A scan of my immediate surroundings shows six heavily armed soldiers, two with firearms and silver bullets. Behind these soon-to-be-dead guards stands a ‘Mech, menacingly pumping a flamethrower and clearly itching for the chance to set me on fire. I can quietly break any neck in my human form, but another look at the area reveals an opening that leads to a security office. I can transform into my wolf form to jump into this room and turn off the surveillance cameras, which would open up a less controlled path. I would still take care of this’ Mech. The best game might be to give up stealth entirely, reveal my location, and transform into a werewolf who quickly stains the walls red with her blood. I just hope I still have enough anger in me to take down this annoying ‘Mech.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is based on the rich tradition of the table games of the World of Darkness and follows a skilled hunter named Cahal, who can switch between three forms at any time. This is an exciting proposition that unfortunately cannot escape the overwhelming weight of repetition that plagues every battle and scenario. The lycanthopic action is extremely violent, and it can be fun to tear enemies apart like they’re made of paper or toss them at their cohorts like they’re a bowling ball. That fantasy doesn’t last long, and in no way can the uninteresting story and upgrade trees save it. This is an experience that doesn’t take a big bite on anything it tries and wastes a potentially cool approach to a stealth game.
Another question this game doesn’t answer depends on each encounter: Since the werewolf form is the most fun, why shouldn’t players use it all the time? Developer Cyanide tries to push stealth through story setups and missions that start with Cahal behind cover, but the player can become a werewolf whenever they want. All they have to do is press a button to instantly transform or be spotted by an enemy, and then the slow, repetitive lull gives way to screaming enemies and a wolf running around like a madman.
With the werewolf in play, battles can be completed quickly. Razor-sharp claws and teeth are well used to chop off enemies. The werewolf shape is easy to control, but it lacks precision. It can also change the fighting stance to be on all fours for quick attacks, or stand on its hind legs for more damage with giant claw blows. Some enemy guys force you to adopt a certain stance, which can be annoying if they overcrowd you, but that’s about the extent of the strategy. Just hack away, howl to heal yourself, and most battles will pass in no time. Mechs present some problems as they have huge health bars, but they are easily exploited.
So what use is there to be a human or a normal wolf? Hardly anything. The wolf shape allows you to reach rooms that contain computer terminals, books with additional story beats, or fuel points that can unlock new skills (that don’t really change the flow of the game at all). Humans can break their necks and shoot a bow weapon to turn off the lights. That’s all. Again, controls are not a problem at all. Both forms work well but are not fun. Sitting back and watching guards mechanically move around paths is as boring as it sounds, and there’s no way to spice it up. I tried to see the fun in disguise, but the monotony always resulted in me turning into a werewolf to end a sequence with the hope that the next combat encounter would be better. It never was.
The repetition also extends to the level designs, which mostly use the same industrial textures and objects from room to room. Cyanide brings some variety to the environment towards the end of the game, which is a welcome change, but the damage is done well in advance. Most of the stages feel like Twilight zone Episodes in which you keep walking through the same doors.
Cahal is well written and uttered, but I have never cared about his offer of salvation or about saving the forest of his tribe from death. The entire experience falls flat and never really encompasses the complexities of shape shifting. The idea is a mess that makes players just bar their fangs and get it all through as fast as possible.