Sanctum 2, the tower defense game that redefined the genre by fusing FPS elements is back with more content and more polish. While the original title was very good, it felt like a beta test for a franchise, maybe even just a second game. It felt somewhat unfinished despite having very solid gameplay mechanics. The sequel Sanctum 2 shows that this is a game we wanted from the original and it blows the original right out of the water. With a clearer sense of game progression, art direction, and tightened gameplay mechanics, Sanctum 2 is a game here to stay.
The Lume are back and deadlier ever. Skye Autumn is called back on duty to defend the cores of Brightholme. This time she is not alone. Her younger sister has joined her side to follow in her father’s footsteps. A young man named Haigen Hawkins joins the fight after getting out of the Brightholme slums, and SiMo, a robot engineered to assist the core guardians join the fight against the Lumes. It is up to these four guardians to push back the Lumes and protect humanity from extinction.
The story has more than meets the eye. As you progress through the different levels the loading screens detail what is going on in between in stylistic comics. This new way of telling a story is very welcomed in Sanctum 2. It adds to the atmosphere of the Sanctum universe. It also gives the characters some face time to get an idea of what their personality is like. The added characterization is welcomed to give some more depth to Sanctum 2.
In terms of gameplay much of the game has remained the same, yet, it feels different. Now you can’t make tower changes through an overhead view. This is due to the drastic map size decrease. I would assume that this change was made to make matches feel quicker and the pacing of the game could be balanced out. I found that the original Sanctum had a big pacing problem and that some maps were completed quickly while others too longer than they should due to the map size.
The map size has been decreased, so now the problem is that the game feels like it is focused more on the FPS mechanic. What made the original Sanctum so unique is the delightful balance of FPS and tower defense. In Sanctum 2, the FPS mechanics have been expanded with the class choices that dictate what your main weapon is. You will then unlock a variety of secondary weapons as you increase your level.
Yes, there are levels now. As you complete more areas you will gain experience, you gain more if you activate one or more of the stage modifiers that make the stage more difficult. As you gain level, you gain more tower slots, more weapons, and more perks. A new addition as well, perks change how your weapons perform or how your towers perform. Using these perks you can modify your play style to be more tower driven or more character driven. These perks come into effect when playing Co-Op.
A large disadvantage I have found in Sanctum 2 is the resource system. While I do not mind the original system of utilizing bases to create your path of death, gaining the currency to build towers is a set amount after every round. It is practically a written rule that in TD games you earn currency by destroying enemies as well as getting a round bonus. While I do not ding Coffee Stain Studios on trying to do something different, the absence of this basic gameplay mechanic makes the game feel slightly broken when trying to build more towers and upgrade them.
The Lume are more diverse than the previous title. Because this is a sequel, the enemies feel evolved which is a nice touch. As such, the weak points for many enemies are harder to get to. Like the tank esque beetle Lume you must shoot it from behind, however, you put yourself in danger against the enemies behind it. So an element of strategy is added to the flow of the matches. While many will disagree that this is not a good thing, I find the changes to the new Lume to be welcomed because it adds a wealthy amount of challenge.
The Lume are also not lost in the core anymore. They now stay at the core attacking it, dealing damage over time. Due to the smaller maps and challenge increase I find that this helps balance out a lot of what the original Sanctum had. It may not feel like a traditional Tower Defense mechanic, but it is nice to know you have a fighting chance of winning rather than just giving up because 5 enemies broke through. The bosses are also incredibly challenging. They destroy everything in sight. While they are unlike regular Lume, they will not prioritize the player despite the shots being fired at them. They will clear out towers and make room for the smaller Lume.
The Co-Op has its ups and downs. The game feels more dynamic with more than one person playing; the downside is the shared resources. Now I know this is more of a personal preference than a mechanic that makes a game good or bad but in Sanctum 2 it feels odd. I can’t exactly pinpoint why it doesn’t work but I guess you can say it makes better for people playing different roles. One person is the tower guy the other is the fighter. Eventually everyone is just upgrading stuff. The Co-Op in other TD games like Dungeon Defenders that use a separate resource system work well, and I feel like the shared aspect is a miss in Sanctum 2’s case.
Sanctum 2’s smaller focus on FPS mechanics is not entirely welcomed and it takes away from the unique balance the original game had feels kind of forced due to the gaming market these days. I enjoy the new unlocking system because it gives you something to work forward to. Giving the player everything from the start is not always the best course of action. The new art direction is brilliant and very much welcomed. While the game’s change in direction in terms of gameplay is not what we remember, it still stands out as an original idea in a sea of rehashes. The addition of multiplayer of the Co-Op variety is a great idea, but in this case it was in some ways, a case of poor execution.
Sanctum 2 still has loads of replay value with more unlockables and the Feats of Strength playthroughs and that in itself is something that should be marveled at. Not many games these days have much replay value. Sanctum 2 is still a great addition to any PC gamer, and now it is also available on Xbox Live for the 360. I give Sanctum 2 an 8/10.