Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is a perfectly adequate action-RPG title. That being said, given the rich source material of the tabletop roleplaying games this is based on, I can’t help but feel as though it could have been so much more.
Things start well enough, with an entertaining introductory movie that soon gives way to a much rougher looking in-game engine that sets the stage for our protagonist, Cahal. In a burst of dialogue-heavy exposition, we learn that Cahal is part of a group that includes members of his family as they go about trying to battle an evil corporation named Endron. With almost painful predictability, what begins as a stealth operation quickly goes south as we are introduced to the game’s core mechanics in a training stage that culminates in an unhappy turn of events that sets Cahal off on a loner’s path.
Fast forward a bit, and Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood shows Cahal getting reconnected to his old group as they go about a rather unremarkable narrative. Given that the tabletop game has such a heavy focus on the different clans, it is a little surprising and disappointing that the story in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood never really explores that aspect of the game’s lore.
This and the character progression probably stand out as two of my biggest disappointments. Werewolf: The Apocalypse is part of the well-known World of Darkness series that already has a dedicated following and makes this title one that is bound to pique their interest. With such a wealth of roleplaying material to draw from however, the predictable plot points and generic character personalities failed to capture my interest for long. With this game based on an RPG, I had high hopes that the story might take some interesting narrative twists and turns based on decisions made along the way, but there’s really no ownership over how the story itself plays out.
There are some side quests along the way that do help you earn the game’s version of experience, which you can use to unlock new abilities and stat bonuses, which is certainly nice. The upgrades tend to feel pretty meaningful in combat, which is great, but outside of where you spend the points, you don’t really have any authorship over Cahal himself. You’re really just along for the ride. About the only notable part of the narrative where you have some degree of control is some of the dialogue where you can choose from a couple of options, most of which either just end in a raging battle or… not. You still progress to the next stage of the story either way.
This lack of impact on the world is felt in the game’s primary gameplay mechanics – stealth vs combat. This is where Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is actually most interesting, as most stages give you a choice between stealth or combat. The former is a bit slower paced, but actually more engaging. You can shift between human, wolf and frenzied werewolf, and the first two options have the most value in the stealth sections. As a human you can blend with your environment more, and you can interact with electronics and shoot out cameras with electric crossbow darts while avoiding guards and searchlights. Transforming to a wolf gives you access to smaller passages like vents that can give you access to parts of a building that Cahal’s human form can’t just walk over to.
However, if you get busted while trying to stealth it leads to an all-out brawl as Cahal goes werewolf mode and the game’s action elements come into play. Early on, it’s pretty cool to transform into a massive rage-beast and go Hulking out on hapless guards that usually just shoot at you, swing batons at you or try to hit you with grenades. That transformation sequence and the related initial carnage are a rush when they happen, and admittedly had me leaning towards combat over stealth more often than not.
There is not much variety to the soldier fodder and unless you are on the game’s hardest level of difficulty, they don’t offer a great deal of actual resistance along the way, especially if you make good decisions with the game’s aforementioned progression system. As you unlock new attacks, the combat games some layers of depth but most of the time? It’s not really needed. You can work yourself up into a greater rage that allows your werewolf to take on his Crinos form, which is basically a fancier, boosted stat form of your werewolf.
At the end of the day however, there’s just not much of an impact regardless of which of the two options you use for progression. You will reach some points that require successful stealth, and others that require a battle, but it’s not like the story or world really reacts any differently if you choose one option over the other during the rest of your session. Also, while the progression system does offer a bit of heft to the combat options, it does become highly repetitive by about the midpoint. Boss battles offer a bit more strategy and substance, but the hordes of soldiers thrown your way really don’t bring much variety to the combat side of things.
The presentation is a bit of a mixed bag, as visually some of the environments look nice and the monster character models are generally decent, but the human characters just look and feel rather stiff, and most of the stages have a sort of same-y repetitiveness to them before too long. How many weirdly connected, small roomed buildings can one person infiltrate after all? Apparently – a lot. There are a handful of more open-world settings along the way, and I definitely enjoyed those over the more repetitious, indoors environments I was just talking about.
The music and sound effects are fine as they typically fit what’s going on well. The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag – never really great, seldom really bad, though some of the characters sound about as stiff as their animated models look. At the end of the day, this doesn’t really look like a PS5 game. One could argue that at times, it might not even really look like a late-era PS4 title.