March 21, 2011 5:12 AM | Cassandra Khaw
When I sat down with the team from Coffee Stain Studios and their demo of Sanctum so many weeks ago, the first thing that came out of Lead Developer Oscar Jilsen's mouth was, 'I think we misplaced the mouse'. It was definitely one of the most awkward statements ever vocalized during a hands-on session of a game. Unfortunately, due to pressing appointments on both sides, there was nothing that could be done. I would have to experience Sanctum via a touchpad.
Now, it wouldn't have been so bad if Sanctum was, for example, a Facebook-based agriculture simulation but it wasn't. A frenetic mix of tower defense and first-person shooting, Sanctum is the story of an elite soldier named Skye. Tasked with the defense of her hometown, players will spend most of their time divided between the construction of new towers and gunning down hordes of aliens. In many ways, it's a pretty standard formula but what surprised me was the fact that it worked so well.
Of course, it sort of helped that the controls were wonderfully intuitive. Though handicapped by the rather conspicuous lack of a certain peripheral, I found Sanctum absurdly easy to navigate. There was a little voice at the back of my head telling me that it should have been harder. In fact, it should have been much, much harder - I didn't have a mouse, for crying out loud. However, it wasn't. A lot of it probably has something to do with how Coffee Stain Studios revamped the control system. Though somewhat tedious in the alpha build, tower-building now consists of a rather literal case of point, click, insert implement of destruction.
There are no complicated combinations, nothing that builds overtly on the few basic buttons. Sanctum is one of those few games out there that falls decidedly into the 'pick up and play' category. Both the tower-defense and first-person shooter elements work seamlessly together, something I discovered to my delight when I decided I was sick of waiting around like a wilting princess. Instead of building even more towers, I had chosen to position myself in the foreground to take the aliens head-on. Sadly, it wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it'd be. Sanctum's resident extraterrestrials seem rather oblivious to your presence; it would have been blast to have them barreling after you as well.
Either way, it looks like there's a fair amount to look forward to. I didn't really get the chance to investigate more than the first two enemies the game holds which was rather disappointing given that Coffee Stain Studios have promised at least thirteen of them. There's also a co-opt mode that I'm deeply interested in, a survival mode that the developers have said would occasionally result in rather hopeless situations.
As usual, we're not really sure about a release date but it seems that launch will be announced alongside the start of beta. Rumor has it that beta is due sometime next week but there's always the chance that a computer might spontaneously combust somewhere. Those interested in learning more about Sanctum can track the game via its IndieDB page.