By EVAN MILLAR
Being a werewolf in the World of Darkness universe is hardly a walk in the park.
On top of fighting against destructive corporations, corrupted doppelgängers, and your own animalistic fury, an insane and powerful spirit known as the Wyrm is constantly seeking to topple the universe into a downward spiral of discord and dismay.
WEREWOLF: THE APOCALYPSE – EARTHBLOOD is the latest video game adaptation of Paradox Interactive’s World of Darkness (WoD) pen-and-paper RPG series, also host to Vampire: The Masquerade and others.
While French developer Cyanide’s latest offering is an undeniably faithful adaptation of WEREWOLF’s core ideas, it’s also a bit dated in its approach to third-person action. Fortunately, that last point is easy to overlook thanks to its satisfying and ferocious combat.
As Cahal, an elder Garou (WoD terminology for werewolves), players will fight through a redemption story arc that sees him outcast from his group after the rage-induced murder of a fellow member of his Irish Fianna tribe. Seeking to redeem himself, he then becomes enveloped in a war against the Pentex Corporation and their oil-hungry subordinate, Endron.
EARTHBLOOD’s gameplay remains the same throughout its relatively brief campaign, with Cahal engaging in light RPG elements at the Garou’s sanctuary, such as taking part in branching dialogue, planning, and touching base with invisible spirit entities that inhabit this world.
Once that’s dealt with, players then set out to infiltrate Endron’s numerous drilling sites in hopes of sabotaging their operations and extracting information. It’s during these reconnaissance runs where EARTHBLOOD springs to vicious, bloody life.
It’s possible to navigate EARTHBLOOD’s combat areas stealthily by crouch-walking to get the drop on enemies, knocking them out with Cahal’s fists or firing a lethal crossbow bolt from cover. However, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to run into the middle of a room full of baddies, transform into a towering mixture of man and beast, and rip those suckers limb from limb before they know what hit them.
Being a werewolf comes with perks, and these are realized in the ability tree that players can put skill points into. Cahal can utilize two different stances while transformed – “agile” or “heavy” – and switching between these depending on what enemy types are present is always key to success.
Players will encounter human enemies to begin with, though as the story unfolds, enemies will be tainted by the Wyrm’s influence, transforming into grotesque monstrosities that are significantly harder to put down.
Visually, EARTHBLOOD is almost reminiscent of an Xbox 360 or PS3 game, albeit with much better texturing and particle effects. Looking up at the starry nighttime sky from your sanctuary is striking for instance, though even this is not really comparable to the majority of games from the last generation of consoles.
Character animations during dialogue is stiff, and certain movements can look pretty questionable at times. Luckily, this all fades away in the heat of battle, and there are some gorgeous lighting effects found throughout the game’s environments.
This feeling of EARTHBLOOD being slightly antiquated extends to the game’s basic mechanics as well, as navigating the sanctuary, moving into Endron’s headquarters, and repeating this entire process several times over feels a bit stale compared to what players might expect from a game in 2021.
Still, shapeshifters able to come to terms with this will no doubt have a lot of fun following Cahal on his journey, howling with delight along the way.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is out now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC. Review code provided by the publisher.