Stumbling around EGX Rezzed, I chanced upon a large variety of games of a myriad of genres, but I found myself drawn to a particular aesthetic and found a game I hadn’t expected. Created by a small team of 5 known as Cardboard Sword with development beginning in 2015, The Siege and The Sandfox is, for the lack of a better term, a 2D stealth adventure. I’d like to point out before I start that the demo I played is unfinished, so some of the things I say about it might change before release, but how is the game in its current state and are there any things I found out about The Siege and the Sandfox that may change it in the future?
The story of the game, from what I could garner from my short time with it, is one of intrigue, danger and treachery set in a fantasy world. The player character, the Sandfox, accused of a murder he did not commit, is cast into labyrinthine dungeons as punishment. From there he must escape, against seemingly inescapable odds to reveal the truth and to save the city. Although this is a simple initial plot by most rubrics, the way that this plot is developed through conversation with NPCs in the world already gives the same satisfying uncovering of narrative that a lot of games attempt but rarely achieve. I look forward quite immensely to finding out how this narrative will unfold in the finished game.
To play, this game is a dream. It’s not without its bugs, but it is still in production so those are to be expected. Siege and Sandfox has you exploring the dungeons through the means of crouching through low caverns, jumping across perilous gaps, opening doors, pulling switches and hiding from enemies that seek to bring you down. I heard from the team that combat is being considered (both lethal and non-lethal), but I must admit that I adored the focus on being unseen and unheard in a world that actively wants to remove you from it. During our conversation, we also talked briefly about the possibility of runs for the game (pacifist, ghost, or assassin) that would add untold replayability to a game that is already a joy to play.
The aesthetic of Siege and Sandfox is one of perfectly crafted simplicity. The first striking fact that you notice is the lack of any user interface features on screen; no life bar, stamina bar, or even map. In fact, the only items I ever saw on screen were text bubbles when speaking to NPCs or the fleeting message of a tutorial instructing on what needed to be done next. The end result was a feeling of both helpless isolation and deep immersion. The subtle pixel visuals almost fade away in gameplay, creating an almost mesmerising flow that is closer to that of a tapestry in motion than a pixel art game. Also, in my chat with one of the team after playing, the final product is intending to have parallax scrolling in the fore and backgrounds, which will only add to the already wonderful visual effect of the game.
The second, and most, striking aspect of the aesthetic is the sound design. Both subtle and impactful, the sounds as I was exploring created an unbelievable air of dread in the game. For instance, the game allowed a run, but the result of this was a visual and audible representation that dissuaded me from wanting to do so often. The slight visual echo around the player character, and the markedly loud sound of the running footsteps against the softer music subtly implied a need for caution and the importance of how this was executed shouldn’t be ignored by developers of any nature. The music itself was both sombre and determined, which created a remarkably rich atmosphere when combined with the gameplay.
In short, this game was an utterly unknown quantity as I walked up to it and I was blown away by it. The sheer atmosphere alone was breath-taking, taking in a cohesive combination of sound design, clear but gritty visuals, and tense but patient action. The game constantly felt foreboding enough to maintain tension whilst light enough to allow the player to remain motivated to progress and inspired to explore. The Siege and the Sandfox is, by a pretty long stretch, one of my games of EGX Rezzed and will be one that I will be keeping an eye on in the future (and secretly hoping that it comes to consoles so I can cover it more).
Thank you to Cardboard Sword for bringing their game to Rezzed, and to their team for talking to me with such passion about their game too. You can find more information on Twitter (@siegeandsandfox) or by going to www.siegeandsandfox.com.