Owning a new console around its launch window means you’ll be playing a relatively small lineup of launch titles. If you’re like me, that means you’ll blow through a lot of them quickly. In a crowded sea of releases, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood would be obscured by the AAA titles that everyone orders. But alas – we’re not awash with PS5 games, and Werewolf: The Apocalypse really has an opportunity to grow an audience, provided it meets gamers’ expectations. The obvious follow up question is: Does it meet those expectations?
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, aside from being a mouthful, is a third person actiongame infused with RPG elements and a decent set of stealth mechanics. It tells the story of Cahal, a werewolf who self-exiled himself from his caern after giving in to rage and killing a member of his own pack. Five years have passed since he fled, and his current mission against Endron – a mega energy corporation that seems to be pure evil – has intertwined his paths with his caern. Rodko, his brother-in-law, and Aedana, his daughter, are working on simultaneously infiltrating Endron to expose their misdeeds to the world in hopes of dismantling the company.
From there on, Cahal’s goal is to work against Endron and disrupt or destroy as much property as he can. There’s more to it, but what few surprises the narrative holds should be, at the least, kept hidden. It’s a pretty uninspiring story. I will say, however, that, poor writing aside, there were a few moments in the game that really hit me hard as a father and a husband… meaning there was a bit of a pucnh in the script.
The biggest question I had upon starting up Werewolf: The Apocalypse was how it would play. I’m familiar with Cyanide Studios and their previous work, which included Of Orcs and Men, a game I particularly enjoyed. With that said, their games don’t necessarily adhere to the quality levels of most games. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad, but sometimes the result can be questionable. With that said, Werewolf: The Apocalypse falls in a gray area. It’s better than I thought it would be but doesn’t reach the levels of Styx or Of Orcs and Men.
That isn’t to say the gameplay is bad. Everything works. The stealth is some of the better implemented mechanics in a game that features stealth that I’ve seen in a while. It’s not perfect, of course, but it forgives its own limitations, which is what some of these games need to do. Combat works well, too, which takes place in your werewolf form. You have two ‘stances’, so to speak, that basically switches between an agile fighter and heavy but powerful tank. Each has its use against the different enemy types, and they seem to be pretty well balanced. Obviously, Cahal is a beast (some pun intended), so he clears through enemies quickly. Even with their silver bullets – which limit your potential to heal in each battle – they’re not too much to overcome.
Unfortunately, just about every mission falls into the same pattern (outside of the prison segment, which was a nice fresh interlude between the opening and closing pieces of the game): You stealth around until you’re caught, where you tear through waves of enemies. Once that room you’re traversing is clear, you revert back to your human form and move on like nothing happened (even if there is an army of soldiers oblivious in the next room over). During your stealth segments, you can clear rooms, but the task isn’t always easy and usually wound up with me being spotted. With that said, you can sabotage the reinforcement entrances, which cause massive stun damage to incoming troops – leaving them vulnerable and with less HP than they would have had if you’d left it alone.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a bit of an RPG element infused with the core gameplay. If you successfully stealth through missions or complete the combat segments, you’ll gain spirit experience. You can also find about 100 different spirits throughout the game that you appear to inhale for extra experience. As you level up with this, you get skill points that you can assign to a fairly traditional set of skill trees that upgrade your two stances, your frenzy special, and various human form abilities (like upgrading your crossbow to be powered with electricity, which allows you to disable cameras without finding the PC that controls them). Fully upgrading Cahal’s stances really helps him deal with endgame enemies and bosses, as the Wyrm becomes a major player.
Visuallys, Werewolf: The Apocalyspe is a bit of a mixed bag. It certainly doesn’t look like it belongs on the PS5, particularly when the cinematics roll, but it’s also not completely ugly. I think the PS5 boosted the visuals, and everything ran smoothly, so it wasn’t a total wash. Still, it definitely won’t be the game you want to demo when displaying visuals on the PS5. When paired with the sound direction, the overall experience definitely felt weak. Aside from Cahal and few other voice actors, the acting was typically underwhelming – but that could be due to a terribly cheesy script.
For me, however, the biggest blow to believability lies within proximity. Your caern was set up within a minute from an enormous Endron facility with minimal contact between the two. You literally go back and forth from the building on three separate occasions without drawing much suspicion (granted, there is an attack on the caern from Endron, but then they kind of chill out for a while and let you do your thing; nice guys, right?). Eventually, the story shifts locale, and you’re seen flying to your next set of missions – but the first 30-40% of the game is this really awkward setup.
To circle back to our initial question – is Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood quality, and is it worth your money? The answer is multilayered. I had fun playing it for the most part, and the mechanics actually worked way better than I would have ever guessed. From that standpoint, it’s solid. The story is unoriginal, however, and the dialogue is cringeworthy, so there’s a lot of shy away from. Gameplay is fine, but every scenario essentially plays out the same with the exception of the prison segment (which was a very brief set piece, anyway). At $49.99 on PS4 or PS5, you are potentially saving $10-20 from a traditional or first party title, so if you’re strapped on cash, and this looks interesting to you, it may be worth your while. In all, the game is utterly average, and its relatively interesting premise is held back by the implementation of the game.
*Note: This game was based off World of Darkness, so if you’re a fan, you may find more to make connections with here than others.