Review: Sanctum 2 will scratch your tower defense and FPS itches
Developer Coffee Stain Studios' follow-up to 2011's Sanctum is better in every way. Sanctum 2 takes the tower defense/first-person shooter hybrid and expands upon it. What we get is more style, polish, and action that will please fans of both genres.
Sanctum 2 consists of two phases – tower construction and invasion. Using resources that you get before each wave begins, you construct walls and towers to help you defend the core from the onslaught of enemies coming your way. Through your mini-map, you can see the path that enemies will be taking, and you'll also be presented with the types of enemies that you'll encounter in the next wave. This is part of the strategy of the game, as certain towers are more effective against certain types of enemies.
Another part of the strategy comes from choosing your class and creating a loadout for that class. Sanctum 2 has four classes to choose from, each offering something different. There's Skye Autumn (assault rifles), Sweet Autumn (explosive weapons good against aerial units), SiMo (sniper rifles) and Haigen Hawkins (shotguns). Each of their playstyles is different, and since there's some trial and error with certain maps, you'll probably be using each of them.
As you play maps and defeat enemies, you'll earn experience and level up. Doing so will unlock new weapons and towers for you to equip into a preset loadout for your character. In addition to that, you'll equip perks that will further aid you. Facing off against large waves of enemies? Choose Static Discharge, which adds a lightning bounce effect to your shots that deal 50% damage to other enemies. No matter what your playstyle or strategy going in, there's a perk for what you want/need. This is honestly what makes the FPS portion of the game work so well – the diversity of how you'll tackle each stage.
The near-perfect blend of tower defense and first-person shooter is what makes the game so much fun as a whole – especially when playing with other people. You're forced to adjust your strategy both before a level and during it as new enemies take new paths to get to the core. And while it's more fun to play with another person, it doesn't get any easier – especially in later levels where tower placement must be perfect.
The problem with Sanctum 2 – and it's a problem that's inherent to most tower defense games – is that the story is nonexistent. All you need to know is that you have to protect a core from the waves of alien enemies coming at you. This can make the single-player campaign kind of bland, and it doesn't help that the game gets monotonous after a while. The visuals are clean, crisp and have a nice sci-fi feel to them, but maps can all blur into one. For as much diversity in strategy as there is, you're always going to do the same thing, so it's better to do that same thing with a friend.
Thankfully, matchmaking is a breeze. Even on my own, I'd set my game to public so other people could join as they please, with up to four players working together. If you'd like to challenge yourself more, you can turn on Feats of Strength, which up the challenge but reward you with more XP. One example is Impeccable Accuracy, which has enemies move quicker in exchange for 20% more XP. These are a huge challenge for one player, so I'd recommend multiplayer for most of these Feats. If you'd like a change-up from the campaign, you can try endless mode, where waves of enemies just keep coming until your core is gone. As you get to higher waves, Feats of Strength will automatically turn on for more challenge, in addition to the enemies just getting more powerful on their own.
If you can get over the lack of any meaningful story, Sanctum 2 offers a unique take on the tower defense genre. It offers fun, often-intense FPS action that takes the tower defense genre to new heights. There's also a Season Pass available for you to get all of the DLC. There's still room for improvement, but if you're a tower defense junkie, you have to play Sanctum 2.