Review: Sanctum + DLC
Game: Sanctum + DLC
Recommended price: $10 (as in $10 for game + DLC)
Metacritic Score: 70
Completion Time: 12-20 hours
Buy If You Like: A little FPS in your Tower Defense
Sanctum is a Tower Defense game combined with FPS elements that starts blurring the definition of an “indie” title. The gameplay mechanics are tight, the background environments are amazing, and there is an overall degree of polish not necessarily seen in $10 games. About the only thing missing is something in the way of a narrative, which would arguably be out of place in a Tower Defense game anyway.
That is not to say that Sanctum gets everything right. The base game goes for $9.99 on Steam, but includes includes only 6 maps. While you may spend 1-2 hours per map depending on whether you beat the 25-30 waves of aliens on your first try or not, the maps themselves correspond closer to archetypes than maps per se. For example, there is one completely open map, one map with aliens spawning on opposite sides, one ultra-huge map, one map with a maze pre-built, and so on. If you particularly enjoyed ultra-huge maps, well, you get just the one. Theorhetically Coffee Stain Studios can simply add more, but given the fact that four maps have been added as $2 DLC, it may soon start getting too expensive for the entertainment generated.
The one thing Sanctum has going for it is that each map supports a lot of customization options in terms of building mazes and placing towers. Indeed, the building of the maze to begin with feels like its own distinct game (which it arguably is). So if your favorite map is Arc, as long as you don’t build the same maze with the same towers while equipped with the same guns, it will be subtly different. Combine that with up to 4-player co-op and 4 different Survival Modes and 4 different difficulties, and the limited map options feel less oppressive.
That being said, keep in mind that Sanctum is a Tower Defense game at heart with FPS thrown in as well. Each wave is stronger than the last not through numbers or strategy, but simply an increase in alien HP. While upgrading your weapons and towers with resources generated via completed waves generally keeps pace (at least on Normal), the “difficulty” of the game really comes down to shooting the same thing more times. And since there is no randomness in alien behavior, the waves or types (you can see what’s coming 5 waves down the line), playing for long periods of time can quickly burn you out. Which probably could be summed up with “it’s Tower Defense, stupid.”
Sanctum DLC Review:
Killing Floor ($0.99) – Floor tile that acts as a rechargeable land mine. The one big plus of this tile is that it consistently will damage Hoverers (i.e. the floaty aliens immune to damage from the front). That being said, I have found these fairly weak in comparison to standard Slow Fields or Amp Fields which come with the base game.
Penetrator ($0.99) – Tower block that shoots a beam that damages all enemies in a line. Sounds amazing at first, but its slow rate of fire and tracking issues means it will shoot diagonally most of the time and otherwise completely waste its multi-damage capability. Not recommended.
Violator ($0.99) – Tower block that creates a floating sniper rifle with a monsterous range that can hit ground or air targets with a single, powerful shot every few seconds. Personally, this is about as close as you can get to Pay To Win in a non-competitive game. The Violator can be a liability if you get both a bunch of fast ground AND air aliens since it may waste its shots on the little ones, but otherwise… god damn. This is typically my go-to Tower once the early Towers are out of the way.
Map: Aftermath ($1.99) – I am not a huge fan on this map for three reasons. The first is that the sloped middle section makes it much more difficult to traverse the tops of blocks. Second, there are frequently small gaps between blocks that can lead you to falling inbetween them in a heated moment. And finally, the overall layout prevents much Tower overlap, even with Violators. That aside, it has three decently-sized rectangle areas for maze placement and good Line of Sight to enemy spawn locations.
Map: Aftershock ($1.99) – Much like with Aftermath, this map features three main areas, has some angled terrain, and the possibility of falling inbetween some blocks. However, the map itself is more compact (good Violator/Morter coverage) and the maze itself is practically pre-built for you. That can either be good or bad depending on your tastes.
Map: Cavern ($1.99) – This is a heavily multi-tierred, practically pre-built non-air gauntlet. Cavern also introduces the concept of teleports for the first time, along with a sort of jump pad that will quickly send you flying up to higher levels. On Normal difficulty, I found this pretty ridiculously easy.
Map: Slums ($1.99) – Once again, a heavily-tiered map that essentially consists of two squares and two small rectangles to build mazes in. One of the complicating factors is that there are multiple teleports on each level, which can make planning even a simply maze feel like three-dimensional Chess. Since ground units emerge from a single location though, I found this map overall ridiculously easy on Normal difficulty – most foes died before they could make it off the first “island.” Combined with a default of only 13 waves, this felt like the shortest map in the game.
I received the three weapons for free as part of a bundle, and picked up the four maps on a Steam sale for $5. Given that I got everything for essentially $10, I am satisfied. Picking these up at non-sale prices… I would probably skip everything but the Violator. The four maps are fine, but since Aftershock, Cavern, and Slums come essentially pre-built, I don’t see much in the way of replay value.