Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood Review – More Action Than RPG
It’s about time we see another World Of Darkness IP aside from Vampire: The Masquerade get adopted in video game form.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse paints a world where werewolves live among us, but recluse from society. These tribes and packs that can shapeshift into a wolf and human forms that live to serve one purpose: maintain balance between the forces of order and chaos so the world is not heading to The Apocalypse.
What this translates to, in the case of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, is that Werewolves are now eco-terrorists fighting against giant oil and gas corporations that are fracking for the world’s essence, which is leading us to impending doom.
Cyanide Studio are using their experience in past stealth and RPG titles to create Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood as an action RPG. Its RPG qualities don’t really shine, but as a linear stealth-action game, Earthblood is a bloody good time, if you know what to expect.
What to expect, you ask?
First, a reminder that Nacon is a self-proclaimed “AA” game publisher. This is not a game with a big development budget that promises huge things. On the plus side, you won’t get disappointed as much with the content they offer here.
You can see your main protagonist Cahal rendered with lush details, from noticeable veins to nice textures on his jackets. The rest of the cast, however, received less love.
Soundtrack variety isn’t vast, but the ones that do play a lot are always nice to hear. I hope you like heavy metal. Or rather butt rock, because it feels kind of cheesy at times. The thrilling, intriguing music that plays while you are snooping in industrial complexes is great, though.
Speaking of industrial complexes, I hope you love offices and factories. Earthblood will see you sabotage the corporation from the inside and what that means is you’ll be infiltrating a lot of offices and factories.
To be fair, these locations are meant to look generic in real life anyway, and at least the level design does suggest that the developers are making each room different enough- the copy-paste bit here is only on the asset use.
There is a different setting halfway through, which will still not make you excited with the environment design. But there is some wicked changes to enemy designs.
The voice acting in Earthblood a bit flat. For a game where you play as a werewolf consumed by rage, Cahal sounds mostly relaxed. I guess he is full of rage, but in a very chill and nonchalant way. Which unfortunately means the more emotional scenes just don’t work as intended.
In Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, you play as Cahal, a Garou (werewolf) of the Fianna tribe. The dude is a family man, and he succumbed to rage when he saw his wife died during a botched mission to take down Endron. Exiling himself for 5 years, he found himself coming back to his pack once he founded out they were in danger, more than ever.
What entails is a story of family, but mostly a tale of eco-terrorists taking down an oil-and-gas corporation.
I’m not too familiar with the Werewolf IP but if you expected a nuanced tale in this story, you won’t. Endron and the corporations are clearly evil with no redeeming values whatsoever. There’s no intrigue like how games from Vampire: The Masquerade can be. Everything boils down to “our planet Gaia is dying, off with the corpos”.
Earthblood is being touted as an action RPG, but the only RPG elements here is the game having a dialogue wheel. Yes, you go gain experience point and can unlock skills on the skill tree, but it’s as much action-RPG as pre-Assassin’s Creed Origins Assassin’s Creed games are. Which is very, surface level. No loot or min-maxing stats here. There are some moments where you can clear objectives by talking to people the right way, but there’s no depth to it.
Don’t expect to see Cyanide’s Call Of Cthulu being channelled in this game.
Not Quite RPG, But Stealth-Action
That said, when you judge it as linear stealth-action game, it absolutely works wonders. With some caveats.
As mentioned earlier, Cahal will be exploring a lot of industrial complexes, all without permission so you’ll have to be sneaky about it. Cahal in his Homid (human) form is slow but has access to crossbow shots (with very limited ammo) and can operate keypads and computers. He can also shapeshift into his Lupus (wolf) form, which moves faster and can fit into wolf-sized vents. Though at the cost of it can raise suspicion faster than human form.
The stealth mechanics are okay, but I have to say I’m playing this right after being spoiled by Hitman 3. Enemy AI can see further than I expected, but it’s hard to guess how much the detection meter will raise. There’s no audio cues of getting slightly detected. And when enemies in the room/encounter area are all alerted, they will never de-escalate the alarm.
It’s a bit rough at first, but playing it stealth is doable once you get used to how the mechanics work. There are many limitations (like you can’t drag bodies away) but it means you’ll need to be more patient and strategic with taking down enemies (like pulling them from behind half-wall covers, which hides the body from sight).
Reject Humanity, Embrace Wolfe
Should you fail stealth, however, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, you’ll be treated by the better half of the gameplay. Cahal can get really, really mad either from getting shot or if you have rage meter built up. This turns him into his Crinos (werewolf) form. From there, you just rip, tear, and spill blood all over the room.
Combat can be button mashy, but rewards intentful moves. And more importantly, it feels so good to just swipe humans apart. Later in the game you’ll be faced with more formidable foes, including folks in huge exo mech suits and other wild stuff. But the normal humans are good, easy fodder.
Combat is made more satisfying thanks to having almost every element in the room be destructible, and the glorious, beautiful blood textures. Those are thick, icky goops of unleashed rage, there. The cheesy heavy metal music playing is the cherry on top- it’s just great fun.
Letting out that anger for failing to stealth through a room is more of a reward. Frustrated with the timing of some of the guard patrol? Screw it, go full werewolf. Reject Humanity. Embrace wolfe.
That said, the combat encounters can get overwhelmingly difficult at times. Not because of complexity, but the sheer number of enemies that get spawned in. Every stealth room/possible combat encounter room have what’s essentially an enemy rabbit hole spawn. If you play a bit stealthy, you can sabotage them so that if you do get detected and have to go werewolf, enemies spawned from there are weaker.
Structure-wise, Earthblood is pretty straightforward. You go from level to level, with a hub world connecting them. There’s a bit of branching paths in some levels, but for the most part, it is linear. Not much room for doing major shenanigans, but if you prefer your games bite-sized, Earthblood’s design here works in your favour.
For about half of the game, you’ll be infiltrating through Endron’s industrial buildings located deep in the Washington State Forest. So you’ll be seeing the same kind of buildings a lot. There will be changes to locales, but it’s still going to be either a factory, or an office of an oil and gas company.
Earthblood’s playtimes is surprisingly rather short. I cleared the game close to 9 hours of playtime only. But it can feel longer due to the limited scope of the gameplay. Because the gameplay loop do get repitious and mundane once you settled into a groove.
I could do way with one less level before the plot started to properly escalate. Just so enough people actually see the cooler, horrific stuff that only triggers after the long stint in the first area.
There’s not much to return to after that, either. There is multiple endings, but that only needs a reload of a previous autosave. Replayability is very much limited.
I do find myself enjoying a lot of Earthblood. Despite the monotonous dialogue and the pretty predictable story. Again, they really are painting the corporation as pure evil with no redeemable values. Especially when you see what’s in store in the later half of the game.
I wish there’s more room to experiment and more creative solutions are available should you play stealth. The option to do so are widely available in a lot of the levels. But the mechanical limits that the game offers make for a stealth game for very patient players.
My surprise is how ridiculously good fun the combat is. It’s just so good to push buttons. The game incorporates some slo-mos as well as great animation to sell you the impact of each of the werewolf’s attacks.
In the most heated of encounters, I’ve been getting 100-hit combos, and transformed into the Frenzy form up to 4 times while the whole room reeks of blood, goop and other nasty bodily fluids. All while cheesy heavy metal is playing in the background. It blends, so wonderfully well together.
That said, there’s some weird difficulty spike by the end where you can’t just button-mash to victory, with enemies can dish out massive damage with one hit.
But still, the action bit of this so-called action-RPG is by far the best being offered in this package.
The biggest thing I like, however, is that for most of the game it feels properly polished. No weird bugs that stopped gameplay. And just minor jank. The UI is perfectly usable both with a gamepad and mouse controls, with very legible text.
What if you make a video game with a very defined budget, and polished it to the best of your ability? Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood fits that bill extremely well. The game could’ve been more interesting if it has a bigger scope and budget, sure, but with their bar they aimed for, Earthblood did more than enough to pass. And not buggy or janky as you would expect.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is fun romp with solid action gameplay and okay stealth, bundled in a simple, linear structure of a predictable story. It’s no action RPG, but they’ve definitely compensated with some great action.
Is it the new hotness of 2021 that everyone should get on in right now? No. But for those looking for a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game, intrigued by the theme and are okay with its straightforward but polished gameplay, it’s a bloody good time.
Played on PC. Review copy provided by the publisher