Review: Sanctum 2
Sanctum 2, rather than just being another tower defense game, allows you to have almost complete control over constructing your own maze-like pathways with weapon towers to take out enemies as well as a number of different guns that you’ll carry to use yourself. Not only are you building up and managing your defenses but you’ll also need to get in on the action yourself in order to prevent wave after wave of enemies from reaching your core. It’s an interesting twist that requires you to always be ready for anything the game might send your way. I’ll be honest, as someone who has grown a little tired of tower defense, Sanctum 2 surprised me. It has some problems but by the end of it I actually found myself enjoying the game whether playing alone or with friends.
Usually tower defense games will present you with a map that has a specific pathway in which enemies will travel on their way to whatever it is that you’re protecting. Sanctum 2 instead gives an open field with a specific point of entry for enemies and a core that you’ll defend. (Later maps might require you to defend two or even three cores.) From there you can lay down towers/walls and build up your own maze to ensure enemies are funneled through a specific route that will lead them to your towers as well as prevent a quick route to your core. Each round you’re given a limited number of resources to build with so as you progress through each wave your maze and tower placement will expand. Probably the most fun I had from Sanctum 2 was building and planning how I’d construct my own maze. Maps tend to vary in size and layout but for the most part you’ll always have a decent area to build in. Some maps do limit you to specific sections in which you can build and one in particular, late in the game, gives you very few options in which to build towers. It was the one instance in the game that I actually felt like the map was poorly designed considering what made the game fun to play.
In addition to building your maze you can also upgrade towers. Each tower has a max level of three but you can then continue to pump resources into a tower to ‘overcharge’ it. This essentially allows you to boost the amount of damage that can be done. This came in handy on a couple of maps but in all honesty I didn’t use it that much. You’re limited to fifteen towers on a map which definitely required me to think extensively about how I would be building my defenses. With later maps featuring multiple paths for enemies to take and multiple cores to defend this sometimes meant having a core that was much more vulnerable. Certainly I understand that this forces strategic thinking but at the same time it made me feel limited. Much in the same way that a few different levels made me feel limited in where I could build. Having specific building sections in a stage generally worked pretty well but there definitely were a few times where I just didn’t like the limitations presented to me.
Each map usually features around ten waves of enemies. Some move fast, some are slow but take a lot of damage to kill, some will fly directly over your maze, some can only be damaged from a specific weak spot, and boss enemies will destroy what you’ve built up to that point which can certainly make things really stressful. Before each wave you can look towards enemy spawn points and actually see what types of enemies will spawn and how many for each wave. This is super useful as it allows you to anticipate what’s about to come and make whatever changes are necessary. For instance maybe you’ll want to recycle towers and move them to a new location or, say there’s a large amount of fast enemies approaching, you might want to build some towers to slow them down. In the games that I played with Brad and Chris it was cool to spend the downtime discussing what enemies were about to arrive and what we needed to do to make preparations. However there are times where you won’t have the chance to think. Sometimes you’ll have a very limited time between rounds (typically thirty to ninety seconds) to make any changes or to build. If nothing else this allowed Sanctum 2 to really lean into how intense matches can get later in the game. There can be pretty long stretches where you have to be on your toes and constantly fighting back against endless waves of enemies. One level in particular had me fight off against a boss that nearly destroyed my main line of defense only to give me thirty seconds to regroup for the next wave. I barely repaired my towers in time to survive the next round. It’s in those situations where I enjoyed Sanctum 2 the most. I constantly felt like there’d be no way I’d survive the wave and yet somehow I’d make it through.
Tower building and maze construction is vital to defending the core but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stand around and watch when the wave starts. Your character is equipped with a primary (dependent on which character you choose) and secondary gun. Your towers certainly help take out enemies but you’ll need to do your share as well. The gun-play in Sanctum 2 is okay. It serves its purpose but I felt like I spent more time reloading my weapons than I did actually firing with them. Typically I’d constantly be switching between my two guns every couple of seconds because I’d need to reload. It grew to be quite annoying after a while. There’s also a few enemies that the towers can be quite useless against. The enemies that need to be damaged in their weak spot usually are vulnerable from behind. These enemies typically took an insane amount of damage before dying and some of them would usually not even be harmed by my towers. The weak spots I don’t mind but I will say that one in particular enemy that had it’s weak spot on the inside of it’s legs proved to be incredibly annoying as it was a small area you needed to hit and one that was typically guarded most of the time.
Aside from the campaign which kind of tries to tell a story across sixteen different stages you’ll also be able to play survival mode or activate special difficulty modifiers. The difficulty modifiers essentially make enemies harder or in one case makes it so you won’t respawn until the wave is over. These give an experience bonus to your character when activated. Survival mode lets you play through any map again with endless waves. You’ll play through the map as usual but once the last wave hits the first wave will start again with one of the five difficulty modifiers activated. I personally made it to where the third modifier activated and died not long after that. Survival mode seems fun and is the one thing I’d want to keep going back to with friends.
The leveling in Sanctum 2 grants you new guns, towers and perks. Each of the four playable characters has a default weapon and a secondary that you can equip. There’s a decent selection but to be honest I typically stuck with the same character and the same guns. The same goes for the tower selection. There’s quite a few and they’re all quite different but at some point I realized that I could easily spam the lightning tower and not have a whole lot of trouble. I didn’t see much of a reason to try out different towers when I knew they wouldn’t be as effective as fifteen lightning towers. You also have quite a few perks to choose from and with these you can coordinate with other players so that everyone brings something different. For instance by the end of the game I brought perks that healed the core after each round as well as perks that damaged and stunned enemies attacking the core. Others could then bring various other perks giving us the upper hand.
Sanctum 2 isn’t without problems but I did actually find myself enjoying the game more than I expected. Typically I’d expect games like this to be boring in single player but due to just the number of enemies as well as the boss encounters I found myself having fun even when playing alone. Of course multiplayer is where you’ll have the most fun and is what I look forward to going back to at some point. So despite feeling a bit limited at times and not being a huge fan of how often I need to reload I think Sanctum 2 is pretty cool. If you’re up for it I’d give the game a shot.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Building/Planning maze and tower layout.
- Tons of enemies coming from numerous directions proves stressful but also rewarding when you make it through.
- Bosses that destroy your towers force you to think on your feet.
What I Dislike:
- Fifteen towers left me feeling limited in what I could do
- Felt like I spent more time reloading my gun than I did firing it.