Review :: (XBLA) Sanctum 2

Protect the core!

Protect the core!

D.J. Kinsey

Written by DJ Kinsey - Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Published Tuesday, 23 July 2013 19:45

Write your own review !

 Until recently the tower defence genre shared a surprising number of similarities with when I used to make my own wine.  There was a great deal of planning and preparation followed by much watching and waiting to see if all that prep would pay off into something marvelous or if the investment would end up going down the drain due to poor planning.  Then in the last few years tower defence games, including the original Sanctum, seemed to enter a renaissance.  No longer did gamers have to sit on the sidelines while their strategically placed turrets and towers fended off waves of enemies.  The genre began allowing gamers the freedom to jump into the action at the ground level and to become part of the battle.


Sanctum 2 melds classic tower defence with first-person shooter mechanics as players must build their defences, with limited resources, to protect an energy core.  A wide range of enemy aliens are released in waves to attack and destroy the core.  Four character classes are available to choose from for the FPS portion of the experience running the traditional gamut from sniper, to heavy weapons expert.  Between each wave, players build walls throughout the level to redirect enemies along the path of greatest resistance.  Turrets can be built upon sections of the wall and upgraded.  This all sounds pretty cut and dry but, much like my homemade wine, it is the subtle nuances which elevate the experience and provide a richness of depth.


sanctum2 screenshot1


The design of the enemies in Sanctum 2 is varied and brilliant.  Reminiscent of giant insects and creatures from the deep sea, many have specific weak points exposed through their exoskeleton armour.  This is where deftness in the first-person perspective can stop an alien wave in its tracks.  Automated turrets are indiscriminate in their targeting of the aliens so it is up to the player to hit the enemies where it hurts the most.  Laying some slugs into alien hides sounds pretty simple when, like any tower defence game, they follow a specific route.  Sanctum 2 mixes up this dynamic. Should you ever get too close to the alien’s path, they will deviate from their goal of attacking the energy core and instead steamroll a path directly at you.  Raw firepower is rarely enough to stop a wave so fleetness of foot and a constant rotation of zones to attack from ensures that the horde won’t overwhelm your position.  The result of this coupled with jittery crosshair control due to some surprising kickback with the guns leads to plenty of white knuckled tension with your back against a wall and a monster bearing down on you.


With great enemies, plenty of un-lockables and customization, the game delivers enjoyable action at a frantic pace while not neglecting the cerebral pursuits of gamers


The strategic tower building portion of the game has its highs and lows.  Resources are scarce and the available real estate in many of the levels feels relatively small.  Therefore the ability to greatly influence the environment by generating arduous gauntlets of destruction is not at the same level as other tower defence games such as Geodefence Swarm.  The paltry number of resources available also means that only a few turrets can be built on each level.  As a result the equilibrium between tower placement strategy and first person firepower is heavily skewed towards the shooter portion of the game.  On the plus side, sporadic goodies such as landmines provide an additional layer of thought when constructing the defences.


sanctum2 screenshot4


There is a bevy of content in Sanctum 2 that held my interest.  Levels can be played alone or in multiplayer which delivers a whole new experience replete with the joy of utilizing proper teamwork and the frustration of playing the game with a resource hog.  There is ample replay value from tackling a map as a sniper delivering death from a distance or a shotgun wielding hero who needs to get close to the action to be successful.  The replay is further amplified by the numerous un-lockable weapons for the FPS experience and turrets for the strategically inclined.  My only real area of frustration occurred when I failed a mission after toiling through a large number of enemy waves.  A map can represent a significant time investment and having to restart at the beginning if my energy core was compromised during the final wave felt defeating and at times I was reluctant to go through it all again.  A save point at the half-way mark of the alien waves would have gone a long way towards diminishing this frustration.


Visually, Sanctum 2 is a good looking game with an overall colour palette and feel that would fit comfortably in the Mass Effect universe.  The enemies move fluidly and, oddly enough, appear both alien and familiar at the same time.  The story, told in comic strip sequences complete with speech bubbles, has a unique graphical acuity.  While I normally find that hand-drawn characters with exaggerated proportions look too child-like to be taken seriously, the characters in the Sanctum universe are slick and gritty.


sanctum2 screenshot2




Not since someone got chocolate in my peanut butter have two distinct items tasted so good together as the FPS and tower defence action of Sanctum 2.  With great enemies, plenty of un-lockables and customization, the game delivers enjoyable action at a frantic pace while not neglecting the cerebral pursuits of gamers.  Tower defence fans may find that the game is too heavily weighted towards the FPS side of the coin but there is no denying that both elements together make for a great time.





+ Excellent repertoire of aliens

+ Un-lockables create plenty of replay value

+ Strong FPS mechanics

+ Tension filled levels




- Some levels are quite small

- No saves mid-level


Final rating
8.5 / 10
More Xbox 360 reviews
2014-04-06 :: Dark Souls II
2013-11-12 :: Alien Rage
2013-09-17 :: Grand Theft Auto V
2013-09-15 :: Lost Planet 3
2013-09-13 :: Splinter Cell: Blacklist
2013-08-07 :: Grid 2
2013-07-26 :: Remember Me
2013-06-05 :: Star Trek
Special articles
The 10 Types of Gamers Special articles

The 10 Types of Gamers

  This list isn’t to marginalize a particular group of Gamers but rather to celebrate our differences.  Also, I don’t think it’s possible to be just one type of gamer either, you can be all sorts.  So enjoy my list of the “10 Types of Gamers” and let me know if I missed one or what type of gamer you are in the comments section below!
Lire la suite...
The Best and The Worst: Titanfall Maps Special articles

The Best and The Worst: Titanfall Maps

Since everybody loves lists and since everybody also loves Titanfall, I thought it was pertinent that I combine these two equally loved things together.  And since maps are one of the key ingredients in a first-person shooter, I felt that would be a good place to start: Read more
More with Titanfall's Lead Game Director Steve Fukuda Special articles

More with Titanfall's Lead Game Director Steve Fukuda

 Last week Andrew Atkinson posted a great piece on the interview he and I had with Titanfall’s Lead Game Director, Steve Fukuda.  I thought I would follow up with some more little bits of information we were able to gather from Mr. Fukuda detailing what’s in store for Titanfall in the future: Read more
Five Things we Learned from 'Titanfall' Lead Developer Steve Fukuda Special articles

Five Things we Learned from 'Titanfall' Lead Developer Steve Fukuda

Gamefocus recently had the chance to chat with Steve Fukuda, lead game developer for Titanfall at Respawn.  Fukuda was lead designer at Infinity Ward where he was a major player in the production of the Call of Duty series up until Modern Warfare 2.  Brenden Mernagh and I arranged to speak with Fukuda at the Titanfalllaunch party in Toronto. Read more

Game details
(XBLA) Sanctum 2
Release date : 2013-05-15
Platform :
Publisher : D3 PUBLISHING
Developer : Coffee Stain Studios
Gameplay : Tower Defense-FPS

DLC Talk

DLC Talk: Bioshock: Burial at Sea Ep. 1

DLC Talk: Bioshock: Burial at Sea Ep. 1

Here we are. The next generation of consoles is among us and it is finally time to start thinking about finally unplugging our beloved current-gen systems. Could there be a better swan song for one of these systems than taking a trip back to Rapture?

Read more

DLC Talk: Dishonored - The Knife of Dunwall

DLC Talk: Dishonored - The Knife of Dunwall

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall is an impressive little bit of DLC. I should emphasize “little” though, as it is a relatively short experience. Just when the story seems to get going it ends - or, rather, it “kind of” ends.

Read more

DLC Talk: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

DLC Talk: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Dragon’s Dogma was released last year on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Read more
GF Blogs

Rage Against The Exploding Barrel

Rage Against The Exploding Barrel

In the year 1981 a decision was made which would forever alter the face of video games as we know them. A young gorilla named Donkey Kong was throwing wooden barrels at a spunky little plumber named Mario. What happened next influenced the level design and gameplay of most FPS and adventure games since.

Read more

Why Super Nintendo VS Sega Genesis is a lot like PS4 VS Xbox One

Why Super Nintendo VS Sega Genesis is a lot like PS4 VS Xbox One

The video game press and blogosphere didn’t really know what to make of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One when they were announced last year.  Most of this confusion seemed to stem from the fact that no one really knew for sure if these next-generation video game consoles would offer the player anything new.  Yes, there would be better graphics, better online functionality, a better multimedia experience, and a better controller, but would that be it?

Read more

'Goat Simulator' is Live! You can Virtually Live as a Goat!

'Goat Simulator' is Live! You can Virtually Live as a Goat!

I’ve often thought that what the animal rights movement really needs are some rocking simulations of animal life.  I’m not sure Goat Simulator will offer that (I’m still downloading it), but think about this: imagine teaching a grade seven science class where you hook your students up to Oculus Rift VR sets, fix them with some haptic arm and leg bands, and send them out to join a wolf pack stalking caribou in the arctic tundra (Dire Wolf!).

Read more
GameFocus Radio

GameFocus Podcast: December 16, 2013

GameFocus Podcast: December 16, 2013

Game Focus is proud to present its new podcast episode, a weekly casual talk between GameFocus staff members about the gaming industry. In this show, we talk about mostly the Xbox One and the PS4. Vince explains in details what happened when he reached Microsoft support for a problem with his Xbox One that unexpectedly died after less than 2 days of use.

Read more
GameFocus 2014 Top 10
Dark Souls II (Xbox 360)
Trials Fusion (Xbox One)
Thief (PlayStation 4)
Madden NFL 25 (Xbox One)
Powerstar Golf (Xbox One)




Recent comments

Powered by Disqus