Preview: Sanctum 2 aims to deliver more FPS / tower defense action

Sanctum 2 Screenshot - 1143071

Have you ever played a tower defense game, or any sort of construction and resource-based title, and been frustrated when your tower/town/what have you falls? You watch helplessly as all the hard work you put in to your base’s construction is lost to the enemy. You wish for nothing more than to jump into the game, get on the ground and take an active role in the fight to protect all you’ve worked for. This wish was granted with the original downloadable title Sanctum from Coffee Stain Studios, and is about be once more with the upcoming Sanctum 2.

Set on the fictional planet of LOEK III, Sanctum 2 centers around a group of space warriors protecting their hometown from mysterious alien creatures hell bent on their destruction. Unlike the original game players choose between four playable characters, each with their own unique strengths and abilities. Protagonist Skye carries over from the original title, with Sweet, Haigan, and Ceemo. Different characters’ abilities bring different benefits. Sweet Autumn, for example, has a powerful multi-shot cannon that can be charged and is particularly useful for taking down bigger enemies. Players will need to figure out which characters are most useful for a given situation, while also being able to choose the play style that most suits them.

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Gameplay in Sanctum 2 combines the best aspects of first person shooters and tower defense to great effect. Players purchase parts to upgrade their base in any given level, building pathways to guide enemy movement and weapon structures to help defend themselves. Players explore and expand their base in first person mode and when the enemies arrive help defend the base first hand with customizable weapons and attacks. The shooting gameplay follows your standard FPS mechanics and control schemes, making Sanctum 2 easy to dive in to for new players. The strategy for this title comes with the different maps and varieties of enemies that come after you.  

Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, from your standard rogues that blindly charge down the paths you build to flying enemies that go straight for your base and require entirely different strategies to take down. Each enemy has its own special weak spots and unique movement patterns to take note of, and there’s enough variety of them to keep new players on their toes for quite some time. Some enemies go straight for your base’s core (which, if taken means game over), while others specifically target your base’s defenses, and still others come straight for the player. After every few alien waves will come a more complicated boss attack. These bosses will do everything; some literally knock entire wall segments out of the way, to get what they want.

In between each wave players get time to resupply themselves and use any points they earned in previous rounds to upgrade their base. Upgrades come in the form of different blocks that, if used properly, create paths for enemies to follow as well as weapons to bolster your defenses. These automated weapons prove especially useful, as they will keep the majority of the horde busy while the player focuses on more complicated enemies. Players have as much time as they want in between standard enemy waves, so strategic players can really plan out their next move and adjust their base accordingly.

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Running on Unreal Engine 3, Sanctum 2 is quite easy on the eyes. It isn’t always you see a downloadable game with this kind of polish. Sanctum 2 is actually quite refreshing in this regard; eschewing your standard FPS grit in favor of a clean, sleek, and stylish look.  The worlds are bright and colorful, a rarity for this kind of game. Even the enemies are strangely pleasing to the eye with their varied and colorful designs. One almost feels bad knocking some of the fliers out of the sky. Almost. Even the character artwork is a major step up from the original game, with a cartoonier stylized aesthetic.

This game has more visual appeal than many triple A titles on the market, even at the early stage I saw it at, and the artistic team really deserves a lot of credit for adding that extra cherry on an already delicious sundae. In addition, developers promise regular DLC releases, including season passes for players who want it all, that will add to the existing game both in extras and bonuses as well as an expansion of the game’s single player campaign. This will no doubt bring even more value to the already jam packed little title.  

Sanctum 2 has all the polish and appeal of a triple A release, and a near endless amount of replay value even before any of the DLC add-ons. So if you’re looking for a little action to go with your strategy, and all of it at a reasonable price, then keep your eye out for Sanctum 2 when it drops later this year for XBOX Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and PC.

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Sal Mattos
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