A hybrid title for both FPS and tower defense fans
There was a time when tower defense games asked you to do one thing – set down defense structures in order to prevent waves of enemy units from destroying your base. All of this was done from a top-down view so that you could see the action without really being in the midst of it all.
While there have been recent attempts to change up the genre, like Defenders of Ardania which allowed players to build their own armies, such games have stuck to the top-down perspective and not changed the formulaic gameplay. Other games like Plants vs Zombies, for example, fully embraced the old mechanics but were very successful because of their presentation. Yet only recently have games such as Dungeon Defenders changed the perspective.
Sanctum offered me a first-person view of the tower defense action becoming the latest game to do so. No longer having to watch helplessly from the sky and pray that my strategically placed towers would fend off the enemy, I found myself able to take part in defending my base right in the thick of things.
In this case I assumed the role of Skye, an elite soldier whose mission was to protect her home Elysion One from an invasion of aliens. However, this is it as far as the story goes for the game.
A shame since a story would have made this game even better.
But that’s not to say that Sanctum isn’t a great game. On the contrary, I found it to be a lot of fun. In a nutshell the game plays out in two phases. First, there is the building phase where you are given a certain amount of resources before each wave. With those resources you have the ability to build and upgrade structures or upgrade your own weapons. Once you have done all that then you can hit the appropriate button to start the extermination phase, which will have you bracing yourself for the attack wave.
Sounds simple but isn’t so much. In order to place your defenses in the most effective way possible you need to cut down multiple routes of access to one. In first-person mode this would be very difficult however I could see the entire map from a top-down perspective by hitting the Tab button. This helps to figure out where to place your towers.
As I thought of where to build structures, limit my enemies’ movements, and create natural chokepoints, I had to decide what kind of defenses I should set up. There were a number of different structures I could build – although, at the beginning of every map, I had to choose which ones I would use. I didn’t have access to them all and had to decide which ones would be the most beneficial.
There are offensive structures such as Gatling, Lightning, and Mortar, which have their individual uses. Gatling fires rounds in rapid succession doing a small amount of damage while Lightning structures fire a powerful bolt at an enemy but fire at a slower rate. Then you have the Mortar tower, which has a slow rate of discharge but damages multiple enemies with each attack. In addition there are other structures that can slow the adversary’s movement and damage the them as they move over it. However, the foe’s units aren’t isolated to the ground, which means that there are even towers for air defense.
There is one other structure you can build that doesn’t attack or hinder the enemy in any way. It is called the Televator and you use it to move around the map instantaneously. As you engage the enemy they will get past you and, instead of chasing after them, you can place Televators around the map so you can instantly appear in front of anyone who makes it through your defenses.
In addition to the structures that can be built, you have your personal arsenal. There are five different weapons, of which you can carry only three into each engagement. They are the Assault gun, Sniper rifle, Rex (a missile launcher), Shotgun, and Freeze gun. Each has its various uses while some have a secondary attack. When playing the game I found myself using the Rex, Shotgun, and Freeze gun the most.
The enemy comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are very small but come in great numbers, others are large with one weak spot on them, and still others are very fast. The trick is to come up with the right combination of defenses, and your own skill, to overcome them.
Thankfully, you get advanced warning of what kind of enemies will come in the next wave. You can also see what their weaknesses are and some other information regarding whether they are fast, have strong armor, and are ground or air units. This knowledge is vital in deciding where you want to spend your resources on.
If you get bored of playing by yourself though, there is the multiplayer that allows four people to play together. It is a lot of fun to play although it would help if Sanctum had an in-game voice chat system. Typing out orders or what you are going to do in the midst of battle is extremely difficult to do so using Skype or some other voice chat program is highly recommended.
All-in-all Sanctum is a game I would recommend and the Sanctum Collection itself is a great deal since the physical copy comes with all the DLC, the original soundtrack, a double-sided poster, small comic book, and even a free Steam copy of the game (no DLC). Those who buy the digital copy will receive only the DLC and original soundtrack, which is still a great deal.
So if you are into tower defense games, or are a person who is looking for a different kind of FPS game, then Sanctum could be the game for you. It is fun and challenging, looks great, and is even more enjoyable when playing with friends. Unfortunately, the lack of an in-game chat system is annoying and the game could have been given some more depth if a story had been added into the single-player campaign.
Tested on PC
Review copy supplied