Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood Review
White Wolf Publishing’s tabletop RPG franchise, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, has long been a staple among tabletop fans the world over. However, seldom have we had the opportunity to dive into the World of Darkness universe in video game form. Cyanide Studios, developers of Blood Bowl and Call of Cthulhu, are no strangers to bringing tabletop brilliance to the gaming market, but with an IP as entrenched in lore and history as Werewolf: The Apocalypse, can Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood deliver?
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood Review
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood is, at its core, an old-school linear action game that blends together smooth, stealth-like action with adrenaline-fueled combat and challenging boss encounters. It has a worthwhile story to deliver, but its primary focus is on providing players with a familiar, simplistic design. It is more reminiscent of games from the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 eras than the standards set by today’s big, flashy releases.
This simplicity is both the game’s greatest charm and its biggest downfall. The lack of complexity with much of the mechanics and level design is initially a breath of fresh air, but that air soon turns stale as elements of frustration and boredom sneak into play due to the repetitive mission structure and lack of progressive design in the latter stages of combat. However, if a solid story, great soundtrack, and old-school style gameplay is appealing, there’s a lot to love in this World of Darkness.
The story follows Cahal, a proud and powerful Garou (or werewolf to those of us less familiar with White Wolf lingo) as he attempts to defend his home and pack from an evil corporation. The Garou live in harmony with Gaia, defending it against the onslaught of Wyrm’s unseen hand, an evil spirit-like creature that aims to corrupt and control all Garou and mankind. Cahal’s wife is killed during a botched operation to take down Endron, a company fronting a green energy initiative that promises to break new ground with a brand new biofuel. As it turns out, their agenda is far more sinister. From there, Cahal embarks on a journey of revenge and redemption.
Earthblood’s narrative doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel, but it when working with such an established role-playing IP, it’s often best just to let the lore and universe of the world drive the story forward. While I’m sure much of the audience will come from the World of Darkness community, the game is just as good if you’ve never experienced anything within its universe. The characters, story, and universe is explained well enough to be understandable and appealing to anyone, regardless of past experience with the franchise. You’re sure to get a more rewarding experience with a greater understanding of the universe itself, but as a standalone game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood is perfectly viable for those just looking for a fun, old-school style action game to sink their teeth into.
On his path to revenge and redemption, Cahal utilizes three main forms to complete the tasks at hand. His human form Homid allows Cahal to navigate terrain much like any normal human would, interacting with electronics and devices, gathering supplies and crossbow ammo, or taking out enemies in stealth. His second form, the Lupus form, is a wolf-like form that gives Cahal much more freedom when navigating small tunnels and entrances that are otherwise too large for his other forms. Finally, the Crinos form, transforms him into a massive werewolf that destroys everything in a five mile radius before the rage settles and Cahal returns to normal.
The game never strays far from its core principles of combat design. Each encounter can be tackled via stealth or pure carnage, but most of them play out in familiar fashion. You spend a few minutes sneaking around in Homid form, taking out unsuspecting guards, disabling turrets and cameras, and sabotaging reinforcement doors. Yeah, the old-school endless enemies from doors spawning system isn’t simply featured in the game; it’s an actual mechanic.
While much of the stealth can be accused of being lackluster and dull, it’s the simplicity of the entire design that makes it fun and engaging, without having to repeat areas time and time again after being discovered. I thoroughly enjoyed the stealth sections of Cahal’s adventure for the vast majority of the game, but with the first stealth segment feeling almost identical to the last, some players will lose interest and opt for my personal go-to solution: Crinos form.
Analyzing the guards very basic pathing routines, the AI is as old-school as the environment and stealth design. Checking for turrets, dodging cameras – it all felt very risky, until I realize that the number one solution to every problem in the game was smashing it to a bloody pulp. Sure, you can sabotage reinforcement doors to weaken enemies, but what’s the point? Almost every encounter was faster, easier, and way more bloody when solved with the claws and pouncing of the werewolf form.
As with much of Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood, the combat is very simple, very basic, very familiar, and it doesn’t make much effort to grow and evolve as the game progresses. However, even with this repetition throughout the game, I never grew tired of ripping into mutants, guards, robots, turrets, and just about anything else with a pulse or CPU that got in my way.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood is an old-school action game launching in a very modern arena. Its simplicity in design may not appeal to everyone, but for those looking for a basic stealth and combat action-adventure, there’s a lot to love about the latest dive into the World of Darkness.
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