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sanctum-2

Sanctum 2

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By NeonAnderson08-07-2013
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Sanctum 2

The Defence

Developer:
Coffee Stain Studios
Publisher:
Coffee Stain Studios
Genre:
Strategy, Shooter, Indie
Release Date:
15-05-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Quad 2.0 GHz
AMD Athlon X4 2.0 GHz
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS
AMD equivalent
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
4 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

 

Following in the footsteps of Sanctum, Coffee Stain Studios aims to deliver a new and improved tower defence game that is both better and bigger than the first game. According to the Coffee Stain Studios blog, they have learned a lot from player feedback on Sanctum and have changed not just the way Sanctum 2 was developed, but also the business strategy around the game’s future content. Are they able to deliver on the promise of bigger and better or does Sanctum 2 come with a broken Core?

The Trial

 

The first thing anyone will notice who has played the first Sanctum is the addition of a tutorial and campaign mode. This also means that unlike the previous title, Sanctum 2 actually features a story progression of sorts. As the player progresses, the game will naturally increase its difficulty and introduce new enemy types, larger waves and increases general mayhem. This is a nice addition as many players were put off by the missing story element and a lack of structure in the first game. The actual structure of the campaign is divided into four different regions, each with four levels, meaning there are 16 levels in total. There are two reasons for the levels to be divided up like this, the first has to do with the story, while the second and most interesting reason is the actual level design in both its layout and its visual theme. For example, the first area, Facility, features levels based in a more developed city-like environment. Thus expect structured levels surrounded by beautiful, well-developed, city environments. As a result these levels tend to be more straightforward and less chaotic. This is in stark contrast to the later levels in the last two areas, which are more out in the middle of nowhere and as such are much less structured, very difficult to navigate, chaotic and intense levels.

Fly you fools!

Fly you fools!

It is really impressive to see a game where the developers really went out of their way to make a linear level progression, which meant the level designers had quite some work building the world as they basically had to come up with new textures for each area. Some levels are so well designed that the texture work looks completely different from the ones before and after, making it seemingly unique. Additionally, they even managed to give the players a reason for the change of scenery and the rise of difficulty throughout the story. I keep mentioning the story, but have yet to say how the story is told. The story is only told through comic strips during the loading screen and an in-game ending cinematic of sorts. There are no voice-overs, no animations, and each strip is quite short (the longest comic strip is 3-screens long). This in a way is disappointing as compared to other storytelling methods is quite a bit simpler to make. That all being said, I am glad they invested more into the gameplay and level design and less into the storytelling, after all it is the gameplay that makes a game and not always its story. So the story does the job and does not detract from the experience. In fact it actually helps improve the experience as it gives the players more insight into why they are where they are, why the enemies are becoming tougher and why the levels are looking the way they look. The story even goes further than that and helps the player learn why these creatures are attacking the Cores that you must so carefully protect.

It is also important to note that one big strength continued on from Sanctum is that Sanctum 2 also supports 4-player co-op. The great thing here is that unlike the first game, Sanctum 2 boasts a matchmaking system and smoother integration with Steam. As a result, players can jump in and out from friends’ games and during the level select you can choose the game’s settings and mode. Here you can make it so it is a private single-player game, a public game that anyone can join, or a friends only game that your Steam friends can jump straight into. I can already smell your fear though - does this game really require you to play with other people? No, it does not! The great thing in Sanctum 2 is that as more players join and, depending on their level, the enemies scale up in strength. While the game did have some co-op issues at launch, all have since been fixed through updates and important features that were lacking have also been added for the co-op already within just the first 2 weeks that the game was out. For example, initially players could not send resources to each other and you could not see how much a tower upgrade costs. All of this was fixed through updates along with many other improvements and additions.

In addition to the scaling, the game also has three modes: Easy, Campaign and Survival. This means that if you are stuck on the regular Campaign mode and have no friends who can jump in and help you, you can just switch to Easy mode and try the level again. The survival mode is meant for after you have completed a level on Easy or Campaign modes and is an endless mode in which you must survive as many waves as possible.

Jump on their heads for massive damage.

Jump on their heads for massive damage.

In terms of gameplay, there is a lot to cover here so I shall do my best to keep it to the point. As I mentioned there is a level system, the game features a grand total of 7 unlockable weapons, 12 unlockable towers and 25 unlockable perks. These are all unlocked through a level progression system; as you complete a level on any mode, depending on your performance during that level, you will then gain experience. All players start at level 1 and then progress through to level 20 at which point they will have unlocked everything currently in the game. To add even more variety to the game, there are also four different characters you and your co-op partners can choose from. Each of these character has a unique primary weapon that only he can equip and is not included with the 7 other unlockable weapons and 2 unique abilities. For example, my favourite character called “Sweet Autumn” has a rocket launcher called Rex, and anything I shoot with my primary or secondary weapon puts enemies on fire while I have great air control while jumping. As you level up you also unlock slots to equip towers with and slots to equip perks with. These perks give you an additional ability; one of them does 4000 damage to enemies you jump on, while other perks boost your tower damage or weapon damage. All the stuff in Sanctum 2 just screams variety, everything from the levels, characters, weapons, towers and abilities are completely varied and allow for different tactics and are used best in conjunction with co-op partners who pick different weapons, towers and perks. The game fortunately features a UI indicator that shows what character, towers, weapons, and perks each player has selected so that no two players pick the same stuff unless they really intend to.

Once players have picked their character and load-out they want, the real fun begins. Each player will receive building blocks directly to them as well as resources. Blocks are used to create a maze to slow down or re-direct the enemies, while the resources are used to build towers, which can only be built on building blocks. One thing players will immediately notice here from the first Sanctum is that players can no longer upgrade their weapons nor do you have unlimited tower capacity. Players can only build a total of 15 towers regardless of how many co-op partners you are playing with. While this was off-putting at first it promotes more strategic planning tactics and it means that players are forced to be actively running and gunning to help the towers stop the incoming enemies. To make matters worse, eventually players will encounter waves in which bosses are sent who can destroy your building blocks and towers. This means that your entire maze and defences can be taken out and will have players scrambling to defend the broken maze. This is another reason why players simply cannot spam towers as otherwise the effect of this would be much less. Fortunately, enemies no longer take away a life by simply reaching the core; now the core has health and is damaged by enemies who must reach it and attack it to destroy it. Here again, there are perks that can help with the defence of the core itself as well as heal it between waves. One thing is certain, this game is not for those with high blood pressure as Sanctum 2 goes all out to ensure your blood boils when the defence goes bad. The best feature here is the large variety of enemy types the game has to offer, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses. If you thought there would only be one boss type, you are sorely wrong as there are in fact three, each of which behave entirely differently.

UNLIMITED POWAAAAAAAH

UNLIMITED POWAAAAAAAH

By now you are perhaps picking up on the trend here of variety, challenge, intensity and fun. This is further strengthened through the quality texture work the developers have done on this game. As I mentioned previously, each area and some levels feature their own unique textures that are not used anywhere else in the game. Large developers are well known for re-using textures to save on cost and development time but this is not the case for Coffee Stain Studios, whom have gone out of their way to develop the levels in the vision they imagined the game to be. This is impressive, especially when you see textures that were only used for one level in the entire game. Their work has not gone to waste as I for one really appreciated the fantastic job the developers have done. The textures of both, the enemies and levels, as well as the 4 playable characters looks fantastic. This is further strengthened through quality animation work on both those aspects as well as on the weapons and towers, both of which clearly received equal attention. The sound design is also done well, with the music being noticeable when it needs to be and relegated to the background when it should be. The weapon and tower sound effects are top notch and each has their own unique sound effect. The only thing that stands out here, perhaps not as a negative but as an area that could have been improved upon, is the enemy sound effects. While they make glorious marching sounds and have good quality attack sounds, they seem to lack any verbal sound effects. Some kind of noise when certain creatures spawn or attack you or the Core could have been nice. Obviously here the issue would be a spam of audio and as a result annoyance, but this can be controlled through limitation in how often those verbal sounds would be played. Again it does not lessen the experience but it would have been nice had the game had this.

As I’ve already touched upon, the developers have shown strong intent of continued post-launch support and, as it is, the game has received quite a few important updates, all of which have fixed, added or improved upon crucial gameplay elements. If not for these updates, my review would have in fact been much more negative towards this title. Fortunately, the developers were able to bring out these updates fast and without adding any new issues and as a result have shown their ability to listen and respond to community feedback. They have also already stated that their DLCs will be different from those in the first Sanctum due to the feedback provided by players. The game features a Season Pass which is available on Steam for £8.99/$11.99/12,99€ and will unlock 4 DLC-packs as they are released, each of which will include multiple maps, weapons, towers and perks.

The Verdict

 

There really is nothing bad to say about Sanctum 2. It features a campaign that lasts 13 hours on the first play-through and offers plenty of replay-ability and features a vast amount of variety in every aspect of the game and boasts a development team devoted to responding to community feedback by bringing out free updates with new features and fixes. This is how games should be developed and handled post-launch. It is really impressive to get a game of this quality for just £11.99/$14.99/13,99€. This is arguably the best tower defence game and still the only one of its kind that can say it truly is a merger between FPS and Tower Defence.

While it is fun to play alone, this is definitely an experience that only gets better when shared with friends. There is no reason not to get this game!

Case Review

  • FPS/TD Hybrid: A perfect hybrid between First Person Shooter and Tower Defence.
  • Graphics: Great looking graphics that vary greatly between different towers, weapons, characters, levels and enemy types.
  • Variety: It presents this in almost every aspect of the game.
  • Co-op: Why play alone when you can play with up to 3 friends!
  • Free Updates: Great post-launch support with many free, quality updates.
  • DLCs: Perhaps the only title you will see me put DLCs as a positive. I cannot wait for the DLCs for this game!
  • Mute Enemies: What’s wrong, did the cat catch your tongue?
  • Not Sanctum 1: Some players might be off-put by the large changes between Sanctum and Sanctum 2.
  • UI: While they have already added a lot through updates, some UI elements are still missing, such as tower ranges shown on the map.
5
Score: 5/5
Easily the best Tower Defence game to date!

Appeal

The first Sanctum was a game that took me by surprise. Generally speaking, barring the odd co-op, I'm not overly fond of shooters or multi-player games. That's probably what won me over; four player co-op, rather than a competitive mode, along with a hybrid of first person shooting and tower defense. So when Sanctum 2 came along, I jumped at the chance to give it a try, relishing the thought of seeing how far Coffee Stain had been able to push the superb success they received with the first game. Boy oh boy, and what they achieved indeed!

It improves on the first game in every single way, not just by adding things but also with some things it took away. No matter how many players you have, there will now be only one set of tower bases shared between all of you, with a separate supply drop for each character (which can be stolen if you feel like being a dick) to really promote an extra layer of tactical cooperation. You simply will not succeed unless you work together. There are more towers, more personal weapons (which are chosen at start up rather than being pre-set) and several different characters to choose from now. Cooperation has never been this streamlined, and rarely so much fun. A superb sequel to an already outstanding game.

4.5
Score: 4.5/5

Appeal

Sanctum was like a first person shooter cousin to Orcs Must Die!, only without the manic humor. I don't know much about it since I haven't played it and Sanctum 2 is very stingy with plot details. Who are these people? Why is that barely legal girl toting a rocket launcher? Who are these explorer dudes? Did I miss an intro or something? A pair of comic panels between the levels don't help. Maybe I'd feel better about this game if I knew more.

But from actually playing the game the shoddy sound work quickly becomes apparent. The barely legal girl sounds nice but her soundbites are very repetitive. And, at least to me, Shotgun Guy and Sniper Robot instantly became the pariahs of the game because shotgun and sniper rifle are basically useless because of their fire rate and/or range. The spunky sisters are way better, what with one having a (highly unsatisfactory as far as shooting goes) automatic rifles with a grenade launcher and the other one being armed with a rocket launcher. On the other hand, there are some interesting ideas with the towers – the drone one looks real nice while taking down armored baddies, while the lightening tower is deliciously dead – and Lumes, the creeps, look really interesting as well. But in the end, this is a mediocre game.

3.5
Score: 3.5/5
Comments (7)
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Posts: 565

I wish all devs were like Coffee Stain Studios are in terms of post-launch support :(

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Posts: 2635

Post release support is something Coffee Stain are consistently showing. They are most decidedly not a company that neglects their products after they're 'finished' with it

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Posts: 565

It also depends on personal tastes and preferences, I felt like the graphics and development time was put into the right areas and I like to compare games to other games in the same league/genre (thus similar budgets or just same genre) and in that aspect I think Sanctum 2 really stands out and their post-launch support really won me over as initially I was pretty annoyed and wanted to give it 1/5 hammers.

But fortunately they patched the game up faster than you can say its title and thus managed to win me over completely.

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Posts: 1190

SOH MENNY GHEEMS! WAI DERE NO TIME

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Posts: 2635

Well, it's one of those things isn't it. Coffee Stain are still pretty small, so things that we'd crucify other devs for are less harshly criticised. At least, that's how I tend to approach it. I still think it's a very nice looking game overall. Nothing ground breaking, but it's visually quite pretty and a significant jump over the previous title, which always slides me towards the more lenient side of the coin

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Posts: 1495

I actually thought some texture work looks quite poor.

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Posts: 2635

Wow Jc. You're hard to please dude