Wot I Think: Sanctum 2

By Jim Rossignol on May 21st, 2013 at 9:00 pm.


Sanctum was something of a rocket out of left field. There’s nothing unusual about tower defence, of course, and the “action” tower defence genre is now setting itself up as a thing, but Sanctum’s tight sci-fi world and solid feel set it apart from either tower defence games or FPS titles. That meant popularity, and a lot of players. Sanctum 2, meanwhile, attempts to place a fresh turret on top of previous successes, and use a flamethrower on the opposition. I spent some time with it. Here’s Wot I Think.

Sanctum 2, then.

Sanctum mixes tower-defence with FPS combat. This means that you playing through a series of arenas into which waves of enemies conveniently arrive through paths you are able to define and line with weaponry. The creeps attack you and attempt to get to the “core” – the thing at the heart of your defences. To survive, you and the core need to build up a grid to fight them off. It’s all wrapped in a lovely shiny futurist sci-fi wrapper, and it feels solid and pacey. It plays fast and requires some focus to get the best of, and is an enormously satisfying process.

Contrary to some reports, it’s entirely possible to play Sanctum 2 alone. You can get through as one person against the creeping hordes, but I can’t really recommend playing for one. This is a game of multiplayer, moreso even than the original. While the original Sanctum supported co-op and single-player, the focus in the new game seems very much to be on the group experience: it’s where the most action is, and it’s the most rewarding way to play. Advocates of playing with friends will think of this as inevitable, but I think Sanctum 2′s design goes some way to supporting co-op over soloing.

For example: the type of character you choose will dictate some of how you can play, thanks to the equipment they have available. This means that when playing alone your tactics will be defined by that character choice, whereas playing as a group will enable you to choose character types that support each other somewhat with their varied weapon selections. It’s not as pronounced as the character selection criteria in many other multiplayer games, but it does feel very different to the previous game. The creeps too, are tough, and are generally best tackled with chums. In fact they seem to be designed to be tackled by a group, rather than alone.

There is, however, the peculiar issue of resource collection – which Coffee Stain say they are looking at – and its problematic implementation. Currently the game drops resource into the arena after each wave, allowing anyone to collect it as it arrives. If someone hogs it at the expense of others, well, that can precipitate multiplayer sadface times.


Resources seem very tight overall, too, and it’s relatively unforgiving as a game. You don’t have a lot of capacity to wing it with the defences, and falling even a small distance from an optimal strategy won’t give you a great deal of time to deal with the creeps.

Sanctum 2′s success won’t be a surprise this time, but I can see some people being surprised at the directions the design teams have pushed this sequel. That said, Sanctum was rapidly iterated upon a great deal since its inception so I think we can expect the same dedication towards iterating on player feedback this time around. Coffee Stain are certainly dedicated to their craft.


Sanctum 2 is probably best played with friends, and I think it’s going to have a wide of audience of friends enjoying it. It does feel like a bit of an awkward sort of sequel, though. It has changed significantly, but doesn’t really feel like a giant leap in any particular direction. Rather, the design has taken a stroll from the original template, making the scope wider without really uncovering any new terrain. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy it – it’s a decent game – but rather to say that this feels like a holding pattern for the developer, rather than an ambitious step up. I’ll be keen to see what they do next.

Sanctum 2 is out now.

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31 Comments »

  1. KDR_11k says:

    I didn’t get the point of the resource drops when I first saw the game since all that means is you have to run back and forth.

    • bjohndooh says:

      They just patched it out, giving resources instantly and added point-and-click trading of resources between players.

      Trading is a nice addition that should have been there at launch – but overall the patches have been nice tweaks.

  2. Cloudiest Nights says:

    All the hype for this game seems holy deserved! I enjoyed the first one quite a bit in multiplayer, and this looks to improve upon all of that.

    • LionsPhil says:

      There is a demo on Steam. I strongly suggest you try it.

      Personally I found most of changes to be disappointing missteps.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      *wholly*

      • Cloudiest Nights says:

        Actually, “holy” was meant to be used there. Sanctum is “a sacred or holy place,” so yeah. Bad pun gone wrong.

  3. Pryde says:

    They really should’ve called this Call of Sanctum: Towerface or something…

  4. GSGregory says:

    Wish I could get my money back for this. People like it and thats fine. Many things missing from 1 to 2 make me question how much effort was actually put into the game.

    But I can’t get a refund for it and I have wasted money on a game I will never play now.

  5. LordSloth says:

    They’ve already patched a change into the co-op resource model around the seventeenth.
    To quote a small section

    Major changes due to player feedback include:

    *Tower Cap has been changed to 15
    *Tower Resources now drop for all players in a co-op game (other parts of the game have been re-balanced to accommodate this)
    *More tower-bases now drop in earlier waves

    Personally, I’m enjoying Sanctum 2 and the direction it takes things in, but I generally don’t enjoy pure TD games so I’m not the person to change anyone’s mind.

    I’m playing it SP, looking forward to co-op more now that I don’t feel my guns will be neutered nearly as much as they were in a co-op game of Sanctum 1.

  6. PatrickSwayze says:

    Tried the demo, the guns AND the towers felt like they were doing no damage. Nothing reacted when it was shot by the player or the towers.

    The might has well been the minimap in the corner of the screen.

    Certainly not in the same league as Defence Grid, despite the lovely design.

    Maybe in a few patches time it will be worth another look

    • sinister agent says:

      That was why I never went back to the first game after playing the first level. It was alright, and the concept was neat, but whatever upgrades I bought, it never felt like I was anything other than a number generator moving around the level making my numbers change other numbers. It helped me realise that I just don’t like tower defence games in general, but I’d hoped that being able to get stuck in myself would improve things. The way Sanctum did it didn’t really make much difference.

    • KwisatzHaderach says:

      The thing I really dislike about Sanctum 1 was that enemies scale with waves. So it took about the same amount of time/shots to kill a wave one Walker with a level 1 machine gun as it took to kill a wave 10 Walker with a level 4 machine gun. It really killed the sense of growing more powerfull. Orcs must die did that alot better as far as I can remember.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Sanctum 1′s biggest flaw there is that your guns cap before the enemies do. So for a little while if you spend heavy on guns you can have a nice power band where you can blast them apart, but then it just reaches futility and you cannot keep up no matter how much money you have since your gun has no more upgrades to buy.

        A L6 holo block, a max sniper rifle, and a L6 damage amp is still worthwhile by later levels, and freeze laughs in the face of enemy scaling, but most else just tickles. Crack shields open and wind up the soaker damage multiplier for towers and that’s about all you can do.

        I was hoping S2′s greater-looking focus on shootbangs would fix this, but from the demo the guns just felt completely without any punch or effect on the enemy at all, regardless of if they were being numerically useful. :/

  7. Premium User Badge

    strangeloup says:

    I enjoyed it from the demo, which was single player only I think, but there were only two levels and one of them was the tutorial, so it was hard to judge how the balance would be reflected in the full game.

    The first game was fun, but I think I’m going to hold off on this until somewhere has it at a discount. Annoyingly the demo came out after Steam’s initial 10% or 20% reduction had already expired.

  8. bleeters says:

    I’m seeing a lot of words, but none of them tell me whether the aliens still dance with tophats when you lose.

    • Nurdell says:

      Unfortunately they don’t. Now the story (hooray to the story!) is somewhat more dark, just as it’s main heroine – Skye Autumn. Let us hope they patch it in someday.

  9. guygodbois00 says:

    No, I’ll pass this one. Planet Explorers though, is where I have high hopes. Oh, and that silly addictive flash game Kingdom Rush.

  10. abandonhope says:

    Sanctum was one of the best things I played last year. I was all set to pre-order after they announced the bonus game, but after digging further I found that too much had been altered to make me feel confident I would enjoy it. Maybe when it goes on sale I’ll find out for myself.

  11. sharkh20 says:

    Loved the first game and put many hours into it. Lasted 3 hours in this one before uninstalling out of complete boredom. It just wasn’t fun by myself or in coop. Felt like generic shoot everything in the shiny red spot. All the complexities of the first game are removed and replaced with poorly controlled twitch shooting. Disappointed with this and do not recommend if you enjoyed the first one.

  12. KwisatzHaderach says:

    Can anyone tell me if they kicked out the holo block? That was by far my favorite and most used thing in the game. Can’t beat a level 6 tesla gun shooting through 3level 6 holos + level 6 ampfield.

  13. Zogtee says:

    I loved the first one, but less focus on singleplayer means I’ll give this one a miss.

  14. Urthman says:

    I loved Sanctum and Orcs Must Die and played each game right up to a difficulty wall about half-way in that I couldn’t get past, and then it was game over.

    I wish these games would include some easier difficulty levels.

    • Nurdell says:

      Specially for you, from the bio-tech labs of Elision one comes Easy mode – “when normal is too demanding” It’s under the game modes in game options.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sinomatic says:

      Orcs has an ‘apprentice’ level (before warmage and nightmare).

      It shouldn’t be all that hard. If you’re getting stuck, I’d recommend a quick look on youtube or the like for some pointers; I’d wager that there are some tactics and set ups that you’ve perhaps not considered for the levels you were having trouble with.

      • Premium User Badge

        MajorManiac says:

        Thats very true. There are some very devious trap combinations in Orcs Must Die that can create big combos. The extra income earned from these combos really helps in the more difficult levels.

  15. Spazmok says:

    the real question is does the base game include more than 6 maps? I felt a little ripped off with the first game.

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