What is cooler than a Vampire? The answer is not bacon, but Werewolves. The origin of these mythical creatures varies from story to story. For example, in Sang-Froid, vile humans who have unconfessed sins are vulnerable to be corrupted by the Devil himself and turn into Lycanthropic beasts. And you can bet he will.
Artifice Studio, a six men Developer team bring us Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves, a promising Tower Defense/Action game set in Canada, back in 1858. Sang-Froid tells the story of the O'Carroll brothers (and sister), sons to an Irish immigrant and an Amerindian priestess, the former spiritual head of the Innu tribe. Josephine O'Carroll has inherited some of her Mother's abilities, and a Prophecy to fulfill.
The game starts when Joseph and Josephine arrive at Jacky's cabin, their brother. Josephine had been kicked out of Wolvesvale, the nearest village. She's accused of burning down the village church, crime which she didn't commit, the actual culprit is the Priest Elzear. The priest has an unhealthy obsession with Josephine, opportunity wich allows the Devil to take advantage and blackmail him, with the purpose of dealing the souls of the purpose of bargaining the souls of Wolvesvale citizens. After a long time of division, the three brothers must coexist once again, in spite of the present enmity between Jack and Josy. Cinematics are really still character images opening and closing their mouths, old fashioned way. There are, however, a couple or two animated cut-scenes, albeit nothing too fancy. On top of that, voice acting feels forced and unnatural, which makes it difficult to relate to the characters.
The Devil now has at his disposal countless souls to turn into Werewolves, which he wil use to get to Josephine, whose mysterious powers seem like a benefit to him. The O'Carroll brothers have to work together to protect their ill sister from the Werewolves, and that's where the fun begins. The cabin was soon to be tormented.
Sang-Froid has two difficulty modes: Normal and Hard. Normal is played with Josy, the bulky O'Carroll lumberjack. As a child, Josy fell down a tall tree, and his Priestess mother healed him, which caused him to develop formidable strength and resistance. Hard mode is played with Jacky, the scrawny counterpart of Josy. He'll find more tricky situations throughout the game, advised for players who want a challenging time. The game unfolds in a single Map, the forest surrounding the cabin you have to protect. Nonetheless, the map expands as you find new buildings or Towers to defend.
The gameplay consists of two facets: The strategy planning and the close combat. During dawn, you're allocated Action Points. An isometric view shows you the whole map, and how many Wolves or Werewolves will attack, usually in Waves. Each trap you lay costs you a portion of Action Points, and they're limited enough to force you to plan ahead well enough to intercept the path of the friendly canines coming to your cabin to take Josephine. As you advance through Sang-Froid, you find different traps or resources to build, each suitable for diverse circumstances; a Wolf Trap deals damage to a single wolf, whereas a Spike Trap sets off once three Wolves step on it, and damages them all. Some other traps are environmental, such as the Hanging Net, which needs to be placed between trees to be sustained. Action Points can be used up on other kind of distractions, such as Bonfires or Bait. There's no timer to limit your creativeness when placing diversions, and you can visit Wolvesvale village stores at will, either to resupply your inventory with bullets and Beverages to replenish health and stamina during combat, or to Bless your ammo, for extra effectiveness against diabolic wolves.
Once you're happy with the strategy you've set, you can now proceed and move to the next part of the gameplay. Before starting the night, your Inventory and Skill Tree are displayed, and you can customize at will what weapons you wish to carry to the battlefield, and what skill you'll take. The Skill Tree is the same for both characters. There are skills that boost Josy/Jacky stats, and others that change the way traps behave. You can buy weapons with better characteristics than the default Axe and Musket you have, but money is scarce, and some traps cost money to place. Once in combat though, you'll be glad to have bought that one shiny hatchet when you notice the difference of damage you deal and how that impacts the gameplay.
Since you're a human facing werewolves, you can't just jump into guns blazing, or they'll tear you apart. A stamina bar determines how many swings you can yield before getting tired, and once that happens, you'll have to wait for it to replenish again. Stamina also allows the character to sprint, but that might prove self-defeating. Another vital combat component is the Fear Factor. Basically, once you run into vicious Werewolves, both you and them have a Fear meter. As long as yours is ahead of theirs, they will stay back and avoid attacking you, but the more wolves you're facing, the less chances you get to have a higher Fear Factor. You can Shout to temporarily frighten your enemies, but the recharge time between Shout is available is quite steep. While they're back preparing to attack again, you can reload your 1858 musket and aim for a headshot, to both recover a bit of your stamina and take a few wolves down in the process. The more you harm the wolves, the lower their fear factor goes.
There are a great deal of different type of wolves. Some are straight-out corrupted souls that were turned into Werewolves. The more corrupt a soul is, the more powerful the creature results, namely Grand Werewolves. Normal weapons and bullets do less damage to these wolves, but you can always visit the nearest convent and have a Nun bless your weapons and ammunition, which in turn are extremely effective against Werewolves. Aside from the demonic beasts, you'll also find ancient Werewolves, more rational creatures that can even speak with humans. They are called Maikans, ancient beings that are in constant communication with the Innu tribe. Even holy weapons work poorly against Maikans. Silver enhanced bullets and Tomahawks will tear through the Maikans easily. Sang-Froid boasts historical accuracy, reading descriptions of real life antique muskets and tribes culture practices.
There are a total of twenty levels, forty if you consider playing with the two O'Carroll brothers. Loading screens between each stage can be a pain, and the transition from the loading screen to the next level sometimes acted up while I played Sang-Froid. I noticed a pattern, the longer I took to click continue on the loading screen, the higher the chances of the game crashing on me, a nuisance that hopefully will be patched soon.
The music is sublime, atmospheric sound effects and ravishing soundtracks. Violin cadences accompanies immersive audio that suits the Werewolf themed adventure properly. Graphics on the other hand are nothing spectacular, though do the job. Indie games can't often have Unreal Engine like graphics, although more attention paid to the bland character sprites could have been lovely. Regardless, Sang-Froid will go hard on your CPU once the werewolves start hoarding around you and keep attacking.
Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves is highly recommended to gamers who enjoyed Orcs Must Die, given that both games play almost the same way. Sang-Froid is available on steam with a reasonable $15 price tag. If you can look past the occasional issues unpatched as of now, I do recommend Sang-Froid to travel back to 1858, pick an Irish lumberjack and kick some werewolves butts in a full moon woody night.