Given the choice between a werewolf or a vampire, I always said werewolf. You get to go outside during the day, you get to use your werewolf powers in human form, and all you really need to worry about is locking yourself up during a full moon.
Which is why Werewolf The Apocalypse – Earthblood caught my eye. There aren’t many games dedicated to lycanthropy, so I thought it would be a nice change of pace from vampires (who, by comparison, dominate gaming) to their furry counterparts.
- Nice visuals and cutscenes;
- Combat can be fun, if a bit button-mashy;
- Nice character design.
- Bland story/characters;
- Broken stealth;
- Repetitive gameplay.
The fancy animated cutscene when you boot up the game bodes well with stylish visuals of your protagonist going beast mode, a pack of badass-looking wolves at his heels. When you get into the meat of the game though it’s strictly a solo affair. Despite there being a big emphasis on “the pack,” you’re a lone wolf for the seven to eight hours of the story campaign.
Cahal, a warrior of Gaia
You play as Cahal, a “warrior of Gaia.” You see, the game world is a system of delicately balanced scales set by Mother Earth, not unlike the real world. Everyone has their role to play and werewolves are the planet’s designated protectors. Think Planeteers from Captain Planet, only if they they shed, ate grass clippings, and barked at the Amazon delivery guy.
Everything would be honky-dori, except the scales of the world are way out of balance, and a force of destruction called the Wyrm is on the ecological warpath. When, once upon a time, it cleared out the old to make way for the new, Wrym has gotten greedy and is now busy polluting the air, poisoning the oceans, and chopping down all the forests.
The Endron corporation is the front for all of this, with its executives acting as willing minions of the Wyrm. A false consciousness is passed onto society at large, with Endron using propaganda to paint themselves as environmentally-friendly technocrats, while at the same time ruthlessly stripmining the world.
It’s an interesting concept that had a lot of potential, but ultimately, Werewolf’s story plays out like a sci-fi channel original. While not exactly corny, the messages are heavy-handed and laid on thick at every turn. Corporations are bad, pollution is bad, technology is dangerous, rinse and repeat.
Compared to a game like Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf doesn’t make much of its subject matter. We never hear how werewolves are made, why silver hurts them, nor ever if they get fleas. Whereas vampire games typically have you joining the ranks of the undead, then giving you a tour of the hidden vampire world, Werewolf doesn’t seem interested in explaining and exploring what it means to be a werewolf.
The focus of the story is entirely on environmentalism, which gets a bit muddled seeing how the werewolves use technology, drive cars, and wear clothes. It’s a game with werewolves that isn’t about werewolves.
There’s some redemption to be found in the gameplay, but this is short lived. While transforming into a giant, hairy killing machine is jolly good fun the first couple of times, the game quickly becomes stale by relying on its best feature far too often.
The basic gameplay loop looks like this: you infiltrate an industrial facility, you sneak until the broken stealth catches you out, you transform and rip everyone to shreds. Repeat this six to ten times until the mission ends. With the exception of a few boss fights, this is literally it for the entire game.
There is a skill tree to upgrade, and once you find a rhythm to Werewolf’s combat, it is pretty fun to combine different abilities and stances to absolutely wreck your opponents. But playing the game on normal isn’t much of a challenge, and you feel overpowered right from the start. All you need to do to get through each encounter, is mash the attack button until your foes become transformed into many gallons of visera splattered all over the floor.
The stealth, as I mentioned, is mostly broken. You can sneak around in wolf form (like a regular wolf) but the patrol pattern of guards inevitably leads to confrontation. You can sneak your way through sections, but more often than not, you’re going to get drawn into a fight, seemingly by design.
You do get a crossbow which you can use to knock out cameras, guards, and turrets, but you only get so many shots between ammo pickups that it feels more like an option than a necessary tool to progress through the game.
When you think werewolvesm, you think nature, which is a theme of the game – but 90% of your time is spent in factories, refineries, and corporate compounds. The time you do spend in the woods is short with just the barest smattering of exploration for those looking to connect with their wild side.
It’s worth mentioning how comically close the werewolves’ base of operations is to these industrial mission sites. I’m talking, like, right outside. When I overheard guards saying, “I WONDER WHERE THOSE ACTIVISTS ARE HIDING!” I couldn’t help but laugh.
Missing the train
By the time I reached the end of the campaign, I felt like I’d gotten on the wrong train and ended up in a city far away from the one I’d planned to visit. I thought I’d be brought into a pack of werewolves, taught their secret ways, and be tempted into giving into the call of the wild. Instead, I ripped the faces off dudes putting too much C02 into the atmosphere.
While there are some redeeming qualities, the experience feels like a wasted opportunity to give werewolves a bit of the spotlight (or in this case, moonlight) typically reserved for their vampire cousins. A little more focus on honing your abilities, exploring the wilds in wolf-form, and learning some werewolf history would have made for a much more engaging experience.
If you’re into werewolves you might as well replay the werewolf bits of Skyrim and call it a day.
Alexander Eriksen | Gamepressure.com