Super Sanctum TD review: Tower defense's best-kept secret
Coffee Stain Studios put a nice spin on the tower defense genre when they combined it with a first-person shooter in Sanctum 2 (I didn't play the first Sanctum). Around that same time, though, Coffee Stain Studios also released Super Sanctum TD, a classic tower defense game set in the Sanctum universe. And it's amazing.
There's no gimmick here, Super Sanctum TD is tower defense in its purest form. Gone is the first-person shooter aspect, and in its place are retro graphics and sounds, classic tower placement and strategy, and a wealth of towers, abilities and perks to fit your playstyle – all on maps that have good diversity while keeping the obvious look of Sanctum 2's environment.
Like you'd expect from a tower defense game, players use money (your resource) to place building blocks in whatever maze pattern you'd like. Towers can then be purchased and placed on top of those blocks, and each tower can be upgraded a few times. The goal is to stop the waves of enemies from reaching and destroying the core – just like Sanctum 2. Like I said, the only difference is that you can't be an active participant in that defense by shooting your personal firearms at the enemy.
There's a good range of towers, from Gatling towers and Anti-air guns, to long-range sniping towers and AOE flamethrowers. The enemies you face are all recognizable from Sanctum 2, as well. Before each level, as well as each wave in a level, you'll be able to see the enemies you're about to face. So when you get an influx of cash before each wave, you'll be able to come up with an effective strategy on tackling the enemies. If you're about to face a bunch of Sporebombs, which fly so they ignore the walls of your maze, you're going to want to put Anti-air turrets in their path. Going into a level, it's smart to look at what enemies you'll be facing and then choose which four towers you want to use.
The same goes for skills/abilities. As you level up, which you do by playing levels and getting experience, you'll be rewarded with more towers, skills and perks. Skills are attacks or abilities that help you during a level. Each skill has a cooldown varying in length of time, but they're really useful. If you're overwhelmed with enemies, the Smart Bomb skills will obliterate everything on the map, but it's on a 300-second cooldown. If you'd like supplementary damage more often, the shorter cooldowns of Bomb and Mine might be better for you. At level 10, you'll have four spots for skills unlocked, and that's when I found myself using other skills like Freeze and Teleport more useful.
Perks – just like in Sanctum 2 – are also really important to crafting your playstyle. As you level up, you get one perk token per level. You can then place that token into one of five Perk trees: Physical Towers, Energy Towers, Economy, Skills and Effects. Each tree takes six tokens to max out. Obviously, the Physical Towers tree increases the performance of physical towers, while a tree like Skills will give your skills more damage and effectiveness. Skill tokens can be refunded at any time, so experimentation is encouraged.
The combination of towers, enemies, perks and skills adds a ton of depth to Super Sanctum TD. Levels get challenging, and you'll have to try different towers, strategies and builds to succeed. With the retro look, sounds and feel to it, Super Sanctum TD is a complete package of a tower defense game. The only gripe I have is because of the retro graphics, I can't recommend playing in full-screen, as the game becomes too pixelated.
Super Sanctum TD is the tower defense genre's best-kept secret. For only $3.99 on Steam, it's one of the best purchases that I can recommend. Now if they could bring it to smartphones and tablets...