Reviews – Sanctum Review

Platform: PC
Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
Publisher: Coffee Stain Studios
Release date: April 15, 2011

Digital download first and third person shooters are becoming more common as this generation progresses.  From Call of Duty imitators such as Blacklight Tango Down and Breach to shooters that experiment with the genre such as Monday Night Combat (MNC) and Section 8: Prejudice.  Sanctum falls under the group of shooters that try to experiment and play with the genre.  What Coffee Stain Studios has done with Sanctum is blend elements of first person shooting with elements of tower defense strategy games.

Due to this mix of genres, Sanctum has similarities with MNC.  Although MNC’s main focus is on the competitive player vs. player mode which resembles games like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, Sanctum’s only focus is on a player vs. computer mode.  As a result, Sanctum still feels unique from MNC and from other shooters.  All five maps in this game have grid platforms for custom turret placement.  This allows for the player to have freedom as to how they want the maze set up for the enemy horde to go through.  Whether the player wants to go through game solo or co-op with up to three friends, the format for each match involves a set-up phase for the player followed by a round of ground and/or air enemies rushing toward a core that has to be protected.  Any damage done to the core is permanent, and once the health is completely depleted, the player(s) lose the match.  So the goal is to survive though all rounds without the core’s health reaching 0%.  There is also the option to play with endless rounds, and the goal for this mode is to just survive as many waves as possible.

The content of Sanctum is very limited.  The five maps are the same on both single player and co-op modes.  The player is given 3 different guns, as well as eight different turrets to build on the map.  The players earn currency that’s distributed equally to all players during the set up phase, and the currency is used for building and upgrading turrets, as well as upgrading all three guns.  After playing through each of the maps a few times, I was left with the desire for a wider variety of enemies, more turret types, a few more guns and more maps.  Even though this game normally goes for a $15 price tag, which is one fourth the price of brand new retail games, it still feels a bit shallow on content.

Sanctum has a unique presentation to it.  There is absolutely no story given in the game that I have found, but it definitely expresses a colorful universe that’s alien to our own.  The environments have an extra-terrestrial tropical rainforest vibe to it, the technology looks futuristic, and the enemies are distinctive from other monsters or aliens in other games.  The music reminded me of the first Mass Effect game, like a futuristic 80s feel to it.  Overall, despite Sanctum not being the most technically impressive use of the Unreal Engine 3, the eerie style of the aesthetics and the music helps this game’s presentation become something worth-while.

There are a few missing features that are common in most multiplayer pc games.  Steam is not integrated with the server lists, which results to the inability to directly join a friend’s game straight from the steam friends list.  Although, Sanctum’s server list provides a filter to show only games with friends playing in them, so it’s not a big problem.  Also Sanctum lacks voice chat, however the game has text to voice feature and in addition Steam has a built-in voice chat that can be used with friends as a work-around to this problem.  These small omissions don’t detract from the unique and fun experience that Sanctum provides, but should still be mentioned.

Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun with Sanctum, especially while playing with 3 friends in the co-op multiplayer mode.  The experience that this game provides is unique and it delivers a weird but interesting presentation.  What detracts from this game though is a lack of content to provide replay value.  I would really love to play more of Sanctum, but I find myself unmotivated to go back because I feel like I encountered everything this game has to offer.  If a fifteen dollar price tag is not going to hurt your wallet, I definitely recommend this game to anyone who likes tower defense games or anyone who likes seeing a twist in first person shooters.  If this unique take on tower defense played in the first person view still hasn’t peeked your interest, I still recommend for this game to get picked up whenever it goes on sale, and I highly recommend getting at least one other friend to pick it up as well to enjoy this game with them.

4 out of 5 stars

-“The Don” Stafa