does within the same map. Speaking to my co-op partner on skype I found myself frequently saying, “I could do this amazing layout.. oh I don’t have enough blocks I guess this will have to do.” Constantly leaving missions with a feeling that it could have been better, and wasn’t complete, one of the worst feelings possible within a tower defense game. I decided to play a survival mission to get around this issue, where each wave I would be given more blocks. I would be able to finally create the layout I wanted, however I soon found myself no longer being given wall blocks after the first few waves, leaving me to keep the same incomplete design for the never ending survival mode.
After my second to third mission I started to notice in the end game statistics that I was dealing considerably more damage then all of my towers each game. With the new design you will notice a much stronger focus on the first person shooting then the tower defense, with many levels not even requiring the use of towers providing the use of the right equipment. The stronger focus on shooting would expect dramatic improvements to the design of shooting compared to the first game, however this is simply not the case and some elements of the weapons have been removed. You are no longer able to spend resources on your weapons to improve their performance as possible within the first game. A bigger selection of weapons allows you to focus on certain strengths or help cover flaws that your character choice may have. With the addition one weapon slot being fixed depending on your character choice, you only have access to change your secondary weapon. With such a strong focus on the shooting elements, it leave me to question why they forced this to be so limited during missions. It soon becomes a boring chore to shoot during waves, especially when weapons empty their clips so quickly and then demand a five second cooldown time to reload.
Within the game mechanics of Sanctum 2 the placement of a single block can often decide the success or failure of a wave on specific maps. Some maps are clearly much better designed then others, some of which only emphasize the first person aspects even more as you are not allowed to build along the enemies path at all. This just turns entire missions into a first person shooter with shooting that does little to excite. The new addition of boss waves simply takes all tower defense aspects and throws them out the window for the final wave. Bosses are able to destroy towers and wall bases, so on many maps a well designed layout will be instantly ruined as the boss targets a vital block and is soon followed by every other enemy in the wave.
The character progression adds more value to replaying missions
Four player co-op
Colourful eye catching visuals
A stronger focus on first person shooting, with little content within the shooting elements
Balancing issues, some characters and towers are simply sub-par to others
Boss waves completely ruin all aspects of tower defense
Limited resources often leave your base design incomplete before the end
Frame issues can sometimes cause huge frame rate drops
Sanctum 2′s attempts to become a stronger hybrid between tower defense and first person shooting by removing many tower elements of the first leaves Sanctum 2 with little identity. Becoming a jack of all trades, it simply becomes a case of “Anything I can do, you can do better.” If you want an action orientated defense game, Orcs Must Die 2 surpasses anything Sanctum 2 has to offer. For those who want a more traditional tower defense game then Defense Grid or Sanctum 1 have much more enjoyment to be had. The limitations of the new gameplay mechanics means nothing stands out, leaving a disappointing collection of “ok” and as such no reason to buy it over other titles available.
Posted: December 11th, 2013