Sanctum 2 stays largely faithful to the foundation that made its predecessor an intriguing draw. Defending your sci-fi stronghold's power core against waves of pestilent invaders is a two-step process. The strategic building phase of each round gives you limited resources to work with for laying down defenses along designated zones on the battlefield. Once you place your allotment of barriers and assorted deadly turrets, your defenses lock in for the round, the vile menagerie of aliens parades in, and you jump into the fray with guns blazing. The fact that your foes are more aggressive this time around ramps up the tension, but other welcome additions and refinements also make this sequel a much punchier, faster-flowing experience.
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The original game only had three maps, though matches still had the tendency to drag on over the course of 20 to 30 waves of foes. Sanctum 2 cuts that down to around 10 waves per map to keep the action moving along, but it also greatly increases the number of stages to a total of 16 diverse locales spread across four areas. A mix of futuristic cityscapes and natural forested vistas provide a nice contrast to complement the sharp visual detail etched into each setting. The stages themselves are equally varied, featuring multiple branching paths for enemies to travel, areas that cannot be built upon, environmental dangers like fire pits, and alternating entry points to contend with.
Enemies are smarter, deadlier, and more persistent than ever too. This increased sense of danger and the feeling that you're always teetering on the brink of being overrun makes Sanctum 2's battles deliciously chaotic. Your defensive barriers used to route enemies are now lower to the ground, letting you hop up on them easily – at the tradeoff of being within reach of enemy attacks. Even with a well-placed swath of defenses and turrets placed between you and your foes, you never really feel safe. That's a good thing in this case, as it adds to the tension and excitement.
Between flying creatures that zip over your walls and slow-moving armored brutes that can soak up a ton of hits before they go down, you never know when a group will overwhelm your fortifications. Then there are the occasional boss behemoths that thrash a straight path through all of your defenses like there were made of twigs and duct tape. Frequent panic-inducing moments give the gameplay more impact to keep your pulse pounding.