Review – Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earth Blood is the latest from Call of Cthulhu developers, Cyanide. If there is one thing Cyanide has in bunches, it’s a passion for darker fantasy. That said, the one thing I feel they are missing is the talent to have said passion translate to product. This isn’t to call them out as bad, not in the least. I simply mean that if vision ever equaled production, then this team could really be on to something.
Until just recently, I would say that Bloober Studio was a good parallel to Cyanide. Both studios have a palpable passion for their genre, but their high bar seems to always be that of ‘good’ and to rely on a cult following. However, The Medium proves that intended homage to games past can result in something special. Accidental homage, due to quality, not so much.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is a video game taking place in the universe of White Wolf Publishing’s tabletop game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse. You play as Cahal, a Garou, protector of Gaia, former lieutenant to your caern (your pack), and resident generic biker gang badass. During a mission, you lose control to your rage, hurting your friends in the process. Too filled with grief and too scared of losing control again, you go into self exile, leaving your caern and your daughter out of fear of hurting them. Five years later, your path intersects once again with that of the family you had previously left behind. While your caern is happy to have you back, your daughter is not as forgiving.
Gaia, also known as Mother Earth, is slowly dying. The Wyrm, a spiritual entity bent on destruction and decay, is only made stronger when companies syphon from and destroy Gaia. With each day, she gets weaker as the Wyrm gets stronger. The game’s tangible enemy is called Endron, a megacorporation that is destroying the planet and apparently linked directly to the Wyrm, helping them with the creation of super soldiers. Your caern has been a faithful ally to the planet and fights to save Mother Earth from her doom. But as they are slowly losing, they start taking on the assistance of humans that believe and fight just as hard for the planet and its resources.
The universe, story, and characters are all able to stand on their own two feet, or rather four feet. It is only after that initial interest caused by the admittedly excellent plot that everything begins to smack you in the face with how ‘not’ current-gen this game is. Heck, this game can barely be considered “last-gen” as it is.
You play in one of three forms: human, wolf, or werewolf, changing throughout the three freely. Human form is used to access action buttons and dialogue options; wolf form is best to sneak around, and werewolf form is used when you get discovered and combat starts.
Pressing LB activates spirit vision. This is a classic radar mode that allows you to see enemies through walls and such, but it also allows you to see spirits that you can then absorb to increase your level, allowing you to spend points on RPG-esque abilities. In addition to general talents, you can focus on combat, agile werewolf abilities, heavy werewolf abilities, rage, etc. Like most RPGs, it is mostly when you want an ability, not what ability you want.
Early on, you get access to a crossbow. This is used entirely to assist with stealth. First, to dispatch with a guard that could be a possible detection threat. Later, using spirit points along your skill tree, you can obtain the ability to use the bolts to disable security cameras. It doesn’t feel very logical, but this helps greatly when a pesky camera is pointing right in your path to an exit.
For whatever reason, your pack’s camp is maybe three city blocks from a major Endron facility. Your first mission has you walk in, and by that I literally mean walk right in, to Endron before you branch off and begin to stealth through the mission. Each room plays the same: you enter a room, going between human form and wolf form, sneak around, find a security room to power off cameras and unlock doors or lifts, sneak towards the exit, then leave the room. Toss in a takedown every now and then, and this is basically how every room from every mission is laid out.
All guards have preset parameters that they parole. Some will remain stationary, some will parole a set pattern, and others won’t activate until you get close enough to them. If a guard see’s you, he gets a white eye icon above him. When that eye fills white, it turns yellow and will cause him to investigate. If he doesn’t find anything, he goes back to his post, if he does then others will be put on high alert and they will come to look for you. I found this less to be a hindrance and more a strategy to get people away from their post because once they are on high alert, they don’t stop. They just all move into that area and stay there
In addition to the guards in the room, there are multiple spawn points that resemble some sort of storage door. You can sabotage these areas but if guards are alerted and combat results, then guards come from these points as well. But this is why we are playing the game, right?! To wolf out!
When combat happens, you automatically turn into your werewolf self. For starters, you’ll transform into your agile werewolf form. This is quicker and best used against most human enemies, allowing you to strike fast and leap to areas. Quick attacks demolish your base enemies and heaver attacks are used against the more armored ones. There is a quick strike you can use to quickly close a gap or to evade enemy fire. You transform into your heavy form when super soldiers and armored exo-soldiers show up. This is a much slower, lumbering form, but its attacks are much more brutal. When you build up enough rage, you can unleash it with some destructive results. Cyanide makes sure to how badass this is meant to be by the soundtrack changing to heavy metal throughout the chaos.
But since the game is a series of singular rooms, it just feels empty. Even if you are spotted, and the room fills with guards, after you defeat them and go to the next room, not a single guard is on alert. Not a single “room staff” knows what the other is doing. Each mission feels like a collection of rooms with very little worry of getting caught other than facing that room’s horde of enemies.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood just feels like a PS3 era game, and this is carried from its AI into its visuals. Character animations feel extremely aged, even down to voice acting, that just ever so slightly fails to sync with the mouth movement. Each room is designed as if the same square area was put in a randomizer so it had X wall screens to hide behind, Y boxes laying around, and Z cameras. Hacking a room’s system consists of simply clicking on everything that was off, and clicking off anything that was on.
Thankfully, the soundtrack work does match with the rest of the game, since that feels appropriately hokey. The heavy metal felt more like a reason for a team to insert heavy metal, especially when two of the game’s major characters could double as roadies or as extra’s for Sons of Anarchy. It definitely stands out once the metal starts pumping, I am just not entirely sure it stands out for the right reasons.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood comes across like an accidental homage to a time best left to nostalgia. Games back in the PS3 era were excelling despite obvious limitations. This game exists in a time when those limitations are all but removed, yet still feels like it comes up short because while it plays like them, it just wasn’t intentional.
Sometimes ok during cutscenes, but mostly feels like PS3 era graphics we should all but be past today.
Light RPG, light stealth, and a werewolf game that doesn’t seem to want you to become a werewolf other than, “Crap! I got spotted”.
Not great, but surprisingly fitting voice work. Soundtrack takes an aggressive yet odd turn to metal whenever you transform into werewolf form.
Mission rooms within missions cause the game to be less about the objective and more about navigating each individual room again and again and again.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood was provided by the publisher.