Coffee Stain Studio's first-person tower defense game, Sanctum 2, will release on Xbox Live Arcade and Windows PC on May 15, with a PlayStation Network version to follow soon after, according to Reverb Publishing.
The game is a sequel to the 2011 indie game, Sanctum, where players take on the role of Skye — an elite soldier sent to protect the town of Elysion One from hordes of alien creatures. In the original game, players built walls to defend the "core" — an oxygen-producing dome-like structure — against the alien enemies. In Sanctum 2, Coffee Stain Studios has expanded on this concept.
"In the original Sanctum, it was more of a traditional tower defense game where you would set up your little grid area, you would know what path your enemies were going to take, and you'd set up walls and defenses to stop them getting to the core. It really was a more straightforward tower defense game," executive producer Ted Lange told Polygon. "With Sanctum 2, the team really wanted to bring the game to what they wanted the first Sanctum to be: to add more story, to upgrade the visuals and to upgrade everything that made Sanctum so good."
"This is a first-person tower defense game more so than a first-person shooter."
Lange demoed the sequel to Polygon and explained that one of the key changes introduced to Sanctum 2 is the way players are eased into it. With the original title, he says players were dropped into very difficult and unforgiving levels which, while perfect for hardcore players, was too high a barrier to entry for new players. For Sanctum 2, the game begins with a tutorial that was absent in the original. It starts off easy, and as players learn the ropes, the difficulty ramps up.
In the tutorial shown to Polygon, players hit tab to see a top-down view of the game map and the path that enemies will take to get to the core. As players add walls to the map, they can alter the path of the enemies. A player can leave the map empty, allowing aliens to come directly at them, or they can construct zig-zag pathways that funnel them in a certain direction. Lange said guiding the aliens down a funnel may at first seem too easy, but as the difficulty ramps up and the aliens attack in hordes, funnelling them will be the only way to make combat manageable.
"At first I would say yes, it is a bit easy, but you start getting enemies that just come in waves and waves and waves, and the only way to survive is to re-route them and extend their path as much as possible.
"You'll have bosses in later levels that take a lot of damage, so you'll have to build some really complex grids and mazes that guide them to where you want them to be."
Not all enemies will take the most damage when shot front-on, either, so players will have to design the map in such a way that forces the alien enemies to move around to reveal their weak points.
Another new addition to Sanctum 2 is soldier classes. Where the original Sanctum only has one class — the soldier —Sanctum 2 introduces a new soldier class, a demolition class and a sniper. This is particularly useful in the four-player co-op mode where one player can stay back and snipe at enemies while another focuses on constructing the walls and building and upgrading turrets on the towers. There's now a full level-up system for both players and the walls and turrets, and Lange says this brings with it an additional level of strategy.
"This is a first-person tower defense game more so than a first-person shooter," Lange said. "There are first-person shooter elements, but you're not going to have a wheel of like 10 different weapons you can scroll through. The main thing is building your towers and designing your pathways and figuring out how the enemies act and what to do.
"You really get the feeling of not just controlling how you're setting up your defenses, but being part of the defense as well."
"In four-player co-op, it scales in difficulty, so you don't get anymore resources. You have to work together and assign each other tasks, so maybe one person will build walls in one area and another person will build walls in another."
According to Lange, Coffee Stain's take on the tower-defense genre is a mixture of strategy and gung-ho elements. In the demo Polygon saw, a large part of the game involved carefully planning the construction of paths and building walls and turrets, and the other part was jumping into the map and being part of the action.
"In a lot of tower defense games, you're kind of looking at a map, almost like a game board," Lange said. "This brings in that familiar aspect for people who play Call of Duty and Halo. You really get the feeling of not just controlling how you're setting up your defenses, but being part of the defense as well. It's a lot more intense."
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