Sanctum – An Indie Game Review of the First Person Strategy Tower Defense

Sanctum – An Indie Game Review of the First Person Strategy Tower Defense
3.5

Platforms:

PC

Game Name:

Sanctum

Publisher(s):

Epic Games

Developer(s):

Coffee Stain Studios

Genre(s):

Action, Strategy

Release Date:

April 15th 2011

Developer Summary

What makes Sanctum unique from other Tower Defense games is that when the havoc starts, you jump right into the action with your own weapons and play a key role in the defense. Sanctum has taken the best features from First Person Shooters and Tower Defense games to create something totally unique.

Sanctum game - monsters screenshot

  • Sanctum is the worlds first FPS Tower Defense game!
  • Use a variety of handheld weapons to defeat the attacking horde of monsters.
  • Master the strategies of mazing and utilizing defensive towers!
  • Play co-op with a friend!
  • Experience amazing visuals!
  • Compete on Steam Leaderboards!

What We Think

Sanctum is a unique mix of strategic tower defense and first person shooter which blend together surprisingly well for such an ambitious blending of genres. As I will extrapolate later in this review, the concept is great, but at this iteration only decently executed, and the volume of content is at present still rather sparse. The game also offers co-op and single-player leaderboards that seem at present to offer little more than bragging rights. A good handful of serious glitches existed in the beta with which we began our review process, but Coffee Stain Studios has since addressed a lot of them, which is encouraging, because the game is also full of promise.

Sanctum: Gameplay

Sanctum is broken up into two phases: build mode and attack mode. Starting in build mode, you are afforded some provisional resources. At the end of each attack phase, you get resources for your towers and weapons. All the towers you can build require you to first build a block tower that provides a wall for you to direct the waves of enemies and that you can subsequently use to build other towers, with the exception of Slow Fields which can be built without block towers.

Sanctum - screenshot

With Slow Fields, Anti-Air, Gatling, Lightning, Mortar, Scatter Laser and Televator towers you provide Elysion One, your home town, with defenses. Certain maps limit you from building certain towers, and in single-player you can’t build Slow Fields.

As there are twelve enemies, comprising nine ground and three air, you would hope that enemies would be more unique, but enemies all appear to be of the bipedal ilk. All enemies have weak spots (that the game points out by virtue of brightly colored orange illumination,) and for which you can deploy a good counter tower. You might think these reveals would make the game too easy but the devs seem to have found a solid balance.

As for your “personal” weapons, they do damage early and, if you upgrade them, you may get a few extra waves out of them, but the game is really a tower defense first and foremost, and the weapons seem available only to provide the slightest edge in winning or losing.

Sanctum: The story

The premise is sweet and simple: you are Skye and you are to protect your home town of Elysion One. In this futuristic world it takes only one soldier to defend a whole town from an alien invasion, which is not much of a story, but Coffee Stain Studios has stated that there are “little secrets here and there that gives a bit of the story to those who look for it,” so it might be something worth checking out if you have already bought it.

Sanctum game screnshot character

Sanctum: The Issues:

In my opinion the game’s menus underline rather succinctly where this game is, release-wise, and that is that the menus look great, but half of them simply don’t work. Also, where most, if not all games, populate their screen resolution options, this one has hard-coded these options right into the menus; that means if your native resolution isn’t among those hard-coded, you may find the display irksome. As I mentioned above, in its present state, the game suffers from a handful of questionable design approaches and glitches.

Incidentally, we received the following advice from the developer concerning setting up a multi-player game:

If you’re on a LAN we suggest you use direct TCP join.
If you’re not on the same LAN you will need to make sure the host has the following ports open:
TCP: 7777, 27000-27039
UDP: 1200, 7777, 27000-27039

(Don’t use the “LAN-only” button as it’s currently broken)
We’re working on a better solution together with Epic Games.

Furthermore, as the game goes into its official public release Coffee Stain wanted to point out that the game will soon feature different music for each map, a small factor in the overall gameplay, but a nice touch nonetheless.

Sanctum: The bottom line, for now

While the concept behind Sanctum is terrific and a lot more features are on the way (including increasing the current two-player multi-player limit) and the glitches are being hammered out at a steady pace (in the official forums some of them are simply labeled as stuff they will get to later, including the native resolution issue) the game is fun with a friend but the reward for winning depletes the reply value quickly.

The truth is, simple proprietary leaderboards have never really earned my interest but I have seen a lot of tower defense games pit you against other teams in real-time which we’d love to see in a future update.

Sanctum game area screenshot

That the game features some pretty visuals is undeniable, and dare I say it bravely endeavors to introduce some innovation to the tower defense genre, but the fact is that what the game is now – is a decent co-op worthy of an hour of play at a time, that might rope you into a few playthroughs of the single-player just to see where you get ranked and perhaps to look for that presently elusive storyline.

Gripes aside, Sanctum merits a look.

Visit the official Sanctum page and download the demo

Get Sanctum on Steam

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Michael Brune

I love programming, writing and gaming. I always am working on several things at once and am very ambitious but I usually have www.mjbrune.org up to date.

2 thoughts on “Sanctum – An Indie Game Review of the First Person Strategy Tower Defense

  1. This game sounds very interesting. Love that anime look to it. Hope they can fix the bugs with the game. Do you think you can go into more detail about the coop mode? I’m always looking to add some new games I can play with my friends.

    1. Co-Op is currently a Duo affair, but there are plans to make it 4-player. Enemy numbers and HP are ramped up to handle the extra firepower a fellow in arms adds to your side, but their standard weaknesses still apply. So, if you build smart, you still will do well. My only weakness in my mazes comes from the little broad-shoulder guys. There’s always so many of them that they just power through. I figure Mortar cannons are the way to go, but every time they just seem to slip by.

      I hope this helps. <3

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