The unification of these two genres has shown to elevate both of them. No longer are you viewing strategy purely as an observer who can blame failure on poor NPC AI. Similarly, slamming your axe into wave after wave of enemies becomes a more elegant, finessed activity when you have a plan to follow. This is Sang-Froid's strongest element. Its unusual setting in an unspecified part of lower Canada in December of 1858 is a delight. Its lively soundtrack is wonderful as well. Unfortunately, the storytelling aspects bear hallmarks of a low budget project.
The developers have generously made this game free (on Steam) as of February 2017! This is the real deal as the product has not been updated or changed in any way.
It is immensely satisfying to experience a plan coming together successfully in each of the 20 missions in this game. Initiating each stage brings you to an overhead map showing all the adversaries you will face and what their target is. It is then your job to choose where to place traps that are selected from a steadily growing list of options. Some trigger on their own when enemies are nearby but most require you to activate or aim them. Resources are limited so you'll need to try to find the most efficient combinations. Varying enemy types, each with specific resistances and weaknesses means that you can't get too comfortable by relying on just a few favorite trap types.
Mission progression is smooth with something unique happening in nearly all of them. Sometimes you are given access to a new trap, other times the map is expanded with a new area to defend and still other times you must complete an action dictated by the story. I found the difficulty to be spot on. You are given the option of playing as one of two brothers but both play more similarly to one another than the game leads you to believe. Jos is bigger and slower than his brother but has a larger health pool. He is considered the Normal difficulty character while his brother, Jack, is labeled Hard. I played as Jos and then tried out the first several levels as Jack. At a glance, the skill tree that you fill out as you level up appeared to be the same for both brothers.
Descending from your cloud top view into the chaos of combat you shift gears to a fast and focused style of action. You often find yourself moving from trap to trap to trigger them as attackers arrive. You'll also need to plug gaps in your trap defenses by meeting the beasts head on. When it comes down to it, combat is quite simple. You can perform a basic three-hit combo, execute an occasional power attack or fire your rifle at them. Your musket reloads slowly, so it's really only feasible to do so in between groups of foes. You'll hardly notice the simplicity though for how big a part traps play. There is also a fear mechanic that can cause opponents to pause before attacking you, making it easier to deal with packs.
Money is gained by killing enemies and can be conserved by choosing less expensive traps. The town of Wolvesvale has several shops that you can visit in-between missions. There you can buy a range of items from new axes and guns to consumables and accessories with useful effects like increasing your Stamina pool. Retrying stages is easy with the option to either restart from scratch or keep your current trap layout if you think you'll only need to make a tweak or two.
Players who regularly game on PC will find the controls intuitive and easy to pick up. There are a few minor quirks in controlling actions that don't feel smooth like switching to your gun immediately after swinging your axe. There is also an odd delay between when you stop sprinting and when you can start sprinting again, even if your Stamina is not depleted. It's worth noting that this game loads slowly, even on a solid state drive. The longest loading screen by far is when you first launch the game and that has the game's most memorable tune playing to keep you distracted.
Cutscenes mostly play out in a live theater-like style. The backdrops don't fill up the entire screen and characters enter from the left and right to talk to each other. While the writing and voice acting are not very good, this setup can give it a strangely charming, cheesy stage show feel to it. There is some purposeful comedy present but at times I had a hard time discerning what was so-bad-it's-funny dialogue and what was intentional humor. The plot is a tale of mysticism and werewolves that isn't particularly memorable, though it does set a effective mood for the action. Depending on which brother you choose there are differences in the dialogue but the overall plot remains the same.
I love the setting of this game. It is the snowy winter in a fictional southern Canadian logging town with a stated population of around 400. The types of people you'll meet there seem fitting for this remote lifestyle. This place is represented by an art style that gets the atmosphere right even if it lacks detail, polish and modern polygon counts. Its weaknesses aren't offensively bad but it does benefit from the dark lighting of nighttime play. Great ambient sound and music from French-Canadian composers further elevate the atmosphere of the game and also help to keep your attention off of any rough edges the visuals have.
A closing note that I find interesting: Sang-Froid translates in French to literally "cold blood". In regular use it means "coolness and composure, especially in trying circumstances". That's a fitting descriptor for these two very capable brothers that find themselves in spectacular circumstances, under siege and with no one to call for help.