Sanctum (Collection)

This is the moment where I am forced to throw my hands in the air, eat humble pie, and openly confess that despite my best efforts I had never heard of Sanctum at any point prior to the game arriving at my doorstep for review. Apparently it was released way back in April of 2011 and somehow, despite being a first-person shooter tower defence game, a genre which somehow perfectly combines my love for shooters and strategy, I never came across it. I’m glad that changed, though, because this nifty (that’s right, I said nifty!) little Sanctum collection comes with seven add-on pack to the original offerings. I feel genuinely guilty for having not paid it attention sooner. Perhaps my discovery could have pushed them to go for that all important eighth! Nevermind my inability to discover Sanctum sooner because I have to lower my hands back down to the keyboard and go into excruciating detail to explain why you need to have this game in your life at any cost.

To start things off, the genre alone is worthy enough of gaining your gaming attention. Obviously if you dislike both genres you may as well move on, but if you like either first-person shooters or tower defence games then you need to give Sanctum a go. Even more so if you’re a fan of both. I swear I say this straight-faced, honest and true, it works extremely well. It shouldn’t, it really, really shouldn’t work as well as it does. You hop around in first-person placing blocks and weapon towers in-between waves, which by the way only begin on your say so, and once you’ve activated the next wave you are free to grab yourself a futuristic weapon type of your choice (too many to list, but my favourites were the sniper-laser-rifle thing and the freeze gun!) and join in on the action with your towers and blow as many alien brains out as you can before you complete the wave. You can only build towers in-between waves, there is a top-down view available at the push of a button if you need a sky-high view of how you’re arranging your tower gauntlet, and at the end of each wave you get extra energy which you can use to build more tower, upgrade your current towers, or upgrade your personal weaponry which leaves the towers as back up.

That really is the short story of the game mechanics, but the developers, Coffee Stain Studios, creators of quite possibly the laziest yet most epic studio name ever, were very clever in making sure that in any one level you need to master both towers and shooting to make it through. Any tower defence player worth their salt knows that making the longest possible route to the final objective (in this game’s case a power core) is essential. However, sometimes you need more than that. Clear example: I was heavily reliant on towers for the first few encounters, I just enjoyed kicking back with my assault rifle and blasting away whenever I felt the need to look superior, but then out of nowhere FLYING ALIENS. What do you do? There’s no set path, I had to hastily throw up a couple of towers which slowed enemies and grab my laser-sniper-rifle and pick off as many as I could, praying that the core would hold out. The further I delved into the game the more and more I had to factor in pathways and teleporter placement because when the alien hordes began to get greater in both mass and number I had to frantically charge around the battlefield rifle-laser-sniping as much as I could just to survive even the first five waves of each level, with the average wave number per level ranging for 20-40!

The final note I’d like to throw out there is that Sanctum is an indie game. Yes, really. It has a full boxed release (which I recommend as it comes in a sexy slip-case, with a double-sided poster and original soundtrack which are well worth it) and a Steam collection banging around somewhere as well. This is, bar a single iPhone game, the studio’s only major release and it deserves even more sales. The fact it’s been able to amass SEVEN (caps lock required) add-on packs which just keep packing in more and more content, from enemies to levels to weapons, shows that they want to support this genre and so should you. It’s not that the idea has never been done before, it’s that it’s never been done this well before. There’s a basic enough plot (aliens invade futuristic civilisation and the main protagonist Skye must save all with her magic tower building glove) and you’ll even get some co-op action thrown in for up to four players. I spent many hours with Sanctum to have the privilege to write this review and I am definitely going to soak many more in afterwards. A superbly crafted game and I hope the developers get the recognition (and money) they deserve for making a game which I had this much fun with and still challenged my PC gaming abilities.







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