Coffee Stain Games launches their game into a PSN field already crowded with longtime stalwarts Comet Crash, Savage Moon, PixelJunk Monsters and Plants vs. Zombies alongside newer stuff like Anomaly: Warzone Earth. All those games feature some unique trait that gives them some gravitas and makes them worth playing. I’m sure there at least as many TD games out there that I haven’t even remembered so Sanctum 2 is really going to need some strong hook to rise above the chaff.
Well, the hook here is that in addition to placing towers you can also take part in the defense as an individual unit in an FPS-style. What that means is that during build mode you run around and place your defenses then activate the waves and blast away at the baddies alongside your towers. You can select one of four classes that fit into your traditional archetypes of soldier, sniper, heavy and scout.
Those classes will level up and unlock new abilities and tower slots. This is especially important if you are playing alone since early on you’ll only be able to build one or two tower types until you unlock more slots. There are around a dozen or so towers you can eventually unlock that do your standard tower stuff like shoot bullets, lightning, artillery, slowdown stuff, etc… along with new guns for each class. It does add a little depth and give you more goals than just mowing down the bad guys.
While this sounds like it could be interesting, in practice it’s not as fun as you’d hope. The first issue arises from just how generic everything is. You’ll start most levels on a mostly empty grid then build a few defensive towers and place some walls to make a maze. The towers and walls are about as bland as they could be, and the same is true of the enemies that attack you. They are generic “aliens” who just trundle forward by the shortest available path. The ones with weapons fire them in predictable ways and fighting them is not really a challenge as much as a chore. The shooter controls feel sloppy and stripped right out of a late 90’s FPS.
It’s not a good sign when your hook turns out to feel like a worthless addition that drags the game down. It’s hard to see why you’d choose to play an FPS of this quality when virtually any other one you chose would be more enjoyable. It might be one thing if it was offset by an extraordinary TD game, but if anything that’s even more generic than the FPS side. Two mediocre parts combined make for a less than mediocre game in this case.
The one saving grace of Sanctum 2 is that it supports co-op play. In fact, one could make the case that it REQUIRES co-op play. Yes, you can go at it alone, but until you’ve played for a long time that’s going to leave you very limited in term of tower versatility and weapon selection. The game also quickly throws heavy enemies at you that are tough to handle alone (although difficulty is something of a hallmark of the genre to be sure). Once you add a friend into the mix you can build much better support defenses and coordinate to take down the tougher enemies. It’s also just mindless enough that you’ll have plenty of time to BS with your pal which is always one of my favorite pastimes.
I hate to dump on games but it’s very hard to find reasons to play Sanctum 2. As a tower defense game It doesn’t have anything to separate itself from a slew of competitors and I’m hard-pressed to name something I’ve seen here that I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’s strongest selling point, the FPS component, isn’t executed well at all and feels like a gimmick that doesn’t help you in game nor does it make the game any more enthralling to play.
If you’ve got a serious tower defense addiction or maybe if you are drunk and need something new to blaze through with a buddy you’d be well served by purchasing this game. The rest of us should just boot up Comet Crash again.