A few rough edges don’t keep Sang-Froid’s unique werewolf slaughterfest from being a howling good time.

The Good

  • Great setting and supernatural theme
  • Satisfying blend of tower defense planning and action
  • RPG elements bridge the gap between distinct phases.

The Bad

  • Core combat is thin
  • Some unimpressive visual elements.

When you’re in the remote wilderness of werewolf country, hunkering down and chopping up all manner of horrific beasts night after night doesn’t seem like the smartest alternative to simply running like hell, but Canadian lumberjack brothers Jacques and Joseph are made of tougher, more stubborn stock. Their quest to save their sister from the demonic fanged beings of the night in Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves requires careful planning during the daylight hours and precise execution when the sun goes down. All of the neat ideas at play in this distinct tower defense/third-person brawler hybrid ultimately keep the rough edges at bay long enough to let the cyclical blend of strategizing and action take hold.

Prepping your traps during the day is half of the fun.

Prepping your traps during the day is half of the fun.

Set in the dark, wintry forests of Canada, Sang-Froid revolves around an ill-fated region beset by all manner of lupine kinfolk. Even the devil himself has a hand in things. The aforementioned brothers begrudgingly band together in an effort to shore up their defenses as their seemingly possessed sister recovers from a supernatural ailment. Meanwhile, the forest’s unruly and unholy creatures are growing in number and variety, adding ample diversity to the nightly attacks on your meager fortifications. Throw in some shamanism, a touch of Native American mojo, and some good old-fashioned woodsman’s whisky, and you’ve got a wild ride. It’s a great setup in a fresh, original setting.

Unfortunately, some of that excellent vibe is sapped by weak production. The awkward story dialogue sequences are horribly slapdash looking, though decently voiced, and the overall visual quality falls short both in-game and during cutscenes. Things don’t get much better in battle, either, which frequently plays out across dimly lit, sparsely detailed snowfields surrounded by woods. Despite its promising setting, Sang-Froid is a rather ugly beast at times on the visual front.

Looks aren’t everything, of course, and an abundance of thoughtful gameplay nuances do help ease some of the game’s less visually stunning moments. Sang-Froid’s tower defense strategizing hinges on keeping the scattered structures under your control from getting razed by the local demonic nightlife. The fact that each round is divided into two different phases helps keep things interesting. Foes attack in waves from different points on the map, and the daytime portion of each stage has you spending from your accumulated cash and a limited pool of action points to lay down traps in an effort to railroad and stamp out your foes before they rip your home to shreds.

Clobbering werewolves at night is the other half!

Clobbering werewolves at night is the other half!

All of this happens on a top-down map screen that gives you lots of control over how you plan out your defenses before locking into a specific arrangement. Once they appear, creatures follow a set route to their target building unless they’re diverted or rerouted. Laying down crushing traps, spiked strips, flame barriers, unholy wards, fast-travel zip-lines, and other defensive elements provides a diverse means to strategize prior to the actual assault. It’s cool that you can take different approaches to victory, though failure isn’t entirely punitive, since you can start each level from scratch or resume your strategic tinkering right before nightfall to subtly tweak your plans.

A few rough edges don’t keep Sang-Froid’s unique werewolf slaughterfest from being a howling good time.

By Nathan Meunier