Posted: July 8, 2014
I have to admit this game took me by surprise. I got it in a bundle and while it looked interesting, I put off playing it for several months. In fact the only reason I started playing in June was because of a promotion to earn credit on GMG for getting achievements, but I got drawn into the game and played the campaign to completion. And just about every aspect of it was great.
The game has a very unique setting, in fact as far as I know it is the only video game ever made that takes place in 1858 French Canada. As someone with an interest in history, this was really cool to me. Considering how many games these days reuse the same tired settings over and over (genric scifi/fantasy, generic urban setting, modern war, WWII, etc.) it’s nice to see more games like this that finally start to tap the vaults of history for unique settings that have never been done before.
Some people might consider the story a bit simplistic, but it’s still really good and somewhat unique. It centers around two lumberjack brothers, and their struggle to defend their sister, their home, and the surrounding area and people from creatures controlled by the Devil and other malicious forces. The story is told through cinematics and in-game cutscenes. The cinematics appear somewhat sparsely throughout the game, but they feature nice high quality artwork. Some may be disappointed that these cinematics are pretty low on actual animation, but considering this is an Indie game I can forgive that, and they still get the job done. The in-game cinematics, which feature the character models from the game, are also decent. I cringed a little bit at the voice acting at first, but as I kept playing I got used to it. It varies between the characters, some aren't that great and some are really quite good and fit the game very well. It's an Indie game so don’t expect AAA voice acting. In terms of dialogue, Jos can be a bit cringe-worthy at times with his simple meat-headed approach to everything, but most of the dialogue isn't bad once you get into the game. Obviously the story is a bit silly with the werewolves and magic and everything, so you have to have the right mindset coming into the game. At the same time, though, I think it is a good story that can be taken seriously with the right approach.
Now, for the gameplay. Basically, at the start of the game, you choose which brother you want to play as. One acts as the “normal difficulty” mode, while the other acts as the “hard mode”. I only played through the campaign once so far, with the “normal” character. Basically, during the day you have a map of the woods around your cabin. Each day (the game takes place over a few weeks in December 1858 and each day is like a level) the map changes a bit, as new paths are revealed and there are new buildings you must defend. Looking at the map, you can see the paths the enemies will take in each wave (augured by the sister with mystical powers), and place a variety of different traps accordingly. Each trap takes a certain number of “action points” (which represent time for the characters) to set, and some also cost money. There are a variety of different cool traps that are unlocked as you progress, like wolf traps, exploding barrels, ballistae, and mortars, and other helpful things like watchtowers and bonfires. There is a lot of strategy involved in where you place your traps, and it’s awesome to see the plan you worked hard on play out perfectly during the night. During the day, you can also visit the nearby village, and later the Amerindian tribe, to stock up on supplies and buy new weapons. The game also features a pretty big skill tree, allowing you to upgrade a lot of different aspects of your character and traps. It’s simple to use and it really adds a lot of depth to the gamplay deciding which skills you want to upgrade and when for best strategy. During the night, the game becomes a third person action game. Many traps require some action on your part to be used, and most of the time you will also have to engage in fights against the enemies that the traps didn’t kill. You have an axe for a melee weapon and a musket or rifle for longer ranged attacks. The combat is a bit a basic, but it does have a really unique feature called “fear factor”. Basically there is a meter showing how frightened your enemies are of you. Over time they muster up for an attack as the meter reaches a certain point, and sometimes they become enraged and are no longer affected by the meter. You can do a number of things to bring the meter down before an enemy becomes enraged, such as shouting or standing near a bonfire. Keeping your enemies afraid of you offers more depth to the combat, and gives you time to reload your musket or regain some stamina. Overall it works well and makes the combat really great. Being surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves, watching as they slowly circle you, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, is a thrilling experience, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it in a video game before.
The music in the game is fantastic. Every track is great and fits the game well, and I never got tired of hearing it. I should mention that this game can be surprisingly immersive, and the music really helps with that. The game also features interesting descriptions of the items, characters, and their backstories, so there is a lot of lore outside the cutscenes. For example, each axe and musket and some other items have a description detailing things like the year it was made, and what it was used for, etc. History buffs will probably enjoy this. There is also a lot of lore surrounding the enemies which relates to diabolism/demonology and/or pagan mysticism, which will probably be cool if you’re into stuff like that. A lot of it actually turns the traditional Werewolf lore on its head, and it brings in some elements from Amerindian culture for certain other enemies, so there’s definitely a lot of unique and original ideas going on here. With the great music and the attention to detail in the sound, text, and visuals, I found myself getting very immersed in the setting, even while just visiting the different shops and buying supplies.
In terms of longevity, I got about 16 hours out of my first playthrough of the campaign, and enjoyed just about every minute of it. Of course your mileage may vary, but I’d say that’s pretty damn good for a campaign mode in this day and age. Of course it also has replayability, as you can play through the whole game again as the other brother, and have a slightly different experience.
The graphics are nothing to write home about. It’s got a nice cartoony style that works well, but it’s nothing particularly impressive. I don’t have any complaints about it, I’m just saying you shouldn’t expect AAA graphics. However, the artwork featured throughout the game is really nice for the most part.
There isn’t much to complain about. The game does lack a bit of polish in some places. The text is a bit sloppy sometimes, there’s a few noticeable bugs and glitches, and as I stated earlier the voice acting and dialogue isn't perfect. The game also seems to have some framerate issues for me sometimes, though it doesn’t detract from the game too much (I have a very capable desktop though so there’s no reason this game should have issues).
Overall, this game is absolutely fantastic. Sure there are a few small issues, but they barely detract from everything that is great about this game. I highly recommend this game at any price you find it at. I got it in a really cheap bundle, but I almost wish I paid more now. Considering how great this games is, I think the devs deserve some compensation. So don’t delay, if you are even remotely interested in action, strategy, or tower defense, or just want a unique and immersive game, you will probably love this. If you want a number rating I would give it a 9.5/10.