I guess I’ve been in a bit of a tower defense mood as of late, especially with Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die just over the horizon. So when I saw a Tower Defense/Strategy pack on sale on Steam last week I rather impulsively bought it. The pack had 5 games and included Defense Grid, which I have on XBLA, and Santcum, a title I saw not too long ago in a Quick Look over on Giantbomb. I liked the look of it and thought it might be a fun game to take my mind off of the slew of October releases.
My computer is rather dated, and beginning to show it in performance, so I was very apprehensive about how well it would function. Luckily for me the game performs very well even on old machines. The game has a very clean look both in environments and mobs as well as the interface. The graphics aren’t the highest of quality, though some of the blame could be my need for medium settings, but it looks good in its simplicity.
The gameplay is divided into two parts, much like Dungeon Defenders, where you enter a build phase to place structures and a combat phase where you get down and dirty with your own weapons. During the build phase there are two components: Building the path and placing the structures. What I really like about Sanctum that I haven’t seen in too many other TD games is that you get to shape the path the mobs take at your own discretion. Each level starts off with a bit of currency and a flat/empty space, without any obstacles, and you get to place blocks on any empty square. These blocks, that form the path, are also necessary because structures can only be built on blocks. Once you’ve shaped the path with blocks you’ll set out to arm them with the standard turret/structure types you’ve come to expect from a TD game: rapid fire/low damage, high damage/slow fire, AoE, anti-air, etc., nothing groundbreaking though relatively well-balanced. I found the anti-air guns to be rather lacking in power because air units will always pose a bigger threat than any ground unit. Each turret can be upgraded 5 times (to level 6) and like with most of these games, upgrading is usually better than adding more turrets even with the slightly increased cost. Also, I don’t know what exactly determines how much currency you get at the end of each level, possibly static returns or it may change with difficulty.
Once you’ve finished the build phase you’ll enter the combat phase and trigger the enemies, at which time you will be unable to build any more structures. Depending on the map they’ll come at you from 1 or more different areas so deciding how to shape the enemies won’t just improve exposure to turrets, but also give you advantageous positions to shoot from. Shooting from ground level isn’t always a great idea because if you come into contact with an enemy you’ll get knocked around and will be unable to act for a few seconds. You’ll have access to 3 weapons: Assault, Sniper, Freeze; and I assume their functions are obvious. Each of the weapons, like the turrets, can be upgraded and will get much more powerful. I found that I spent most of my time with the sniper because when it’s maxed out it’s really the most useful. I also use the freeze gun between rounds on the sniper, but I rarely ever put points into upgrading it. The assault rifle isn’t all that good except for a few select enemy types where its secondary fire, a contact grenade, is very useful.
In addition to the basic “campaign”, in which each level will take about 1 hour, you can turn on survival mode for each of the maps which changes up the order and amount of enemies increasing the difficulty from the get-go. For even more gameplay there are a few DLC items that were recently realeased, as well as a free update/expansion, that will give you access to new maps, a shotgun, and 5 more structures including: mines, slow fields, weapon amplifier, anti-air/ground unit, and a piercing/multi-target turret. Sanctum is available on Steam for $9.99 and another $6.25 for all the DLC.
For $10-17 it really is a great deal. With solid gameplay, a strong strategy element, a challenging survival mode (for each map), there’s a lot of value to be found in Sanctum. Like most strategy games of the type it can become very addicting, always retrying levels to win with 100% node health and trying to get some of the more unique Steam achievements like using only one type of turret or killing X number of enemies with a certain weapon, etc. Co-op is also available supporting up to 4 people, but I only know 2 people on Steam and neither of them have Sanctum; and I don’t usually like playing with complete strangers so I can’t comment on the differences between SP and Co-op. I’d assume the differences would be scaled mob numbers with the number of players.
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