Let me first start off by saying that I’m not very familiar with the roleplaying tabletop series known as World of Darkness. All I do know is that it’s set in a dark modern-day fantasy world where vampires, werewolves, demon hunters, and the like go about their daily lives in a never-ending struggle between balance and chaos…or something like that. There have been a few video games based on this series in the past, namely Hunter: The Reckoning on Xbox and GameCube and the PC cult classic Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines. The next in the line of World of Darkness video games is Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood, and being a big fan of werewolves, this game got my attention. It’s well known that compared to vampires, zombies, and ghosts, there’s very little focus on werewolves in video games. There’s a new zombie game out in the market practically every other Tuesday, but werewolves get no love in the video game scene outside of being included as enemies in a few games here and there, and they might occasionally be playable characters in the odd fighting game.
But when’s the last time players could play through the “werewolf experience”? In how many games do you have the freedom to rage out and f@%k enemies up as a hulking wolf beast when the situation calls for it? Not many, I can tell you that much (trust me, I’ve checked). The only game that gives you a taste of the werewolf experience is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and while that game is certainly well known and admired, it’s just about ten years old now, and the werewolf experience is not really the game’s main focus, just one of its many, many optional aspects. Now we’ve got Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood from developer Cyanide Studio and publisher Nacon. Does this game succeed in providing players with the definitive werewolf experience? Let’s find out.
The first thing players might notice about this game are the rather dated graphics and animations. The graphics look like what one would expect from a game developed during the PS3/Xbox 360 era. Certain environmental textures look rather blocky, and some NPCs look a little lacking in the finer details, though the main characters are modeled better by comparison. Character animations are serviceable, if not as remarkable as in your usual triple A game, but this being more of a “double A” game, somewhat janky animations are expected. Main character Cahal, at least, has pretty good animations and is modeled pretty well, whether he’s in his human (Homid), wolf (Lupus), or werewolf (Crinos) forms. The voice acting is also a little hit or miss, with only a couple of secondary characters seeming to put some real effort into their voice work.
The story focuses on Cahal, a member of a tribe of werewolves (Garou) known as the Fianna who serve Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, and their main purpose is to undermine the efforts of the sinister Endron company, who pollute and corrupt the environment through all kinds of unethical and highly dangerous experiments, all to serve the whims of the chaotic Wyrm spirit. This game does a pretty good job of filling you in on the “Werewolf: The Apocalypse” portion of the World of Darkness series lore, at least the part of it that relates to this game’s story. Cahal and his fellow werewolves and tribe members go on a mission to sabotage one of Endron’s factories, but things go south pretty quickly, leading to the loss of family and friends. Feeling largely responsible for the losses that were suffered, as well as being “tainted” by the Wyrm with a ferocious rage, Cahal exiles himself from his tribe for five years before going back to save them from a large-scale attack from Endron’s mercenary forces. From there Cahal joins his allies in taking down Endron once and for all. Don’t expect the story to enthrall you or do anything that will instill a strong emotional response, but I will say that it threw a couple of surprises my way that I wasn’t expecting, and I liked a couple of the characters, despite the limited screen time they got. So, much like the graphics and presentation, the game’s story may not be of the highest caliber, but it’s serviceable.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood is a linear game with some slight open-world elements sprinkled in there. There are two main maps, one in a forest surrounded by several Endron sites and the other in a desert with a larger Endron site, as well as a few other smaller maps that Cahal goes through between the larger maps. In all areas, Cahal will infiltrate factories, refineries, laboratories, and other Endron facilities to sabotage their infrastructure and stop them from carrying out their master plan. The main gameplay loop revolves around sneaking into Endron facilities using a combination of Cahal’s human and wolf form and then eventually tearing enemies apart in his werewolf form. At first, it’s all rather straightforward when all you have to contend with are human enemies with guns, some of whom can be armed with silver ammunition that lower Cahal’s overall health for the duration of combat. But as you progress further through the game, more obstacles and stronger enemies are added into the mix, such as henchmen piloting exo suits, enhanced human enemies, sentry turrets, and mutated enemies.
When using stealth, Cahal can kill unarmored enemies from afar with his crossbow, do silent takedowns, and use computer terminals to deactivate sentry turrets, as well as turn off cameras and unlock doors, and his wolf form makes it easier for him to sneak around more quickly, maneuver more effectively from cover-to-cover, and also go through air vents; his wolf form can also attract enemies with a bark (though its range is pathetic). Both his human and wolf forms can make use of the Detective Mode- esque Penumbra Vision to see through walls to locate collectibles, spot enemies and see if they have silver or are mutated, and see where power lines for sentry guns and cameras lead to so he can turn them off in their associated control rooms. Aside from the first couple of missions (and maybe one other mission), stealth is not required, and you can simply activate your werewolf form and destroy all before you, if you wish, but I found myself making it a point to use stealth to get through certain areas just for the extra challenge. And make no mistake, getting through certain areas without being spotted can be challenging when you’ve got exo suit pilots and enhanced human enemies added into the mix since they can’t be taken down through stealth, only avoided.
But we all know the real fun in being a werewolf is tearing enemies apart in satisfyingly bloody fashion, and Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood does largely succeed on that front. Again, the combat was very straightforward in the beginning but later improved as tougher enemies and obstacles were added into the mix, not to mention the newer abilities you could acquire for Cahal’s werewolf form through upgrades. Most of his abilities consist of unleashing barrages of slashing attacks, ground slams, leaping strikes, and healing bursts, all of which are powered by a rage meter, which in turn fills up as you battle enemies in werewolf form, take down enemies through stealth, and even get miffed during conversations with certain NPCs. Adding a bit of extra flavor to the combat are the werewolf form’s Agile and Heavy stances. Agile stance has Cahal move, dodge, and attack enemies quickly and fluidly, while the Heavy stance slows him down but lets him dish out stronger attacks, as well as makes him more resistant to damage and knockback from enemy attacks; each stance also has its own set of special abilities. There’s also Frenzy Mode, which is powered by a meter that fills up as you land enough hits on enemies, and once activated, this mode grants Cahal with both the respective speed and power of his Agile and Heavy stances for a limited time. While you can’t heal or use special abilities in this state, Frenzy Mode can prove useful in getting you out of some tight spots when close to death.
I’ve seen it mentioned how this game’s combat reminds gamers of Activision’s Prototype series, and while I do somewhat agree with that observation, I’d have to say a better and closer comparison would be that this game is very similar to the 2010 Splatterhouse game. Cahal’s combat and movement controls are extremely reminiscent of what it was like controlling “Terror Mask Rick” in Splatterhouse. It’s not just the combat and controls; the quality of the graphics and animations, as well as the pretty decent metal music, all share some strong similarities with Splatterhouse, which was itself a late PS3/Xbox 360 title.
There are some RPG-lite elements in this game, emphasis on the “lite”. As previously mentioned, Cahal’s combat abilities can be upgraded, as can his health and stealth abilities in both human and wolf form (chain kills with the crossbow, lower visibility in wolf form, etc.), and by the time I reached the end of the game, I had acquired almost every upgrade available, so you only have to pick and choose a few abilities with little fear of missing out on skills you find to be more useful. Cahal can speak to allies during missions, as well as between missions in a couple of hub areas he has access to, and doing so unlocks a few side missions. Both the main and side missions earn you spirit points, which are the currency used to unlock upgrades for Cahal. More of these points can be earned by finding and interacting with spirits scattered around the environments. Dialogue options let you uncover more info about Cahal and his allies, and while your choices do affect how your allies react in the moment, none of them have any lasting consequences (aside from one decision in the game’s climax). Mass Effect and The Witcher, this is not. And that’s fine. Like I’ve said in the past, sometimes just being told a story is a fine alternative to taking part in one.
As one could expect from a double A video game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood has a few technical hiccups here and there but nothing major. Load times last about half a minute, but fortunately, they only occur when starting a mission or reloading a save/checkpoint. The game runs pretty well, and I experienced no real dips in frame rate, though the transition from cutscenes to gameplay and vice versa can be a bit weird, like when finishing a boss battle, which leads to a CGI cutscene, and then the last hit on the boss flashes on the screen at the end of the cutscene before the game jumps to Cahal and an NPC in a dialogue session, though this is not all that common. I experienced a couple of graphical glitches, like a portion of a wall blinking white for a minute, noticeable pop-in of textures when loading a checkpoint, and clipping issues with enemies, particularly the final boss when it partly merged with a wall for a bit.
Probably my biggest issue was with the game’s camera during combat, which had a strange tendency to veer off to the side and not focus entirely on Cahal when he was finishing off the last enemy in a combat encounter with a grab attack. It was easy to get cornered into a wall by enemies and lose sight of Cahal as well. The ability for Cahal to grab and throw enemies was also a bit off. Throwing an enemy at other smaller enemies would knock them down, but throwing a guy at shielded or larger enemies would result in the enemy you’re throwing pretty much just “sliding off” the targeted enemy, who wouldn’t even react to the impact. One last thing that I personally felt this game could have used was a character and enemy codex/glossary for those like me who are less familiar with the World of Darkness and Werewolf: The Apocalypse lore in general and wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more background info on it and how it relates to this game.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood is a decent game that harkens back to a time when video games were more straightforward fun without always having huge budgets and being bloated beyond reasonable measure. Those looking for a game with award-winning performances, deep and meaningful storytelling, and unique gameplay will, quite frankly, be sorely disappointed with this one. But if you’re looking for a somewhat replayable game with which you can kill about ten hours by tearing enemies to shreds, taking them down silently, or a combination of both, then this game should satisfy that urge. From a purely objective viewpoint, I’d say this was a mostly average to decent game that most people can complete in a weekend or less that can serve as a fun distraction from other games that require more of your time. What makes this game ever so slightly above average for me is that it let me go “raging werewolf” on enemies in a way that I’ve wanted to for years. Still, even for fans of werewolves or the World of Darkness series, I cannot recommend this game at its current $50 price point and would suggest waiting for a price drop before investing.
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: 4th February 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Werewolf: The Apocalypse- Earthblood was provided by the publisher.