As I grip the controller and prepare to dive into The Siege and the Sandfox, I’m told it will be a real assassin experience. I can’t take on a room of guards if my stealthing fails. I will have to be quiet, cautious, and skillful.
Things go wrong immediately; for me and the titular Sandfox. The opening cinematic (brought to life in striking 16-bit style) shows a mysterious army pouring into the land just outside the city walls. As one might expect from a parkour assassin extraordinaire, I see all of this unfold from the tops of the ancient desert city where my friend, the king, holds sway. Concern for him pushes me to sail through the city’s soaring structures to deliver the news.
The game uses this jaunt to the palace as a nicely integrated tutorial, but I mess up. As I’m getting used to the wall-scaling and gap-leaping mechanics, I miss a super easy jump and fall to the street level. It doesn’t kill me since it’s only a few feet to the ground but getting back up proves to be the hardest challenge in the entire demo.
As is true with many of the games I played at the Day of the Devs event, this 2D Metroidvania is still in development, and it seems the team didn’t expect anyone to miss a ledge 3 feet in front of their face. But here we are. There is no physical way for me to climb out of this particular spot. Looking to make the best of the situation, I take this moment to play around with the character for a bit and enjoy the view. Running, jumping, and climbing all feel really fluid, and — when not trapped in the marketplace — this really sold me on the conceit that I am a top-tier assassin effortlessly making my way through a stunning city I know like the back of my hand.
Plucked from my predicament through the power of the dev team, I burst into the king’s chamber unannounced to find his daughter standing over his lifeless body, knife in hand. It might have been better for the unlucky Sandfox if he’d stayed stuck. His reputation as a killer makes it easy for the royal murderer to pin the deed on me and order my execution.
Stabbed with a glass blade and thrown into a seemingly bottomless pit, things are looking bad. But in the way of video games, I brush myself off after plummeting miles beneath the city and begin to look for a way back to the surface. This is where my skills really come in handy. I avoid the living dead shuffling around me by hanging from ledges, scampering up walls, and leaping from pillar to pillar.
It’s easy to lose my way in the underground maze, as the game doesn’t provide any real sense of where to go. I just have a vague sense that I want to go up. A few times, I have to be directed to take a certain path or retrace my steps. I can see this becoming a point of frustration for players who don’t have the benefit of a developer at their elbow.
I make my way upward and gain new abilities as I climb. At one point, I find a chest with a club inside, and, while it won’t let me overpower any of the nearby guards in a frontal assault, I can knock them out if they’re looking away. I didn’t become the Sandfox by fighting fairly, it seems.
I walked away from my brief time with The Siege and the Sandfox hoping to play it again when the creators have had a little more time to polish it. All the pieces for an engaging stealthy-centric 2D action title are there, waiting to shine.