Review: Sanctum 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Sanctum 2
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Reverb
Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
Release: 05/15/2013


I never played or read up much on the first Sanctum when it released back in 2011.  I have never been a big fan of the tower defense genre of games.  For whatever reason the concept, though novel, just never clicked with me.  So when Sanctum 2 was released I decided to look into it.  The idea of creating a hybrid genre by mixing it with a first person shooter setting merited me to play it.  To my amazement I was surprised by how well the two genres can work together.  Does Sanctum 2 offer me enough variety to keep me hooked and playing?

The story apparently continues to follow the protagonist from the first Sanctum, Skye, and three other playable characters as they continue to fend off swarms of crazy aliens and save their colony.  Sanctum 2 tells it’s story through comic book style cut scenes that appear between the game’s map and loading the arena.  Usually it’s a brief conversation but I never really paid much attention to it because quite frankly it did not interest me in the least.  The art style for the comic panels and character select screens is pretty sleek however.

Starting out you have four playable characters to pick from each with their own unique abilities, strengths and weakness.  The diversity is rather unique among each character but you can easily adjust each character to your play style by customizing them with a good backup weapon, towers, extra abilities, etc.  A character like Skye, who has the ability to double jump, can be given the ability to do double damage equivalent to the heavy damage bringers or give one of the other less mobile characters the ability to double jump just like Skye.  Its very important to learn and utilize everything as you have to defend a Core unit from being destroyed in every map or it’s game over.

You acquire more abilities, weapons, and towers by collecting experience points as you play.  In defeat, you can still accrue points but no where near the amount you get in a victory.  Leveling up is essential in Sanctum 2 because you gain not only all the aforementioned unlockables but an increase in health and damage output for all characters.  This works very similarly like an RPG system and it works perfectly fine in Sanctum 2.  There’s a lot of things to unlock to increase your chances for victory down the line.

Control wise Sanctum 2 plays like another generic First person shooter.  Nothing incredibly unique about the layout of the control scheme, but not exactly lacking in anything either.  There’s no fault with the way I was able to play the game on the Xbox 360 controller but at times I wish I had the precision of a mouse and keyboard.  Thankfully most of the enemies even, with speed up Feat, move around slowly enough for you to line up a deadly weak point shot (More on the weak points later on).  You do have a focus shot mode by holding down the left trigger and a secondary fire on the right bumper which is pretty standard in arcade style shooters.  When in tower building mode, everything is pretty solid in terms of laying down the foundation.  There’s no difficulty in trying to place your walls or towers in an exact location.

After the first cut scene we’re are introduced to the tutorial level which pretty much sums up the entire game for you.  Sanctum 2 does an excellent job with it’s introductory levels, throwing the right amount of challenge your way to quickly pick up the game.  There are a number of rounds per map and in between each round you have time to collect some parts to build a barrage of walls to stall the movement of the enemy swarms.  You can even install several different types of towers with a varying degree of effectiveness.  The rounds themselves have a set number of monsters in each swarm with a unique mixture of monsters.  In the early part of the game, a different variety of beasties are thrown your way that allow you to learn how to take them down.

After the first couple of maps, the challenge starts to pick up but you can also increase the difficulty by selecting one or more of the five Feats of strengths.  The Feats of Strength modes increase the difficulty of the game by doing numerous tasks.  One increases the movement of the enemy swarms while another regenerates their health.  You can mix and match the combo that is best suited for you.  Right off the bat I enabled three of them and managed my way through multiple waves of hard to take down beasties.  The ability to turn on the Feats does come with rewarded extra experience points that helps you level up quicker in Sanctum 2.

The enemies you encounter throughout Sanctum 2 are what gives you the major challenge however.  So many different varieties of which makes it extremely vital for you to make wise decisions about what abilities, weapons and towers you pick before entering the arena.  The creatures come with an assortment of their own unique abilities that range from heavy armor decreasing damage from your weapons, flying around the map, or being able to send YOU flying with a single punch.  They all range in size and shape lending to their abilities.  You got these tiny little floor crawlers that move incredibly fast but can be taken down easily with some well placed towers.  There’s also some slow moving brain aliens that ignore you completely and march straight for the core, they deal a good chunk of damage to the core and can take a great deal of punishment themselves.

However the cream of the crop are the enemy boss encounters which you fighter in the final map of an area during the last wave.  These guys not only are huge in size, they stand out because they can destroy everything you’ve set up.  They run around the map trying to knock down every wall and tower you’ve built making it hard to crowd control the other monsters heading straight for the core.  The challenge they offer you is great and forces you to think on your feet and to prepare for future encounters in later maps.

Sanctum 2 offers a robust always online gaming experience.  You sign into the game and your experience is live for everyone and anyone to join.  Teaming up someone actually helps make the game easier to play at times as well unless you grind your character to an incredibly high level.  The only minor complaint about the multiplayer aspect is when it comes to between waves.  The number of drops for building walls and towers don’t change to accommodate the extra player and once a wave ends its a race to see who gets them first.  This can royally screw a game over if the guy that picks the items up first is an architectural idiot in how he lays out things out.  However I do see why this decision is made, mainly to prevent the us from having too much of an upper hand.  The game would be incredibly unbalanced if everyone was building hordes of towers, the enemies wouldn’t make it past their zone entrances.

Aside from the campaign mode, there is also a gauntlet style survival mode.  This is pretty much you and anybody else in the match playing against increased monster numbers wave after wave.  This is pretty much just like the campaign mode but with more waves of monsters to fend off.  It’s pretty much a weaker version of firefight which I found to be better in a game like Halo 3 ODST.  Aside from those two modes there an easy mode which exactly is what it means.  The lack of any truly innovative multiplayer modes is what hurts Sanctum 2 a lot because after awhile you’re going to get tired of playing campaign and survival mode.

Short attention Span Summary:

I am actually rather disappointed with what is given to us.  Sanctum 2 is a fun and enjoyable in short burst but the short campaign and lack of other modes makes this a hard sell.  Also while the multiplayer is fun, it can get frustrating if you are paired up with someone that doesn’t have a clue what they are doing.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a lot of people playing Sanctum 2 online at all.  I did enjoy it’s tower defense portion of the game and how well it integrated with a first person shooter perspective.  But after a while that novelty wears off and you’ll find yourself wanting to play a different game.



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