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Sang Froid – Tales of Werewolves | Review

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Sang Froid is ultimately an interactive folk tale full of supernatural creatures and humour; with a unique blend of action based gameplay mixed with tactical style gaming that provides an interesting take on fighting waves of werewolves in the frozen forests of Canada.

Sang Froid sets gamers in the role of a family having to fend off wolves, werewolves and many other creatures sent forth by the Devil himself in order to take down the younger sister, Josephine. You play as either of her two lumberjack brothers and selecting either of which will change the difficulty that the rest of the game will be – Josy O’Carroll being the normal difficulty, whilst walking in Jacky’s shoes provides a more difficult challenge. Moving through a series of nights set in in December 1858, starting from December 5th through to the 24th, Christmas Eve, successfully surviving each night moves the story along a chapter. The calendar also shows the moon cycle: from the new moon through to the Blood Moon, more commonly known as a Red Moon, which will bring the Maikan Warrior werewolves who have even less weaknesses than the ferocious werewolves that become a common sight down your rifle’s scope. The Maikan also foretell the coming of the invisible demon that unleashes hell on Earth when it arrives, and with the lunar changes progressing to Quarter Moon, Half Moon and eventually Full Moon, you can bet your attackers will become stronger, more numerous and eventually bring all sorts of evil with them.

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Sang Froid combines a whole host of gaming styles which delivers a blend that fits surprisingly well. From actual action, shooting rifles and swinging axes, which can be improved upon by either purchasing better weapons in the town or better ammunition or even by going to a Convent in town and getting a holy woman to pray over them and give them an edge when fighting these demonic creatures. There are tactical elements in order to prepare for the next battle. With wave after wave of enemies coming at you, you can view their numbers, waves, starting points, paths and set up various traps. These traps range from simple bear traps to fire walls which block enemies’ paths, forcing them to either take another route or damage themselves when passing through the flames.  And lastly RPG style skill trees to bridge the gap between the two, allowing you to level up your abilities with Skill Points earned by defeating enemies and completing the night, both Special and Basic. Some of these abilities include Marksmanship which allows for faster reload times or increasing your Shout level, so that enemies can hear it from further away and intimidating them more, which in turn, slows down the rate they attack but draws them to the spot you were standing in when you Shouted.

Completing each chapter or night on the calendar, a new element will be brought in, maybe a new tactic or a new trap, and every now and again a new enemy with unique defense abilities that make them harder to kill or require a very specific method of attack in order to defeat.  Dying or failing the night through losing one of your property assets such as your house, the barn or the saw mill, means the night will start over and you can choose to start from Twilight – which will allow you to start the night over with all your traps still in place. If you start at Dawn, you can replace any traps, purchase new things in town and allocate Skill Points on the Skill Tree. Sometimes starting from Dawn is the only way as you need to make adjustments to your traps and so on. However it can become a tiring experience as often the game will let you know of any new aspects to the map that are noteworthy on the strategy board – a new path opening up due to some water freezing over – having to go through this multiple times can be extremely irritating.
The town offers an assortment of items from eau de vie, beer or whiskey from the Hotel-Saloon, each of which will either restore some life or make your attacks stronger, or you can purchase new weapons such as axes from the Blacksmith or rifles from the General Store. Finding money for these assets can be difficult, considering you are awarded a small amount of money for each beast you kill, but also can earn money through chopping lumber at the saw mill. However, doing so will cost you Action Points which are required in order to place traps and so on at the Strategy Board and so a juggling act must be maintained in order to survive.

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There is a unique look that really emphasizes the folk tale feeling throughout the game. Most notably the skill of the visual artists is shown off during loading screens where tips and hints are suggested, there is also usually a run-down of a new enemy with some outstanding image depicting the beast.  The colours suit the story and surrounding environments very well, with most of the surrounding forest hidden in darkness and shadow, providing a slight hesitancy when roaming along the snow white paths in the immediate area. However, the one major downfall visually for this game is that some of the animations are very basic and are ultimately a disappointment with everything else being so immersive and well executed.

Creating an atmosphere that truly captures the essence of the game overall, the score is something that really stands out and manages to hold its own in a world of forgettable background blur that can often accompany such titles. The intro music on the loading screen actually became one of those tunes that sticks in the mind long afterwards, with its upbeat and cheery folk music. Sound effects do not get overlooked here either; the creatures have suitably apt growls for stalking then short sharp barks when they attacks, not to miss over the spine tingling howls from the wolves and werewolves.

Through combining multiple aspects of gaming including action, role playing and tactical style strategy throughout your time spent in the icy Canadian forests filled with folk lore and a tongue in cheek story that is still compelling at the same time, Sang Froid manages to deliver an enjoyable experience that will keep many entertained for hours on end. Fighting through waves of werewolves and demonic creatures sent by the devil himself becomes enjoyable but still a challenge at the same time which results in a nice balance not often found in an indie game. Sang Froid is worth some love and attention and will not be a game to regret playing, though may be a bit of a frustrating time for those not accustomed to strategy type gaming.

(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied by Artifice Studio. Thank you.)

ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE

Story – 7/10

Gameplay/Design – 7.5/10

Visuals – 7/10

Sound – 8/10

Lasting Appeal – 6/10

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Overall – 7.5/10

(Not an average)

That gamer girl in the UK. Lover of all games but especially horror and RPG’s. Getting scared silly by indie horror games for Let’s Plays on YouTube is one of her favourite pass times. Catch her on Twitter for her day-to-day game happenings: @SillyRabbit669

Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review — A Symphony for the Fans

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Bloodstained Ritual of the Night

For a long while, the industry had yet to see a return to a true-to-form Castlevania title, leading many fans to speculate if Konami had abandoned the formula all together. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is ArtPlay’s response to this absence, with the legendary Castlevania-veteran Koji Igarashi at its helm. Although Bloodstained may not have certainty that it will continue the legacy of Castlevania, the title delivers on its promise as a game for fans, by the fans, and exceeds most expectations. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a true Castlevania experience in every way except the title. 

In Ritual of the Night, players take control of a Sharbinder named Miriam, an individual who can harness the power of magical shards crystallized by the souls of the enemies she kills. As the core mechanic, the ability to absorb shards and utilize their new skills is required for player progression and success. The fact that Miriam is a Shardbinder further reinforces the narrative of Bloodstained, since their existence often lead to negative events. The story contained within Ritual of the Night is similar to most Castlevania titles, except this time, Dracula is replaced in favor of Gebel, a more skilled Sharbinder and Miriam’s old friend and mentor. 

Bloodstained Castle

Most of the game takes place inside a castle, but long-time Castlevania veterans will expect that the castle is only an external facade, with caverns and caves hiding beneath. Remaining true to its Metroidvania roots, Bloodstained contains a sprawling map full of hidden rooms and secrets. Exploration is encouraged by the ever-present possibility of better items and power-ups in the following rooms. Bloodstained finds a perfect difficulty balance by spacing out save rooms to encourage caution. Every time death was close, the curiosity of what could be behind the next door drove the desire for further exploration.

The map present in Bloodstained is truly expansive and worthy of a Metroidvania title. Each new area provides an extension onto the already dense castle setting, never requiring players to travel to a new location to progress. All additional areas remain connected to the central castle, providing an experience that is continuous and believable. Similarly to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, players can unlock an “Inverse” ability that will flip the playable map upside down and allow for new experiences in an already explored area. Just as he did with Symphony of the Night, Igarashi-san crafted a beautiful setting that retains its appeal even when explored upside down.  

The desire to progress deeper into the castle is fueled in part by the Shard system and the potential of discovering new ones along the way. In Bloodstained: RotN, enemies have the potential to drop shards that provide enhanced abilities and passive stats. Players can equip multiple shards at once, each enhancing different areas of play. For instance, one shard can provide Miriam with an ability drawn from the creature that dropped it, while another can summon a familiar to accompany Miriam throughout her journey. 

Bloodstained Shard

As the game progresses, players are required to backtrack and utilize newly gathered shards to enter areas that were not accessible early on. In this regard, the title maintains its genuine Metroidvania, or Igavania, genre as some fans are hailing it. Killing a random sea creature might net Miriam the ability to create a directional aquatic blast, but use that ability near deep waters and players might be surprised by what they can do. 

Since every enemy in Ritual of the Night is capable of rewarding Miriam with a shard ability, players will quickly find themselves host to multiple of the same kind. To counter this, players are encouraged to sell unwanted shards for coins at the local merchant, where they can also purchase crafting items. The crafting system allows players to utilize recipes found throughout their journey and create food that provides a temporary boost to Miriam’s stats. Additionally, players can use materials gathered to enhance the shards they have amassed to alter its capabilities and damage output. 

Although Bloodstained deserves to be showered with praise, the game is not immune to technical issues that can hinder the experience. During the preparation of this review, the game was subject to continuous frame issues, where too much action would result in stuttering. Additionally, optimization issues plague the console port, with registration lag featured every time Miriam would absorb a shard or with the occasional room entry. ArtPlay has responded to these issues ensuring fans that optimization is a high priority for the company, and it will be addressing these problems within the next few patches.  

Despite a few technical setbacks, Bloodstained is truly an experience for first-timers and longtime Castlevania fans alike. Igarashi-san and ArtPlay built this game out of their love for the genre and that is evident in every aspect of the game. The preservation of a traditional Castlevania game along with the advancements made towards propelling the genre further help Bloodstained stand out amongst other Metroidvania titles of recent years. Although an argument could be made that the title leans too much on its Symphony of the Night influences, Ritual of the Night succeeds in providing fans of the genre with an experience that has been absent for years. 

Given that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a crowdfunded game, the amount of love and attention evident in its production comes as no surprise. The level of quality that is present in this package is truly astounding, and the appreciation grows even more when considering the free content promised for the coming months. Perfection should not be expected from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. However, the result is exactly what was promised by the developers, and fans could not ask for more. Throughout its development, Igarashi-san provided continual assurance that he desired to make the game a product of its fans. By listening to criticism and acting on it, he fulfilled his promise with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

OnlySP Review Score 5 High Distinction

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One.

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