Sang-Froid Review: Alone Against The Wolves

Once you’ve successfully fought off all the supernatural jerks, which will no doubt leave you feeling drained, you get the chance to spend some hard-earned cash and XP and talk to some of the folks in town. I don’t mean this literally, though; all the talking is done automatically through cutscenes. No dialogue trees here! If you are familiar with the store and skill systems of any RPG on the market, you’ll instantly understand how it works. Buy better gear, use skill points to unlock better moves, and move towards the next fight. The game helpfully brings up the inventory and skill screens whenever you are about to start the next night, so it’s impossible to miss.

The story shown during the daytime attempts to be more drama than comedy, but ends up swinging so far into the realm of silliness that it’s hard to take it seriously. The characters have absolutely no subtlety to their dialogue, and the aforementioned depiction of Satan is so comical that I can’t really treat him like an actual villain. There’s a scene a few chapters in when he visits the protagonists under the guise of a doctor, and I could not stop laughing at every single line. I really appreciate the attempts to make Sang-Froid’s dialogue be gruff and dark, but I still chuckled.

Despite this, I really love the mythology. Christian lore isn’t commonly seen in games – partially due to its charged relationship with games in general – so it was refreshing to see a game that actively showed the devil and talked about various myths surrounding him and his minions. As a result of this “old-world” focus on the devil, the atmosphere is brooding and dismal, and I found myself really getting into a somber mood as I continued to play. Sang-Froid captures the feeling of being alone in the woods at night extremely well.

The biggest issue with Sang-Froid is one of feature creep. There are plenty of excellent features – I love the way you can use sound/smell to lure enemies into traps – but there are too many. A good tower defense game keeps the feature list relatively simple and instead adds more towers with different effects rather than new systems. Sang-Froid adds system after system on top of the heap, and it becomes a bit of a mess to sort out. The developers needed to pick a path: tower defense game or third-person action game. They chose neither, and the game suffered as a result.

It’s also not the best looking game around. The art style is fantastic – I really love the character designs – but the animations are very stiff and unwieldy. Cutscenes have characters awkwardly gesturing at each other and performing stiff facial expressions. I would have been more pleased if they had simply had different portraits instead of trying to animate the scene with models. Thankfully, the awkwardness of animation is the only real problem. The textures are nice and crisp and the artistic direction is great. It just doesn’t look so hot in motion.

Finally, the difficulty spikes are a bit much. I didn’t run into too much trouble with most of the missions, but a few of them tore me a new one; usually ones that introduced a new enemy before the appropriate personal weapons to fight said enemy. You should expect to breeze through and then hit a massive difficulty spike. It’ll help if you are familiar with other games like this, though.

Despite its shortcomings – strange animations, goofy characterizations, and stitched-together game mechanics – I liked Sang-Froid. It has a lot of charm, and it’s clear that the developers wanted to make a game that captured the dark, mysterious nature of North American mythos. For the most part, they succeeded. I just wish that they had paid more attention to the parts that really mattered. Here’s hoping the next entry in this series is a little more focused.

Pros

  • Brooding, oppressive atmosphere
  • Unique look at non-standard mythology
  • Involved combat system about fighting multiple enemies and using fear
  • Good inventory/skill systems
  • Lovely art style

Cons

  • Goofy characterizations and plot
  • Awkward animations; doesn’t look so good in motion
  • Can’t decide between tower defense or action
  • Inconsistent difficulty spikes

Final Score: 70/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


James Murff’s other work can be seen here, and you can follow him on Twitter at @jamesmurff.

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1 Comment on Sang-Froid Review: Alone Against The Wolves

folklore

On April 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Nice honest review of the game. I voted for it on greenlight, and was still on the fence. I’ll have to move it to the huge backlog of games i have to get.