Sanctum 2 is a game of balance.
It blends two separate mechanics –– the reaction of a shooter with the forethought of tower defense. As the soldier, you’re in charge of building the trenches, as well as defending them. Different tower types, weapons and character perks all serve you in your mission to defend each map’s core –– lose the core though, and you’re done.
On a broad scale, Sanctum 2 finds that balance. Funneling enemies through kill zones defended by the appropriate towers is just as important as mastering both your soldier’s primary and secondary weapons. It’s a game of reflex as well as planning, and without a steady grasp of both, Sanctum 2 becomes difficult.
Set in a cyberpunk world, Sanctum 2 has almost no story at all. You’re part of an elite squad tasked with defending power cores against waves of varying enemies. The only semblance of a narrative is stylized comic pages told on load screens leading up to each mission. That’s the entire preface Sanctum 2 needs.
From there, you’re taught the basics, and Sanctum 2 expertly introduces elements at a steady pace that both teaches and challenges you.
Each map grants you tower bases and resources before each wave, giving you ample time to plan out your defenses. Early maps are simple, with one spawn point and avenue of approach. Things become a little more complicated and intense when enemies spawn at multiple points, forcing you to split your resources and manpower, if you’re playing cooperatively.
Teaming up with three other players is the best way to play Sanctum 2, especially considering each of the four possible characters specializes in a certain area. The characters are split into basic shooter archetypes, from the close-quarters soldier to the long-range marksman. Each is consigned a specific primary weapon, but you can swap out your secondary for something that suits your style better. I opted to play the majority of the maps as the shotgun-wielding fighter, but the other classes supplemented my abilities well when I needed help.
You grow stronger as you earn experience after each battle. Unlockable perks offer you powers such as increased weapon damage, faster movement speed or even electrical damage at close range. Coordinating these abilities lends Sanctum 2 even more options for cooperative play, as combining the best ones helps you defend against the onslaught of enemies. Between the character perks, new weapons and varying towers, there’s a lot of replay value present in Sanctum 2, and a good variety of maps to experiment on.
It’s when you delve into the minutiae of Sanctum 2 that the balance is upset. Of the multiple towers, weapons and abilities I unlocked during my playthrough, I usually stuck to the same arsenal after a few hours of trial and error. Many of the power-ups are negligible and, even when combined with other players, barely changed my approach at all.
Even when I found the inventory I loved, technical issues, although seldom, prevented me from using it effectively. I got stuck on tower bases more than once, as well as environmental objects such as rocks or plants. Most of these occurrences were solved when an enemy attacked me, but I don’t want to wait for this while my core is being attacked.
Between the technical hiccups and difficulty of solo play, Sanctum 2 can be a grind during the mid-game levels. Even with my best perks, towers and weapons equipped, maps became a game of trial and error. You still gain experience for losses, but not enough to turn the tables in your favor for the next fight, making the trek toward better weapons and towers long and unsteady.
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