Posted: October 29, 2014
Worth it. New, more challenging maps. A nice addition to a short core game.
What is Sanctum?
Sanctum is a completely different take on the "Tower Defense" genre, it mixes up First Person Shooter elements in it and it does it well.
About the gameplay:
Here's the catch: If you have your mind set on "I'll only upgrade Towers!" or "I'll just shoot everything!", you're in for an embarrassing defeat. You cannot take everything head on here, you need to balance resources to deal with everything coming towards you: enemies that comes in large quantities, tough ones and tricky ones.
Do you want to do the heavy lifting and shoot most of what's coming or use your towers while you kill whatever is left by the end? Or maybe you want to do both of these things? No problem, all three options are possible in this game.
One of Sanctum's most known aspects is the maze building, you've got room and resources to create your personal enemy slaughtering course, it's far from putting one block here and another over there. If you want to survive the toughest levels of Sanctum you'll need to smart up and create mazes that will force enemies to walk as much as they can.
Something that should be noted:
Unlike Sanctum 2, there is absolutely no
grinding in Sanctum 1. You start with everything the game gives you and after a short, optional, Tutorial you're free to do whatever you feel like in the first map. Play and learn, no hand holding here aside from the absolutely necessary.
Tower Defense, because calling it "Resource Management" sounds like a boring discipline
Balancing resources here can be tough, they are rather scarce early on and woe betide the unprepared. Do you upgrade your towers or your guns? A difficult choice that can be the difference between victory or defeat.
Towers and Weapons can be upgraded up to Level 6, and while they seem extremely cheap at first don't go thinking you can leave a bunch of Level 1 towers scattered and expect them to do heavy damage; enemies gets progressively stronger and soon you'll realize even your Level 3 towers are hardly doing any significant damage. And the same will apply to your guns if you ignore them.
Upgrades will considerably power up your towers and guns, however they'll also become incredibly expensive and on shorter Campaign maps (with 20 or less waves), chances are, you won't be having lots of Level 6 towers even by the end of the map unless you focus more on them.
Sanctum: Not an easy game
If you are looking for a difficult game, Sanctum may be your cup of tea. The game is ruthless, but hardly unfair. It punishes poor planning and poor shooting accuracy and you'll probably be frustrated once you see that your carefully planned maze and towers did not work, but amazed when you beat that tough wave with your wits.
The greatest challenge at the start is to understand how to balance your resources between weapons and towers, and until you find your own balance point, you'll be hitting that "Load Checkpoint" button quite often.
The game is merciless and will not shy away from dropping tough enemies, although not without warning: the game provides a list for a number of incoming waves and what will be there.
However Sanctum fail in one crucial point: there is no indication on how resilient the enemies will be. In one wave you may face a single, but extremely resistant, enemy and at the other wave the same type of enemy in larger numbers, however with much less HP. This can and will catch you off guard and is one of the very few times the game will play "dirty".
For those wishing an even greater challenge there is the Insane difficulty with VERY resistant enemies and a core as fragile as cracked glass.
Sanctum, where the simplest level can take 1 hour to complete.
Every level can be VERY long. Even the first one can take anywhere between 30 minutes (if you are insanely fast) to 1 hours and a half and can last even longer. But don't worry: the Campaign has checkpoints between waves which you can also use to correct a mistake as long your have enough resources. It may sound cheap, but picking the "Load Checkpoint" will be something you'll do often here unless you feel there is no hope and click on the "Restart Level".
The multiplayer option ramps this up by letting you set the game to 30 waves on any map, which easily means games going past 1 hour.
Multiplayer Mayhem (Single if you must)
The multiplayer in Sanctum is a bit different. Instead of a normal game with fixed waves every game on every map will have random
enemies waves coming for you and your friends, that's right, no game will be quite the same and sometimes you'll be forced to change your tactics since the game can be downright mean sending airborne enemies and another wave of tricky enemies right away.
You can also change how long the game will last: from 10 to 20 or even 30 waves, or an endless Survival mode, with increasingly stronger enemies, but with MUCH more resources than the normal, single player only, Campaign. This means more towers, faster weapon upgrades and more towers.
Don't have friends that play Sanctum? Friends can't play right now? No problem. You can Host a game like this and play by yourself if you wish to, or leave open to friends (or other people) so they can join during it.
You can also opt to play with people from the world but be warned: the Sanctum multiplayer is fairly dead and even on weekends it may be hard to get a lasting game with someone.
Multiplayer has a few problems, though. Once you finish a map you are forced to create a new game and invite your friends again which doesn't sound bad, but gets annoying if you play with 2 or more people. It may be also a pet peeve mine, but you don't get levels achievements even if you do complete them with 30 waves setting, however you do keep progress from others like "Kill 4000 Runners"
Music for your ears
Sanctum also has an amazing soundtrack, much more relaxing and soothing than what you'd expect for a game about killing hordes of enemies while hearing the heroine laughing and screaming in glee.
For some the music will feel strangely out of place and annoying, for others it will be a contribution to immerse the player.
The game came out in 2011, and even on 2014 it remains one of the most pleasant, satisfactory games to play.
Unfortunately Sanctum is often underrated and overlooked by people, sometimes because of its graphics and sometimes because it is a game that takes time to learn and it won't be afraid to slap you in the face quite often while you learn it.
Sanctum is a game created with care and you can notice it as you play. Coffee Stain Studios did a good job with this game and it is worth your money and time. Even if you are not a fan of Tower Defense or First Person Shooter genres, give Sanctum a try at least in the demo, you may be surprised.