22 Jul


Filed under: PC Games 6 Responses

Here comes the aliens. If my towers don’t get them my gun will!

Sanctum is an indie-produced tower defense game with one unique feature: the player has an avatar and can shoot at the invading waves as it it were a FPS game. Defense Grid, which I absolutely loved, is the natural point of comparison so that’s what I’ll use. Oddly enough the game appears to agree with me. The first two words uttered by the announcer whenever you load a level is indeed “defense grid”. Unfortunately for Coffee Stain Studios, I find the older game to be superior in just about every respect.

  • This game is played exclusively in the first-person view. There is a top-down view which you use to get an overview of the map but you can’t do anything in this screen except click on “televators”, basically elevated teleport pads, to get around the map quickly. Everything else including building towers and upgrading and selling them is done in the first-person view. While there’s a certain novelty value to running around the map building towers in the first-person, it gets old quickly especially if the map geography makes it hard to get some tower locations into direct line of sight.

  • Also, it’s hard to tell how effective the towers are in first-person view. The overview screen does show the effective range of towers when you click on them, but different tower types can aim up and down in different arcs so it may be impossible to tell if a tower can hit enemies at a certain point on the map which may be in range but outside of the movement arc of the tower. In any case since the player is busy shooting at enemies as well, you won’t have time to study the effectiveness of your towers in action. The developers could have put in a replay function for each wave for this.

The overview shows you the entire level, and even the positions of enemies when they are on the map, but you can neither build nor sell towers in this view.
  • One key feature is that each enemy has weak points that you can shoot for extra damage. The towers are bad at this so this is mainly something for the player to pay attention to. One particular enemy is invulnerable except to shots at its weak spots so towers will almost never kill it. So actively shooting is a requirement for success, not optional. This is neither good nor bad, just a quirk of the game to be aware of.
  • I do like that a line always shows the path the aliens will take and the line automatically updates as you build and sell towers. This means you don’t actually need to have aliens move through your maze to confirm which path they will take. All tower defense games need to have this feature.
  • Without DLC installed, there are only seven maps in total which I think is too few. I also find the map designs to be boring. A number of maps don’t even allow you to shape the enemies’ path in any way, or only minimally shape them. That doesn’t make for much of a tower defense game.

Overall I found this to be a mediocre game with the shooty parts being particularly sterile. You tend to need a lot of hits to take down enemies and you’re invulnerable in the game. The worst the critters can do to your avatar is knock you aside. So you just stand at a good spot and pour on as much damage as you can. Its one saving grace is that it does have coop multiplayer and so may be worth checking out with a buddy for just this reason. Otherwise my call is to give this a miss.

Yep there are flying aliens. And lots of them too!
Written on July 22 2012 and is filed under PC Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Sanctum”


If you’re interested in the idea of a tower defense game where you run around and shoot stuff, I found Orcs Must Die much more compelling than Sanctum. It’s even more to the action end of it, with the “towers” being themed as traps that you place in the path or soldiers that you recruit and place in the map. For instance there are archers which serve as your standard fast-firing low-damage all-purpose turret, but there are also knights which you put in the middle of the path and will run up to orcs within their leash range and block them while hitting them. There are some maps you can plausibly complete without placing a single soldier or trap if you use your character’s skills wisely.

It uses a similar system to Plants vs. Zombies where you select a smaller subset of a wide array of traps/soldiers (which you place in the world and function automatically) as well as items/spells (which your character uses directly). This in conjunction with a simple in-map research system where you spend gold to buy upgrades which will be reset at the end of the map, lets you specialize and choose your approach to any given map. If you want to get your hands dirty, you can take powerful AoE spells and wade into the waves yourself, or if you want to be a strategist you can focus entirely on traps and soldiers and complete the level without firing a single shot.

It’s a bit weird and less pure in concept than Sanctum, but I think that it manages to use that weirdness to its advantage to make something that’s more its own thing and less Streets of SimCity for Defense Grid.


That does sound pretty interesting. Sanctum doesn’t really let you choose between doing damage yourself or using towers. You need to do both. Any idea how Orcs Must Die compares with the other indie-produced fantasy-themed tower defense game Dungeon Defenders?

It’s probably a little soon to want another tower defense game but I’ll keep your suggestion in mind.


To be fair, OMD does reward a balanced approach as well. Some maps are going to be more or less difficult if you try to restrict yourself to one approach or the other, and some of the most interesting parts of the game are figuring out what balance is best for a particular level. That said, there are achievements for using only traps and not using any traps, so extremes are certainly possible if maybe not optimal on all maps. It’s designed around the idea that you’ll use a mix, but it doesn’t necessarily railroad you into that.

I feel like Orcs Must Die and Dungeon Defenders are trying to do different things. There’s a lot of thematic similarity, but in practice they feel quite different.

Orcs Must Die is much tighter. Nothing carries over between maps besides your unlocked items, but that’s basically so you don’t get overwhelmed by choices while you’re trying to figure everything out. It’s single-player only. It’s like a cross between Tower Defense and a character action game.

Dungeon Defenders is much more expansive. There are different classes which you level up independently, putting points into different stats, and there’s a heavy incentive to grind for loot and play with a group of other players. They’ve also been updating it like crazy and there’s a ton of DLC, including some fun seasonal stuff which was free when it came out (the Halloween map was free at Halloween, for instance). It feels more like a cross between Tower Defense and an MMO.


Apparently Orcs Must Die is on a Steam weekend sale for 75% off. Valve are jerks like that. ^_~


I think I’m giving this a pass at least for now. I bought too many games during the Summer Sale already. And I see that there is yet another fantasy-themed (or maybe steampunk fantasy themed) tower defense game on the horizon:


Not to mention Orcs Must Die now having an impending sequel.


I loved this game. We used to play it regularly. And yes… I only play this in 4 player co-op. I can’t vouch for it as a single player experience. One of the coolest(and the most insignificant yet hilarious things) is that it has the stephen hawking text to voice function. And if you build slowfields, around, even the voice modulations slows down.

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