Sanctum is a hybrid tower defense and first person shooter where the player must defend the Core from streams of aliens. The aliens come in fairly standard tower defense varieties such as the fast movers, tanks, fast flyers and cluster flyers. The shooter aspect allows for some unique enemies though. There is one type of enemy that only takes damage in the back and another that only takes damage in a tiny spot on their head which sways back and forth as they lumber though the level. These royal pain in the ass monsters are cleverly named Bobbleheads. The towers available for defense also have the standard variety available in most tower defense games which include the heavy damage slow firing Electricity tower, the quick firing low damage Gatling, the medium damage and speed Scatter Laser which can target both air and ground. There are a few other towers as well as floors tiles which the aliens can walk over which either enhance the damage or slow the creatures down. Each tower must be built on a standard block, which are also used to shape the gauntlet the aliens must walk. How the course is set up is up to the player as long as the aliens have one unblocked route to the Core. There is a small array of guns that can be chosen from. It would be nice to have some more unique guns as opposed to an assault rifle, sniper rifle and so on. The FPS play is fun and skill based as every alien has a weak spot, which is conveniently glowing, which deals critical damage. Hitting these weak spots greatly increases the speed at which you can dispatch the alien swarms.
A very cool feature of the game is being able to track how much damage each tower did. In other tower defense games it is common to show on a map how the kills broke down on the last round. Sanctum’s map shows no such information, however when you hold your cursor over a tower you see not only the upgrade information but also the number of kills and the percentage of damage that tower has dealt both in the last round and the whole level. The kills are cool enough but the damage percentage is very useful as it allows important towers which do significant damage but are not collecting the kills to be identified. A note about the damage data is that as far as I can tell it excludes the damage dealt by your guns.
During the tutorial and first level there is a hint that there will be a story that will follow the levels. After the first level however any semblance of a story disappears. This is not particularly a bad thing except it would be nice if there was some back story on why we have to protect the Cores.
There are a few of positives and negatives with Sanctum. One thing that I really enjoyed was the soundtrack. The music fits the game very well and enhances the game. The soundtrack is available for purchase and I am considering splurging for it. Secondly the game is simply fun. The lack of story gives it sort of a detached feeling that allows for concentration on the level at hand and the ability to jump into the game for one level.
A major feature of the game is its multiplayer. Sanctum allows you to play with up to three friends, or strangers, making for fun game play and strategizing. One thing that surprised me though was that the level are slightly different in multiplayer. Not in lay out but in order and the types of monsters that appear. I was playing with a friend on multiplayer for the first time and we decided to try out the first map which has no flyers so we only had one tower capable of attacking air units. Naturally there were lots of air units so we were left to tackle the flyers ourselves.
The main draw backs of the game are the somewhat limited weapon and tower selection. There are only really three towers that attack ground units and only 5 hand held weapons overall. There are DLC that add a few more options but the vanilla offerings are rather, well, vanilla. One thing about the gameplay that I find somewhat annoying is that the units get stronger as each wave progresses. I understand the waves are supposed to get harder but there is no way of knowing how much stronger the units are getting. The exact damage each shot from the towers and guns is given but no info on how much health the aliens have is making the weapon damage numbers somewhat useless. I would prefer if there were more units or different stronger units that simply have colour tweaks. It more of a preference thing really but I did find it somewhat annoying.
I would be remiss to not include the two free DLCs that are available for the game as everyone who has Sanctum essentially owns these as well. The first one is called Yogscave which is a map that features banter from Yogscast. I have never heard of them but apparently they are a comedy podcast. The banter was quite amusing however there was enough recorded. Halfway through the first time I played the level I began noticing repeated clips and the last 30% of the level there was no new material. This made it get a bit old. And that was only after the first time I played the level.
The second DLC is title X-mas Carnage which is, as you might have guessed, a Christmas themed level. It differs from the rest of the levels as the monsters have a set path and the defenses are built around the path. Because of this set up the floor defense were not able to be placed which seems to be a bit of an oversight from the developers. The two DLC were ok and worth at least one play through however I would not have been impressed if I had paid from them.
Overall this is a fun game that is best played with friends in the multiplayer mode. It’s a nice pick up and play game that can be challenging and rewarding when you finally beat a level that had you stumped. Gamer to gamer I would recommend this game to those who like tower defense games and have at least one friend willing pick up the game and go to battle together.