So the premise of this game is that humans have established colonies in the skies over an alien planet. They use magical blue balls of light (cores) to convert the gasses present into oxygen and kill the native spores. The problem is that the planet is already occupied by an alien race of highly evolved mushrooms. The mushroom people under the direction of unknown telepathic boss entity whom you never fight create giant organic shafts to the colonies to try to murder them dead.
In the game you will create a maze of towers in an attempt to halt the advance of the mushroom people before they destroy you're magical blue ball as is typical of a Tower Defense game. you will spend 5, 10 or 15 minutes per level depositing towers that will ultimately only do about thirty percent of the damage necessary to kill the enemy waves. The rest is up to you. You can choose two of a plethora of weapons to aid you in the struggle. The game does not address why a gun held by a five foot two to six foot tall human out damages half dozen tool shed sized tower mounted guns you drop and arguably that means this game isn't really a TD. There are "perks" you can select to improve you're characters/towers performance but there’s really nothing that will turn this game into an actual Tower Defense, which is unfortunate.
The longer you play the game the more powerful guns, perks and towers you can unlock, particularly if you buy the DLC. I'm sure we all know the DLC drill by now. For an extra five dollars you will get access to all the content that was cut from the game during the alpha and beta tests for quality control and balance reasons. Ideally that content has since been fixed/balanced/polished but we never know until we shell out the cash. To their credit the DLC for Sanctum 2 does provide a lot of interesting content. The towers, perks and maps it adds do a great deal to increase replayability of the game and it rounds out the base games story that ends on a cliffhanger.
The real strength of this game is the level design. Like every other piece of science fiction made in the past twelve years almost everything looks like an Ipod that said this game does it particularly well. The integration of organic vines and spores growing over the utopian surfaces/structures in this game are very imaginative and well done. A lot of games (Doom 3/Dead Space) place a strong aesthetic emphasis in a human environment being reverse terraformed by some perverse alien influence but truthfully Sanctum 2 does it better. The levels are distinct from each other in groups as you proceed from an idealistic lived in colony under attack to the deteriorating front lines to an industrial themed colony abandoned some years or generations earlier. The theme is that the further into the game you go the closer to the planet you get until ultimately you are beneath its surface in a giant cavern with mushroom Jesus. In the tradition of classic FPS games there are many many secret areas and players are rewarded for their diligent exploration. Ironically the maps are far bigger in scope then the developers were prepared to work with and you’ll shudder when you realize that you can’t incorporate some of the games incredibly ideal choke points into you’re defense as they are simply too far away from where the action will be…. If they allowed you to place your own cores the quality of the game would quadruple immediately but thats something they will have to consider for a sequel.
The biggest issue with the game is the many many clipping errors. This game will kill you or force you to consul command suicide many times as you fall through solid objects or get stuck between them. In the basic game it doesn’t matter very much as you can wait out the 9 second respawn time once or twice and it isn’t likely to lose the game for you. Tragically the developers compounded this issue by encouraging the players to play with “five feats of strength” on to create a more challenging experience… One of these “feats” is a no respawn mode… So basically each time you die to a developer error, which will be once or twice a game, you’ll also lose the level. Since playing with the feats of strength on is going to be your last real experience with the game they are brutally poisoning their consumer base who will only remember losing 30 minutes of an expertly played game because Coffe Stain Studio's didn’t properly patch or beta test. Hardcore modes are made for polished games made by hardcore developers. It might be a tough pill for Coffee Stain Studios to swallow but they just haven’t reached that point yet.
For ten dollars it is a really cool indie game. The maps if not always utilized ideally are a clever visual spectacle and it does have a lot of replay value. If Coffee Stain Studio focuses on adding general content to their games and take their player testers a little more seriously these guys could easily be around for another few years. Otherwise they'll find themselves doing the 3d effects for their regional weather channels talking about once whens.