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Welcome to Elysion-1
I obtained a copy of Sanctum 2 from a Humble Bundle several months ago, but didn’t bother to try playing it till the free weekend on steam last month, which acted as a reminder for me that the game was downloaded and ready to play. And play I did.
In the words of developer Coffee Stain Studios, Sanctum 2 is a “Tower Defense/FPS hybrid game”, with the series being the first of its kind. The game provides a refreshing twist on the traditional tower-defence genre by not only including modern graphics like the Anomaly series, but also combining it with the traditional FPS. The implementation is successful in that it merges the two genres in a way that doesn’t take away from the game’s tower defense elements, emphasizing that Sanctum 2 is very much a tower defence game at its heart. Put simply, past the tutorial levels, it’s nigh impossible to victory.
Towers! Note the presence of a top-down map for the obsessive strategists.
Sanctum 2 has several game modes, in each of which you play one of several unique characters/classes:
Campaign – A linear succession of maps, with victory the only method of unlocking the next map, and thus far the only mode I have played. This mode has options for increased difficulty, e.g. faster and tougher enemies, in exchange for increased XP gain. Increased XP gain means faster levelling for players, which results in faster access to powerful new abilities, towers, and perks, similar to how levelling works in mainstream FPSs.
Easy Mode – Exactly what you expect. Enemies, also known as Lumes a.k.a. aliens have less health and move slower.
Survival – Like Campaign, enemies come in waves, but instead of just surviving a set amount of waves, one must survive for as long as possible. It’s worth noting this is the only mode in which there is a leaderboard.
Sandbox – Similar to Survival in that there are infinite waves, but players are allowed to adjust values such as enemy base health, resources gained per wave, and toggle the 15-tower limit, which is by default on.
Assault, Close Quarters, Aerial/Support, and Sniper classes respectively.
Each player has a primary and secondary weapon of their choice, access to several perks, such as increased movement speed or increased damage when low on health, as well as access to four towers. Players are able to see what other players have equipped during the loadout phase, which helps greatly in making sure the team has a large variety of towers.
System requirements are relatively low, I run Sanctum 2 at 1440×900, getting around 60FPS with a Nvidia 650M, so lag is almost a non-issue. There is occasional network lag, but that can be avoided by not joining games with which you have weak connections to.
Combat is brisk, about what you’d expect when there’s an alien horde coming your way. There is also a decent variety of enemies. There are fast movers, and slow hulks, armored enemies, and occasional “bosses” that can (temporarily) destroy your towers and tower bases. Monsters are not only limited to the ground, so air units must also be contested with as they ignore the defence maze and just fly over it.
I originally stuck to the campaign on vanilla settings, that is, with none of the extra difficulty settings activated. Playing solo, I plowed through the first couple of levels with ease. But once I made my way past the first few introductory levels, it became clear the most efficient way to quickly clear levels would be to play co-op with other players.
Advantages include access to a wider range of towers, and more resources earned per wave, as well as increased firepower. Downsides include having to deal with random strangers of varying competence.
Many of you are probably already quite familiar how unpredictable and unfriendly the average random player you meet on the internet can be. The first examples that come to mind are the Battlefield and Call of Duty series, which are known (at least to me) to have notoriously foul-mouthed players. In many games, it’s not hard to meet the griefers, the trolls, the haters, the flamers, and whatever I may have missed.
In my 25+ hours of Sanctum 2 time, most of which has been in multiplayer, I have only been insulted once. Just once, when another player was impatient and wanted the next wave to start before I was ready.
I have never been griefed. Although it helps that there is no friendly fire, the effects of knockback are very real, and I have lost count of how many teammates I have accidentally blown off the map…
In essence, my online experience in Sanctum 2 ranks among the best I have ever had. Players are usually polite and avoid irritating teammates, and often ask for input when tower-building to avoid disturbing maze sections built by others.
Standing around and planning.
“I’ll place slow mines here, ok?”
“Mind if I move this?”
“Need ten more resources here please”
“Can you build an amp tower here, thanks.”
After my first few online games, I was so surprised at the civility of the community I started consciously keeping a lookout for negative remarks in chat, but all I got were more
“Oops. Sorry about shooting you =’(“
“%&$# &*# @$$&%^*!!!”
Post-victory screen. Everybody’s happy, I’m happy. Except the Lumes, of course.
The positive experiences may be due to that there is no incentive to intentionally cause the death of others, as cooperation is the key to defeating wave after wave of enemies. One way to earn cooperation is to simply be civil and reasonable.
But since when have griefers and trolls needed a reason to wreak havoc? Any player can enter an open game, and proceed to deconstruct carefully crafted defences, then proceed to disconnect, leaving the victim with nothing. Sanctum 2’s in-game chat function includes an excellent always-on text-to-voice synthesizer, something ripe for abuse, yet the worst I’ve read (or heard) are the horribly misspelled names of tropical fruit pronounced by Siri’s cousin.
Bring it, Lumes
Sanctum 2’s online community keeps me coming back to the game, where I can have a blast slicing up enemies without having to argue with jerks. The chat voice synthesizer makes sure nothing in chat is left unheeded amidst frantic battles. Like Left 4 Dead, it’s a great feeling when you and your team achieve victory in the face of an overwhelming enemy. As a co-op game you don’t need to worry about being stabbed in the back every waking moment. The worst thing that could happen in-game is having to start over (which is not at all bad).
Ooh that’s a big one
Time-wise medium level games take around 40 minutes, and if you have to leave before the end, there are no penalties. Although your team may be left short-handed, players can join in between waves, so your team isn’t necessarily handicapped forever.
Sanctum 2 is the type of game where you can always rely on your teammates to do their part and strategize with you to achieve victory. This is all made possible by an awesome player community full of people willing to explain strategies to new players through a hilarious voice synthesizer, and equally enthusiastic as you are to put the hurt on the Lumes (and not on each other).
Sanctum 2 = TD/FPS Hybrid.
Think L4D but Tower Defence
Nice online players.