Sang Froid reviewed: A charming, refreshing indie take on tower defence

Sang Froid

By on April 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm

A videogame’s hero is forever doomed to exuberant praise, but few ever recognise the tools that saw them through the darker, untold hours. We adorn the Dragonborn with titles, but never the Daedric Relics that protected him. We congratulate, Drake but not the firepower that saved him.  In recent times the bow has taken its place in the hands, and the boxarts, of the hunters and the hunted, and now the life and times of the humble skyhook and all of its age-old incarnations appear to be on the up and up, if you’ll pardon the pun.

In less than a month it has carried the hopes of two developers into varying degrees of expectations. One a BioShock hero; a million pairs of watching eyes; a million gasped breaths awaiting a perfect dismount, waiting for the deliverance of cloud-nine promises. The other, Sang Froid’s scruffy woodcutting heroes speeding on the Zipline from trap placement to trap placement, above the snow-drenched forests, into the unknown future of the indie developer.

In this way the Zipline is also the metaphorical hopes of a budding developer, even more so a small team with everything riding on their hero’s shoulders. Take a risk, grab on, and let the Zipline take you. You could soar!

Sang Froid is a game that asks you to put your faith in the tools of its heroes, utterly and completely, singing their praises as much as those of its axe-wielding lumberjack heroes who were responsible for their placement. The Zipline, in truth, is just one of these many tools — no less useful amongst a growing repertoire of bait, explosives and weight-triggered traps – all drip-fed over the length of Sang Froid’s campaign spanning the month of December 1858.

It’s in Sang Froid’s play phase — one part of a one-two punch of top-down trap deployment and third-person combat — where your ingenuity is thrown into stark contrast, highlighting just how genius that ingenious plan of yours was when it was scribbled notes on a piece of paper some thousand metres above. Did you account for the night’s breeze and its ability to carry your scent? Did the bait keep the werewolf masses at bay just long enough? Were those extra cents earned from skipping a bonfire worth it, now that you’re surrounded?

It’s tower defense meets third-person action in much the same way its Orc-riddled castle of a distant relation is, but in its offbeat setting of a legend-riddled 1858 Canada, and its unlikely heroes of two woodcutting brothers, Sang Froid’s tale of betrayal, jealousy and the Devil’s wiley ways carries an honesty that’s as endearing as its soundtrack is captivating. There is no wide-sweeping tale of a world in danger, just a town, a prophecy and a devil that dons a top hat among all manner of werewolves and their folk-tale brethren . Sang Froid is refreshing in its focus.

It’s a focus and a setting that permeates its play, on a genre that already felt stifled despite its limited attention. Governed by Action Points and a budget that deals in the overflowing wealth of dollars and cents, Sang Froid’s management phase is one of deciding between one of a million upgrades or items that would all help your efforts over the coming night. The defensible map, and the options at your disposal to defend it expand over time, equally praised and damned for their tantalising healing potions, better weapons and upgrades that would all be useful if only you could afford them.

Back to the zipline, and the fortunes of its carriage can sway wildly. Either the night goes ill and the zipline’s relaxed speed is cursed as much as the wolves below, or those well made plans are played out to perfection and the zipline ride is a relaxing change of pace while you await inevitable victory. Either way it’s the tools of its heroes that will remain Sang Froid’s highlight – a refreshing reflection on an overlooked setting brought to life for the strategic at heart.

There are systems at play here that never truly find the time of day — or night, as the case may be — to fully stretch their legs, closing out just as you finally have access to the intoxicating repertoire, but there’s enough gold in these here strategy hills (and enough heart)  to warrant the praise, grant this team another shot, and allow a possible series or second instalment the ability to soar.

Good:

  • An earthy, honest representation of a time-period – and setting – that only ever enhances Sang Froid’s charm.
  • New systems — such as scent, threat and rage — play to that hardcore, survivalist itch while taking full advantage of the setting.
  • I’d sit in the main menu all day just to listen to that soundtrack
  • While lacking a New Game+ or other modes, going back and challenging yourself to complete missions with fewer traps offers greater challenge.
  • Punishing in the “Aha! moment” kind of way.

Bad:

  • Closes out just as you’re given big enough scenarios to stretch the game’s strategic legs.
  • Some of Sang Froid’s  mechanics can shout over each other at times, lost in the busy-work.

Sang Froid is available on Steam for $15. Product for this review purchased by the author at their own expense.

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One comment (Leave your own)

lacking a New Game+ or other modes

Closes out just as you’re given big enough scenarios to stretch the game’s strategic legs.

They sound like one hell of a negative when combined. Enough to make me steer clear of it, even as a solid TD fan.

 
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