There is a real dearth of quality werewolf entertainment. Not since the lunatic days of Underworld Y The Twilight Saga Have the lycanthropes become the center of attention? So, with great interest and anticipation, I awaited the release of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood. Coming from Cyanide Studio developers (Call of Cthulhu) and published by Nacon, who kindly provided me with a review code ahead of yesterday’s release date, this title is inspired by the delicious dark fantasy tradition of World of Darkness tabletop RPGs. The brand has already had success with its video game adaptations of Vampire: The Masquerade stories, so I expected lightning to strike twice with W: TA-E. But the developers could have bitten off more than they can chew with their ambitious approach to storytelling.
The game attempts to tell the story of Cahal, an exiled Garou (werewolf) and eco-terrorist who attempts a lone wolf operation to take down the evil corporate entity Endron. (They already sold me only this premise). To add to matters a bit, Cahal and his people continue to wage an ancient war against a heavenly force known as The Wyrm, who is aiding Endron in rather unsavory ways, all in the service of Gaia. a deified life force. (It’s still good, if a little shaky here.) Players will take control of Cahal as he transforms into a stealthy wolf, versatile human, and raging monster over the course of his adventure. (Yes, back on board!) Unfortunately, ambition far outweighs execution, and you can literally see where the corners were cut to finish the game.
With only four hours, my experience with Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is itself a two story tale – After a really exciting opening cinematic sequence and some hard-hitting beats and pulse-pounding metal riffs (which I really appreciate), the game doesn’t take you into action, but into a slow paced meet and greet Cahal’s burial mound, his friends and family, some of whom are fellow Garou and others, like his wife, are human. Once you make your way through this highly exposed history dump, designed for people like me who are not familiar with the backstory of World of Darkness, you can finally control Cahal in a series of stealth-only or combat-only sections. (Later in the game, your options become a bit more open and you are not restricted to one style of play per area.)
Soon after, a rather gruesome and surprising scene takes place that changes Cahal’s lifelong path, though you’re not in control of what happens, and the characters themselves don’t really seem to react too strongly one way or another. That is one of the obvious oversights in W: TA-EWhile Cahal looks great, he also sticks out like a sore thumb compared to just about every other character in the game, visually speaking; it seems they are from two different games or even two different decades of games instead of sharing UE4 in the same title. And while the voice acting is helpful, the voice direction is flat and the delivery is dry.
A serious sin is committed shortly after the tutorial, when a truly badass cinematic sequence unfolds filled with many more pivotal moments, only to completely knock you out of the action and decision-making process; it returns you to a casual conversation the next second, absorbing all the momentum of the experience. There is no investment in important characters or their lives and deaths, there is no urgency in the story because the most exciting moments unfold in the cutscenes and there is a disconnect between what is happening in the story and the reactions of the characters to it. It’s … a little messy.
So for the next few hours, lighten my expectations a bit. I had a lot more fun with Cahal’s stealth wolf form, than absolutely flies above the ground and even through the air. (Some buggy mechanics, which will be absolutely abused for speedruns, allow you to suspend Cahal’s wolf in midair, who loved my Twitch Chat and earned him the nickname Airwolf.) Once Cahal got a few quests under his belt, there was an amazing side story that broke out in and around the camp. You may be focused on taking down the increasingly dangerous and deadly corporation, but there are also nature spirits you must attend to. Taking care of these otherworldly sprites, which you can see through your Penumbra Vision, earns you spirit points for a fairly basic but useful skill tree. How do you do this? You find plants / spirits in the world and smell them while in Penumbra Vision. Yep! It never stops being funny, but it’s also a bit endearing at the same time. So much so that, right now, I have abandoned my main eco-terrorist quest and am happily devouring the forest trying to find as many spiritual and forest defender spots as I can.
That doesn’t mean that Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood not exciting or creepy at times. It is, or can be, when it’s not taking agency out of the players’ hands. Combat is quite fun when you master it, although you can almost completely avoid it in stealth situations. Cahal fills up Crinos to face the forces of Endron. He can switch between a more agile form and a fighter, while also activating a frenzy for powerful attacks. You can absolutely maim enemies in any of these ways. While it’s mostly button mashing at first, it doesn’t take long to get comfortable with the special moves and combos. It’s a bit hard to tell when you’re taking damage without looking directly at your health gauge (no screen flash, no “bloody vision,” and just the occasional stun or stumble from Cahal), and it’s fair to call the camera control chaotic. when enemies assault from all directions. Dodge time is really unstable, especially for shotgun-type enemies and those who shoot you with special silver ammo, which semi-permanently reduces your overall available health. You can raise the difficulty to Hard for a somewhat frustrating challenge or set it to Easy / Normal if you just want to have fun smashing everything on the screen.
While Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood try to put a lot of ambition in a small package, it has yet to be fully transformed into something that reaches its full potential. It’s clunky, the character textures and backgrounds feel unfinished, and the levels without maps feel very repetitive and familiar too early in the game. The characters and their interactions are flat where they should be dynamic, while the scenes are kinetic and exciting from a passive perspective. And yet I want to roam as an Airwolf again and speak to forest spirits to complete my skill tree, even when clearing bases and taking out Endron’s goons is more routine than rewarding. Here you can find some charm, mainly thanks to the interesting and mature tradition of World of Darkness. Will it be enough to guarantee a full game (and a full price withdrawal) when all is said and done? Stay tuned. Until then, unless you’re crazy about lycanthropes, this is a pass.
Love can make you do strange things.
About the Author