by Zee Salahuddin
reviewed on PC
The true challenge in Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves is not the daunting task faced by Canadian brothers Jacques and Joseph to keep the lupine infestation at bay, while their sister recovers from a supernatural sickness. The true challenge is to fend off the ugly, frayed, and at times blatantly rough edges while allowing the player to settle into a comfortable rhythm of strategy and brawling. It is unlike anything I have ever played, it is novel, intelligent, and at times even a subliminal experience. It just happens to be incredibly ugly.
The aforementioned concept is seemingly pedestrian on paper, but incredibly complex and multifaceted in execution. Your sister is homebound, recovering from a paranormal ailment, and you come under attack from demonic forces every night. You can play as either brother, and your selection determines the difficulty of the lupine nightlife you will encounter. The game takes place in two stages, the day and night cycles, over the course of 20 days.
Tinkerer by Day
The day cycle allows you to plan your defense. You will have a limited amount of cash you have accumulated, which you can use in town to purchase more powerful equipment, or get your existing arsenal blessed by the local clergy, or to purchase certain traps to either slow, maim or kill intruding (were)wolves. You also have action points, which must be carefully and intelligently spent to buy additional traps on the playing field.
The actual trap placement occurs via a top-town interface, in which you see an overview of the property you own. You have several crucial buildings, one with your brother and sister inside, which need to be protected. You can determine attack patterns and routes of the rampaging primordial beasts, and lay traps to divert, slow, distract, ward against or kill. Other tools include the ability to climb flimsily built towers for temporary protection, as they can be knocked down by eager paw or angry claw, ziplines to travel quickly between various sections of the map, and mystic bonfires that act as a sort of kryptonite to creatures of the dark.
Hunter by Night
At night, you must step valiantly onto the field of battle, and personally ensure the timely, though at times inexpedient, demise of your numerous foes. The enemy starts off quite simple, a few scattered wolves easily dispatched and thwarted. But as the game progresses, new variants are introduced with increased speed, agility, attack power and intelligence. Your tactics, tools of mayhem, and strategy must also evolve. Some late-stage enemies will take a lot of effort to bring down, and given the limited nature of your arsenal, this presents with some interesting tactical possibilities.
You will have a shotgun which takes an excruciatingly long amount of time to reload. Your shots matter, so a headshot must be prioritized over body shots. You have an axe which you can swing in rapid successive blows, chaining into three-step combos. You can also sprint around to avoid getting mauled. However, a stamina bar ensures you carefully manage what may be humanly possible when faced with such impossible odds.
Unique setting, idea, mechanics and execution, solid sound design, surprisingly deep.
Ugly, almost no replay value, no compelling narrative, oh and did I mention it's ugly?