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Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves – PC

Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves – PC

Sang-Froid titlePlatform: PC

Developer: Artifice Studio

Publisher: Artifice Studio

 Release Date (NA): April 5, 2013

Genre: Action/Adventure, Tower Defense

Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10 – Good

Oh, Canada. Home of maple syrup, hockey, and the most badass monster hunters in the gaming industry. You were expecting maybe some polite folks who end every sentence with “Eh?” Clearly you haven’t met the O’Carroll brothers, heroes of Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves. These two Irish-Canadian lumberjacks can and will fight anything and anyone to protect their sister.

Canadian Frollo required a lot less self-delusion and subtlety.

Canadian Frollo required a lot less self-delusion and subtlety.

The game begins in 1858, just outside the town of Wolvesvale. Joseph and Josephine O’Carroll have to flee town from the false accusations of the town priest, who has given in to his lust and tried to force his advances upon Josephine. The two seek out the log cabin of their rebel brother Jacques, since the priest has convinced Wolvesvale that Josephine is a witch—a claim enforced by the accidental burning of the church in Josephine’s escape.

Jacques and Jos don’t get along at all, to the point where you might expect one to take their axe and go to town on the other, but the linchpin of their family is dear Josephine. Josephine is ill by the time she arrives at the log cabin, so the brothers have to set their differences aside and work together to care for her.

Things get worse when, back in town, the priest is approached by the Devil—no, not some meagre hench-demon, the Devil himself—and tempted into falling further in corruption for lust and vainglory. On promises of getting Josephine and a position in Rome, the priest signs away the souls of all Wolvesvale. Every night, the citizens’ souls are taken and possess wolves, becoming bestial werewolves to track down and hunt the O’Carroll family.

If you thought that was bad enough, though, brace yourself. There’s a tribe of skin-changers in the forest, the Maikan, who are known by local Inuit tribes as star gazers and warriors. These Maikan take a form similar to werewolves, though they bare weaknesses and strengths far different from their unthinking, demonic counterparts. Believing that the only way to avert an apocalyptic prophecy is to drive out or kill the O’Carrolls, they make enemies of the family as well.

Fortunately, there are those who still support the brothers. You can sneak into town and visit the bar, blacksmith, general store, or nunnery. Even if the head priest of the town is corrupt, that doesn’t mean the entire church is, after all. Against the word of the Maikan, the local Inuit tribe offers aid to the O’Carrolls as well, as their mother was a prophetess from their own before marrying the O’Carrolls’ father.

You're already dead, you mangy mob.

You’re already dead, you mangy mob.

In order to defend your home and family, you play as one of the two brothers. Jos is the default play style, while Jacques is, for all intents and purposes, hard mode. Jacques has less health and melee power, requiring players to step up their game on a mental level with defenses. These defenses take the form of traps and structures used to traverse the ever-growing territory the brothers must defend to keep everyone safe from the hordes.

During the day, you have money and time you can spend to set up traps or go to your allies for supplies. Josephine, though bedridden with illness, has inherited her mother’s gift of prophecy. Every day, you’ll know how each wave of wolves, werewolves, Maikan, and other creatures will approach their building of choice. It can easily get hectic figuring out how best to defend each area, but that challenge makes it more thrilling to succeed.

Just a little more, and... Boom!

Just a little more, and… Boom!

At night is when you put your plans to the test. You have a musket (complete with historically-accurate slow reloading), an axe, some booze and whatever traps you put in place during the day. There are enemies you can handle one-on-one or in very small groups, but you need to pack the right weapons for it—more importantly, you can roar to intimidate your enemies or bait them into a trap, and set off manual traps to smite those who dare come after your kin.

Alcohol, no matter what kind, is a purely beneficial substance in this game. You’ll never suffer from getting drunk, and the alcohol acts as health potions and various forms of buffs to help you get through the night. You won’t need them early on, but as you go deeper into the game—especially as Jacques—you may find yourself developing a bit of a drinking problem.

If you do have to fight your enemies personally, there are a few ways to get the edge over your more brutally powerful foes. I mentioned before that you could roar to intimidate your enemies, and intimidation is the key to victory. The game’s combat runs on a Fear Factor, meaning that enemies have to work up the courage to attack you. If you raise your Fear Factor above theirs, you can dart in, attack, and pull back before they react. Some enemies can bypass or ignore this, but scaring unholy beasts into submission feels awesome.

In terms of negatives, though, Sang-Froid does have some things to answer for. The first thing you’ll run into is the start-up loading for the game itself, which can take a few minutes at times. While most in-game loading after this is quick, this moment made me think my computer had frozen at first. More annoying than that are the enemies that can bypass the Fear Factor system, primarily Will-o-the-Wisps that pelt you with fireballs no matter how scared they are. The most frustrating thing is the way replaying nights is handled. You can go back to replay a previous night, but only at the cost of all the progress made since that night–you’re not replaying, you’re turning back the clock. There’s no New Game Plus function, either.

The visuals for Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves are very pleasing to look at, clean and cool, detailed with smooth animations. Some of these animations can be a bit goofy, but overall it works out in Sang-Froid’s favor by adding to its charm. The graphical quality comes in at roughly Playstation 2 level, which is actually fairly good all told. I’d have settled for worse graphics with this gameplay, but I don’t have to and I’m overjoyed for it.

If they're not, you're in for a Hell of a night.

If they’re not, you’re in for a Hell of a night.

Some of the cutscenes take a departure from the standard 3-D graphics Instead, it uses a drawn style for these scenes. The art matches to the 3-D graphics pretty well, which helps to avoid pulling the player out of the game despite the graphical switch.

Dialogue for non-drawn cutscenes, meanwhile, are done in a style similar to visual novels. The decisions aren’t there, so it’s not quite a genre blend, but the screen placement works well either way. While some may not be a fan of this approach to dialogue-heavy scenes, I’ve seen a lot worse done otherwise.

Sang-Froid’s soundtrack puts a lot of emphasis on fiddle music, with the instrument dominating numerous tracks. This focus brings out a lot of the instrument’s variety, ranging from town-casual slow music to intense, energetic combat. Given the time of the game’s setting, it feels right to jam to an intense violin.

Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves is a very exciting game, with funny and awesome moments both in story and in gameplay, but the title itself tells you how you need to approach things if you want to win. Sang-froid is a term borrowed from French, sang being blood and froid being cold, but the metaphorical meaning of this cold-blooded title is composure even in the face of danger. You stare your enemies down with veins of ice and seal their fate before moving on to the next target.

I wonder if werewolf pelts are worth more than ad revenue.

I wonder if werewolf pelts are worth more than ad revenue.

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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