Jul 242011

For the last few weeks we have have been slogging away at Sanctum. It is developed by Coffee Stain Studios as part of Epic’s Make Something Unreal contest. It is a first person shooter tower defense game.  You can check out a trailer over at YouTube.

I have been playing mostly co-op games lately and CSC added the ability to play co-op on several of the maps.  First off, the game is fun.  It is essentially waved based, monster attacks.  You lay out a maze on the buildable spaces with empty blocks. Then you fill selected blocks up with towers of various types which include guns, mortars, electrical, and anti air type weapons. These weapons can be upgraded throughout the game as you get money to spend on upgrades. You can also select Televators which are blocks that allow you to teleport around as well as elevate you up to the level of the top of the block as you can not jump that high.

You are equipped with three weapons. The first is an assault rifle that has a grenade launcher as its secondary fire.  The second is a sniper rifle with two levels of zoom.  The third is a freeze weapon which can slow enemies down or stop them in their tracks with the secondary fire.  These weapons can be upgraded just like the towers. The weapons essentially overheat, or run out of ammo.  You then have to wait for them to recharge before you can use them.  Weapon switching therefore is essential.  I prefer using my sniper rifle to get some high powered hits in, switch to my assault rifle while the sniper recharges, and then flip back to sniper.  Rinse and repeat.

I do have some issues with the game. First, the only way to really communicate with your teammates is by highlighting one block in the build mode.  So, it is difficult to do any planning.  Essentially, one person has to plan and build out the maze and then communicate what to build after that.  CaGBlight over at the Steam Forums has developed a java based tool that you can use before your game to do some planning.  Unfortunately, it is a little buggy for one of the more interesting maps.  But oh well, it is free. This type of functionality should have been built into the game. The tool outputs images such as this one to show how to build the maze and what towers to build.


Second, the difficulty of the game varies too much from easy to moderate.  On the easy level we can practically win a 30 wave game with our eyes closed.  It is boring actually.  However, on the moderate level, we have won only one time.  We needed three people to do it and it was close. With two of us, we usually only last till wave 12 or 13. I would suggest lowering the difficulty of moderate down a tad and then keeping high where it is.

Third, I would bring out some more maps.  Maps for a game like this are not complicated.  You are not designing gigantic worlds with lush flora or anything like that.  They are essentially grids that you can build on.  In fact, several of the maps are just that. Or they should allow third party development of maps. But having more maps with more possible routes would certainly raise the challenge and creativity of defending the core in the game.

Overall, the game is fun.  It was certainly worth the $3 or so that we paid for it from steam.  I am not sure I would pay much more than that for it.  Currently, it is $15.  I would definitely not pay that. Keep in mind, I have not played the single player version, only the co-op.  So, they may be much more playability in the SP. Another helpful resource for the game is the wiki article over at wikia.com.

What are your thoughts on the game? Any dislikes or likes?