First person tower defense games are a rare breed, and certainly not a proven one. Ever since the lowly RTS genre birthed the tower defense genre, pretty much every developer out there tried to make a quick buck off the concept, and as a result, left many gamers nay saying the genre. Well, fear not, inexperienced tower carpenters, because Indie developer Coffee Stain Studios wants to make you a believer with Sanctum.
Is Sanctum worth the $15 plunge? Take a break from building that lengthy maze of yours, and read on to find out.
Aesthetically, Sanctum has a decidedly Phantasy Star veneer (which I can’t get enough of), all placed on top of the sexy Unreal Engine 3. The environments are gorgeous, and the pulsating energy core you’re tasked to defend dynamically changes colors as it’s under attack, to great detail.
Sanctum uses the maze-style tower defense model: Each weapon and tower has it’s ups and downs, and you’ll [thankfully] have to use all of them to succeed. In addition to the standard slow, anti-air, aoe, and single shot towers, you’ll have one fairly unique addition – the televators.
Operating exactly how they sound, televators let you both teleport between existing portals, and walk on them to raise yourself above your foes (this becomes increasingly valuable after you attach slow panels to all of your floors, which also affect you in addition to your enemies). Your character is also an adept acrobat, so you can jump to and fro between tower blocks with ease. If you hit the Tab key, you’ll zoom out to an overhead view, which allows you to access teleport points, as well as view the action in it’s entirety - you just can’t build in this view.
The reason you’ll have to use these weapons in tandem with the various towers is because your foe’s weak points differ from alien to alien, and there are some fast flyers in the mix that are especially hard to hit without some anti-air towers. While the actual aesthetics of the enemies could be more varied, the diverse strategies needed to best them wave after wave aren’t in short supply.
Content wise, Sanctum offers three difficulty settings, and a beatable single player over four levels that will last you anywhere from 4-5 hours. However, once you’re done with it, you’re done. Thankfully, endless multiplayer is where it really shines, because grabbing a friend you can chat/coordinate with is extremely satisfiying. In the early waves where you can’t afford everything, splitting weapon duties is a blast.
On my first run with the game, I was tasked with machine gun cleanup, while my friend picked off enemies at a distance with his powered up sniper rifle – while there are only three weapons in total, the amount of cooperative synergy needed to progress to higher waves is undeniable. If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of modes – endless is fun, but it would be nice to set up and create your own custom campaigns with a set wave to beat.
However, as fun as the game is, I have a few gripes. For one, I wish I could see the efficacy of each tower’s total damage over time, to know when to give useless towers the boot. It’s a bit frustrating to build a ton of towers late game, only to see how much damage they’re capable of doing. It would also be nice to build in the overhead view – although it’s convenient to be able to use the televators in this zoomed out mode, actually placing towers would be the next logical step.
Sanctum is also criminally short on content, given how it’s currently only two players at maximum (although there is a rumored four player mode in the works). After you finish the short 4-5 hour single player mode, you’ll be at the mercy of whomever you can find online, or any friends you can dig up. Of course, if you end up feeling passionately about the game, and find another partner in crime, you could easily play multiple 1-2 hour sessions every week, and it would still be enjoyable.
At first glance it would seem a bit tough to knock on Sanctum for some of the above faults, but really, it’s just because I hold it in such high regard. With a few updates, Sanctum could be a “must have” for just about every gamer out there. Until then, only apply after testing out the trial if you’re sure you can keep yourself busy.
With a bright graphical scheme, you'll never run out of interesting things to look at - the enemy designs could be a bit more varied, however.
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Sanctum offers a flawless control scheme, with a nice mix of tower building and first person shooter tactical gameplay.
Sanctum doesn't really offer anything unique in terms of sound effects or a musical score.
The worst facet of Sanctum is the lack of content that it provides - thankfully one map has already arrived, and more is promised to be on the way.
If you enjoy tower defense games, download the trial and give Sanctum a shot immediately - just don't expect the full package to keep you going for a while.