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    dkirschner's Sanctum (PC)

    [January 13, 2013 02:21:26 AM]
    Sanctum is really something. I beat it today, and did the two free DLC maps I have. I re-read my first entry after the first level I played a month ago, which is interesting. I like seeing the assumptions I made based on one level. For example, I said that the freeze gun didn't appear to have much utility. How wrong I was! Because of the freeze gun, I beat the Yogscave level. I noted last time my concern that if you didn't load out with the "correct" guns and/or towers, you might be screwed and have to start over. Luckily I had the freeze gun on that level. It's funny because I never used the freeze gun the entire game, and then on Yogscave, the first DLC map I played after beating the game, I just tossed it in to try it, and it ended up saving me. If I hadn't had the freeze gun, I would indeed have been screwed and would have had to do all 30 waves over!

    My #1 criticism of the game is that you can debilitate yourself due to a confluence of choices and end up having to start over, which sucks because the levels are *long.* There are 20-30 waves per level. The 30-wave levels take upwards of 90 minutes to complete. Realized you screwed up at the end? Spent another 30 minutes trying over and over to salvage it but can't? Start over, spend another 90 minutes getting back to where you died, and hope your game is better this round. There's no manual saving; only checkpoints every few rounds. There's only one save slot too. If you are stuck on a map and want to go try another one, you have to live with losing all your progress because it'll overwrite your save. I understand why this was all done on purpose. It makes your decisions matter and you're invested in your maze design. That's cool. But it can be brutal.

    I played the game on Normal difficulty and beat all the levels first try except the last one, called Facility, and the Yogscave DLC. On Facility, I made it all the way to wave 30 and then got slammed. I'll intervene in this example to talk about how the game works some more because it is relevant. There are 2 categories of enemy, air and ground, each with a handful of types. Your towers can hit air and/or ground enemies. For example, gatling guns hit ground, anti-air hit air (duh), and scatter rays hit ground and air. You can also shoot both with your guns. Then certain towers work better or worse against different types of enemies. Anti-air guns shoot slow explosive missiles and are good against this slow floating hot air balloon looking enemy, but are not good against Dodgers, who are fast and zip from side to side. Gatling guns are good against Soakers, which take more damage the more they are hit, because they have a high fire rate, but are poor against Bobble Heads, who can only be hit in the head, and whose heads sway side to side, because their aim isn't great. In fact, I've found that only I can reliably kill Bobble Heads. All towers suck against them.

    SO, as I said, I got slammed on wave 30 of Facility because I was overwhelmed on *both* ground and air. Not good! Usually there are two enemy types per wave, but this wave was the first time in the game there were 3 types at once -- 2 air types and the grandaddy of the ground types, the Big Walker. Big Walkers are huge lumbering things that take insane amounts of damage. The first try, I killed the Big Walker, but a ton of air enemies made it to the core, which was already at only 20%. So it died twice over. Turns out that my major weakness was not having sufficient air defense, and unfortunately nothing I could do could salvage the level. I spent all my money and sold all useless towers at the end and put it all into air defense, and still a ton of them got through. Some of my attempts the Big Walker even got through. I eventually admitted defeat and started over, using some help from the internet. I found a handy blank grid someone had made of the Facility, copied it into Paint to play with, used someone else's strategy to guide my maze, and then more or less followed their tower placement. Their maze design was way better than mine! And I also learned how to use some of the towers better at that point. I put that knowledge to work in the DLC maps I played next.

    I *almost* had the same near-miss on Yogscave. It also has 30 waves, and I was absolutely kicking ass until wave 30. There was a (surprise) boss! Yogscave, by the way, is a special DLC featuring silly commentary while you play by the two British guys who do Yogscast, some videogame casting show. It was pretty amusing. Anyway, this boss was a monster. He was basically a Big Walker with a bajillion more HP and he fired homing missiles. He launched missiles, then turned his head around to look at you. He had a big funny frowny face. When the missiles hit you, you launch into the air. I got stuck off the map several times because of it. Really annoying ability. His weak spot (some enemies have weak spots and take extra damage if you shoot them there) was his butt. I'd follow him with my trigger finger mashing left mouse, assault rifle rounds flashing. But his homing missiles were terrible and constantly sent me flying. He made it to the core every time with less than 15% HP, so I wasn't doing too bad. I just had to figure out a way to quit being hit so much by his homing missiles. After studying their arc and trying to find a cause/effect between him looking at me/away from me and firing missiles, I developed a movement strategy. I was able to avoid most of the missiles by doing this circular forward strafing thing. It was pretty awkward, but it allowed me to stay close enough to him. I lost him around corners sometimes. I still wasn't killing him though, so I then tried to maximize my tower damage. I leveled up key towers, built a ton more Amplifiers (enemies take +x% damage when walking on them), and *still* couldn't quite manage. He was getting to the core with a sliver of HP. Maybe I could have gotten him with more practice circle-strafing. But instead, I started trying to freeze him with my freeze gun in deathtrap areas where I had a lot of level 5-6 towers and Amplifiers. That seemed to be a good idea, and I finally thought to level up my freeze gun, which I'd never done before. Turns out a maxed out freeze gun slows enemies by 40% (level 1 is 25%) and the alt fire freezes them in place for over 6 (level 1 is 2) seconds. That was the trick. He died near the end of the maze and still had a couple turns to make before the core. Victory, with time to spare!

    As you can see, Sanctum can be intense. I did find the difficulty a tad off balance because of these two crazy wave 30s. Sure, it's the last wave of the game/DLC, but when you're killing the level for 29 waves, and then the 30th kills you, it's jarring. The other free DLC was a Christmas themed level with 20 waves, was fun (you can shoot Santa out of the sky), and had a good difficulty. It was one of the two levels in the whole game with a set path. All the others you have to build your own maze. There are two DLC map packs available on Steam with 7 more maps total. I put them on my wishlist and will snag them whenever they are 75% off. There is co-op online multiplayer as well, and there are a handful of people playing. I should try it out sometime! Also, there is a Sanctum 2 in the works!
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    [December 12, 2012 09:41:56 PM]
    Paused Thief, tried Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath but my computer thinks its .exe file is a virus and I don't feel like messing with it, so I moved to Sanctum.

    Played Sanctum an hour and very much enjoy it so far! I played a demo a year or so ago, and the full version is immensely better. The demo just dropped you in a level and said 'go.' You didn't get to choose your weapons or towers, so I was surprised by those options. Sanctum is an FPS-TowerDefense game. If you played Orcs Must Die, it's sort of like that. You set your towers and then can run around the map shooting enemies as they traverse your death maze. The game definitely assumes you have experience with Tower Defense, as it gives you like 8 guns to choose from and like 12 towers immediately. You make a 'loadout' with 3 guns and 8 towers.

    I've played half of stage 1. There are 5 stages. Stage 1 has 20 waves. I took all the default guns and towers, which, if I can remember, is an assault rifle, sniper rifle, and freeze gun. The freeze gun doesn't seem to have much utility. The assault rifle is my staple, quick firing, can lob grenades, and takes a while to overheat. The sniper rifle is essential for shooting armored enemies. There are various enemy types with strengths and weaknesses, and this particular type has thick armor that can only be destroyed by "a high powered shot," which I figure means "aka, sniper rifle." That'll break the armor, then the towers whittle them down into nothingness. Enemies do seem to get tougher as waves increase. Those guys first took one sniper shot to destroy their armor. Now it's two. Luckily, you can upgrade weapons and towers using money that you get in between stages like any TD game. So far, I haven't hit an upgrade cap. I have some level 5 towers and I can still upgrade them, though it's getting quite expensive.

    Towers are handled a bit differently and it's pretty damn cool. Instead of just placing towers, you have to place a 'block' first. Then you put a gun on/in the block. Blocks by themselves are used to reroute enemies. One thing I love about Sanctum is that you do have to do rerouting. The levels (I assume - I'm only on the first) aren't all preset with narrow paths that you simply line with towers. There are a lot of potential paths and spaces for enemies to run to the core. Although there are preset spots to build blocks, there are a lot of them and it makes for lots of tinkering. So, put blocks to reroute enemies, and build guns on the blocks. I can't remember all the different types I have right now. There is a gatling gun, which is your basic one, high fire rate, big-ish range, relatively low damage. There is the laser, which does high damage but takes some time to recharge. There is some kind of scatter shot thing that I think sprays an area, but doesn't always hit everything in it. There are plates you can put on the ground (which is more like Orcs Must Die) where if enemies walk over them, they are slowed, or take more damage, or whatever. There are very neat 'televators' that allow you to quickly navigate the map. You just open the overhead view and click a televator you've built, and zip, there you are. Televators, as you can guess, also lift you up so you can get on top of the blocks. These things are super important to place around so you can move quickly, shoot enemies from above, have line of sight to build towers on top of blocks, and so on.

    There is no pause function, but you have an indefinite time to plan and build in between waves. You do the 'build' phase first, then hit Enter and do the 'wave' phase. Get your money, then 'build' phase, then 'wave' phase...And it tells you what enemies are in each wave, 5 waves ahead, so you can plan in advance. The only downside is that, I imagine, if you don't pick a necessary tower or gun at the very beginning of the stage, you might be screwed somewhere along the line and have to start over. I could be wrong, but like this time I had to have a sniper rifle. What if I didn't select the sniper rifle? Would I have to start the whole stage over? I suppose prepare for everything! Another great thing, in light of Thief, is that there are checkpoints every few waves. The bad thing is that you can't manually save, so if you are about to make a potentially stage-breaking decision, you can't go back to beforehand if you cross a new checkpoint. Anyway, nothing bad has happened so far. Hopefully these aren't really issues going forward!
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    dkirschner's Sanctum (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 12 December, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 18 May, 2013

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Way better than the demo I played last year! It's very open, take a birds-eye-view, plan, build, begin, cause mayhem, teleport. I like it. ------- Incredibly cool FPS/TD hybrid. Looking forward to more maps and a sequel. --------- Ok, I don't need more maps. Just more of the same thing, no story. Multiplayer is also weird with strangers.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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