Title: Sanctum 2
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Shooter, Tower Defence
Players: Single player, Co Op (1-4 players)

Written by Whistler 29th December 2013

From modest beginnings back in 2011 when small developers Coffee Stain Studios entered Sanctum into the “Make something Unreal” competition and went on to win multiple awards. Sanctum was one of the first games on Steam that I jumped onto with no reviews nor recommendation from friends (I lived in a household of 3-4 hardcore PC gamers and became one myself), and was hooked onto the game's almost exclusive pairing of first person shooter game play with intense tower defence mechanics.

Following Sanctum's fairly nice life (gaining a solid sales well after release), we eventfully got ourselves a sequel. Sanctum 2 took many steps away from its predecessor for better or worse according to what was a once very divided fan base. Sanctum 2 is by far one of the most difficult games to review gameplay wise as almost all the games faults have since been ironed out (selfish developers changing the game to suit the gamers); even so the game is still very different compared to the original.

Sanctum 2 is a fps tower defence where the player takes control of one of the four 'Core Guardians' (now five), who are charged with defending the Cores of Elyusion One against the planet's natives, the Lumes. You (and hopefully your buddies) play through several levels that consist of several waves, in between waves you build mazes with base towers and outfit them with several different types of turrets/towers and during wave you must combine your skills with your tactically place towers to ensure as little damage to the Core(s) of each level.

Where in Sanctum, players would have to maintain a strong balance of weapon upgrades and tower upgrading, Coffee Stains made the odd decision to remove weapon upgrading what seemed in favour of character classes.
Character classes play a fairly big part in how each player contributes and largely effects their own personal play styles; with Skye players dealing more damage over time with double jump capabilities, Haigen players taking more damage and dealing more close up damage, SiMo for the sniper lovers out there, Sweet for attacking large groups, and later with the addition of Tsygan, moving faster with extra last shot damage.
While I did shed a small tear for the loss of weapon upgrades, in turn I feel the change to character classes was a wise move as it allows for a lot more variation in gameplay styles and forces a more teamwork.

Core gameplay originally started out very awkward where resource points where dropped from the skies and even forced players to share the already limited amount of points and towers, this was fixed up but there was still the big jumped where towers were now capped, where in Sanctum you could place as many towers as there were bases, but now the player is limited to 15 towers/turrets and tower bases now cost their own resource points. Personally I feel this wasn't executed as well as its predecessor but I will admit this is most likely just growing pains for a diehard fan of the original; tower defence has been improved with a vast amount of arsenal at your disposal, with twenty towers in total (eight from Sanctum 2's DLC expansions). While personally 2-4 of these were fairly useless compared to others, the amount of towers was vastly improved each having much more defined strengths and weaknesses where the Sanctum allowed you to get away with focusing with 1-2 towers per level.

Sanctum 2's FPS elements have been vastly improved, leaping from a three (or five with dlc) weapon range of the original to a nice well rounded sixteen (again, nine with the expansions), each performing differently from the other and offering additional variety while admittedly certain weapons are pointless when used with certain characters (eg. the sniper is crap when used by Skye or Sweet).
Admittedly I do miss being able to change my weapon style as I saw fit within a level seeing as every characters stats in Sanctum were on level ground and only your skill mattered (or upgrade level) thus allowed the player to concentrate on tower set ups to ensure success (given you had three weapon slots compared to Sanctum 2's two).
While at first fans were not happy with the more fps focused gameplay I feel it was a necessary step as it allowed for a wider audience and helped reinvigorate gameplay mechanics as previously mentioned adding variety and replayability.

Now with gameplay out of the way (that was longer than expected), which was good;
visuals of Sanctum 2 was a real nice step forward with well created characters, colourful imagery and rather vast amount of detail put into the world Coffee Stain Studios has portrayed with the sequel.

While it took me a bit to get use to the character textures, each character and even all the enemies have been beautifully crafted; textures, models and animations all come together to breathe life into the game amazingly well especially well for an indie game and even compared to some of this year's AAA titles.

Hell the level designers for Sanctum 2 went all out in the making of this titles, for a tower defence game the levels are all full of lush detail, from rustic foundries, buzzing jungles and even tainted futuristic cities; levels are huge, with plenty of secrets and are probably some of the best level design I've seen in a long time. Most if not all levels are filled to the brim with secrets and quirks that promote going the extra length to explore and discover what surprises the level designers left for us to find.

The story for Sanctum 2 is admittedly rather basic but I mean, its a tower defence; the storyline is purely a bonus to give a bit more to the overall experience, and it pulls it off to a degree.
While the story simplistic, it hooks you in and adds a little more to that addiction (it sadly makes the 'one more level' mentality more prominent). The core guardians are going about their business dealing with Lumes that leads them to what is believed to be the origin of the Lumes,

Turns out there was a behemoth sized Lume in stasis that was slowly being awakened by the increasing Core activity on the planet, the base game ends here, while it felt really d*ckish at the time for lack of a better term, it was a brilliant cliffhanger; single handedly giving you an unexpected plot twist, a bigger goal and adding a sense of urgency all while leaving you gasping for more.

A few months later, which felt like an eternity, we were slowly given the following DLC: Road to Elysion, then Ruins of Brightholme then followed by The Pursuit and The Last Stand, each expanding the campaign little by little, adding weapons, turrets and even a new character class.

While I enjoy that this has allowed the Sanctum 2 experience to last longer than most indie titles, and each expansion to the story leaving me wanting more; I personally feel its a business practice that needs to die off before it becomes common place. It leads me to feel like that Sanctum 2 was released unfinished, granted this is purely speculation; without the DLC (which was sold as DLC, not expansions, and nowhere big enough to be proper expansion packs), Sanctum 2 was short to mid ranged in length with I'll admit plenty of replayability even back then, but I dislike the rather empty ending and feel the base game's ending should have been handled differently.
Giving you a victory but with a taste of what's to come rather than a rather what felt like an empty 'haha you're going to have to give us more money to see the ending' bait and switch approach would have most likely worked a whole lot more and gave the same if not better end results.

Now this is really the only complaint I can fault the game on, the soundtrack lends itself to the overall game but tends to fade into the background every now and then, but they do their job and and when you get a chance to properly listen to the tracks (hard to when there's so much going on during waves) blend hard hitting beats with futuristic atmosphere pieces to make a well produced original OST.

Sanctum 2 base game alone offers roughly 9-12 hours for a single playthrough (most likely more depending on how many retries it takes to complete each level), and a further 5-6 hours for achievement hunters and completionists all while not even including just replaying levels for enjoyment (yeah cause people play games just to enjoy them sometimes). Even then each DLC adds another 2-4 hours totalling an extra 16 hours; so far I've clocked 56 hours and still have plenty to go before 100%ing it.
All in all, Sanctum 2 is a fun first person shooter tower defence that blends skill and tactics as well as promoting teamwork neatly packaged to make an enjoyable experience with plenty of replayability that even just for the base game deserves a buy (perhaps a reluctant one unless you grab the season pass with it) all while going beyond the call of duty to make a world with great graphics, interesting and likeable characters, a half decent story, simple yet enjoyable lore, and awesome level design.



Fun and addictive gameplay,


Balanced challenge and reward,


Highly detailed level design.


Bad business practice,

Sometimes forces Co Op,

Storyboards used to tell the story,

DLC required to finish the story.

Final verdict ,

Sanctum 2 saves the world for a 7.5 out of 10 (9 if the base game's ending was handled better).

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