Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Is Carnage Incarnate
Games from indie devs are always a fun one to review because due to many circumstances including but not limited to lack of manpower, experience, and budgets compared to AAA developers or developers backed by a company, these games often become unlike any I’ve ever played. A majority of the mechanics introduced in Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is featured in other titles by developers of varying sizes, much successfully. What it lacks in polish, however, is it has loads of ambition.
Installing the game was relatively quick, although I could already see why as the game appeared to be on the short side. After an introduction trailer showing off the main character, you’re treated to the main menu which has its basic settings including audio, controls, camera, etc. The “bonuses” are minuscule, only giving the option to change Cahal’s outfits and the option to watch the intro again if the player so chooses.
A Hidden “Go Green” Message In Werewolf: The Apocalypse Exists. Somewhere.
Both the intro and the opening sequence to the game are very artistic, to put it mildly. The auburn colors of autumn leaves sit alone amongst the greyscale environment only for the leaves to shrivel into the same greyscale while color is restored around Cahal. As an unnamed narrator sets up exposition about how “humanity’s greed caused the environment to wither,” various videos of buildings, cities, and nature fill the cutscene, playing out almost like something you’d see on a National Geographic documentary.
Unfortunately, the artistry ends as you take control of Cahal, the protagonist who I immediately dubbed “Russian Kratos,” which is hilarious as I discovered he belongs to a tribe of Irish werewolves. The “bald face full of hair rugged voice” archetype is what Cahal fits the letter, with the only thing on his mind being “REVENGE” and “FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!” Honestly, if the eco-friendly organizations were militant werewolves who had a vendetta against “Big Brother” for ruining the Earth, they would be these guys.
Cliche Bald Man Protagonist Has Anger Management Issues
A mission goes south when it’s discovered that his wife, who went alone for some reason, gets captured and Cahal has to go and save her. It is here where the game “eases” its way into the various methods of play. Cahal can traverse in his human form, where he can sneak up on unsuspecting guards and stealth kills them, or use his crossbow for the same effect but from a distance.
His wolf form is mainly used to track and travel across long distances promptly, which is almost a necessity as the game puts you in a situation that becomes highly annoying. You’re forced to crouch as you prey on unsuspecting enemies. You cannot toggle the crouch either and the only way to get out of crouching is when it’s “safe” to do so. This also means you move at a snail’s crawl, with the game giving you the wolf form as a way to bail itself out.
The Games Begin When The Cuffs Release
The real combat begins when Cahal is forced to transform into his werewolf form, where the gloves come off and it’s every man, and lupine, for themselves. Fighting reminded me of a PS2 game I played quite a bit, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, as in you can pick up enemies who appear bite-sized in comparison and fling them around like ragdolls. However, because they are small, they are hard to focus and attack at times, meaning attacks that shouldn’t whiff are missing everywhere. Meanwhile, the enemy’s guns seem to lock on to your burly mass like a heat-seeking target, dealing small damage but enough to add up. There are armored grunts who have larger weapons that deal a considerable amount of damage, yet can be identified and dodged accordingly.
There are even enemies with silver bullets that have the same marker as the armored enemies, but these bullets are dangerous as they limit your maximum health every time you get hit by Silver. Since these enemies are the same size as the smaller grunts, there will be times where you will see your health drop to half over time and it becomes frustrating to deal with. I never felt like I was in danger, however, thanks to my healing ability.
Earthblood Is True To Its TTRPG Origins
True to its tabletop RPG roots, Earthblood has RPG mechanics including various skill trees to increase the abilities of Cahal as well as some “dialogue” choices that affect the flow of combat. There’s an instance where, breaking his cover after spending the entire mission covertly moving through a base, questions a guy in a suit about the whereabouts of his clan.
Ultimately the player can let the cutscene play out, but you can also enter into a state of Frenzy, forcing you to eliminate everyone around you, friend or foe, and only then can Cahal’s rage be sated. This affects the fate of certain characters early in the story, but the capacity for how this affects future engagements are yet to be seen.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse Is Frustratingly Linear
The game doesn’t know what it wants to be, as the elements of stealth, third-person action, and RPG decision making all blend together like a weird smoothie made up of ingredients that shouldn’t be near each other, to begin with. In one mission, I wanted to see if it was possible to break free from stealth and just go off as the pacing was as slow as watching paint dry. Immediately upon doing that, the guard spotted me, which would be fine as I could just escape from them right?
Nope. Instant Game Over. At least in games similar to this, the mission isn’t compromised as you can eliminate the target even as they are alert. Earlier on the game prompts you to do just that. So why is it now a Game Over in this case? This gets even weirder when you’re forced to stealth after already going into werewolf form, only if you get caught this time, it doesn’t trigger a Game Over? You just end up turning into a werewolf and rip everyone to shreds?
Have Fun, But Not Too Much Fun
It’s like the game wants you to embrace your werewolf powers, yet also remind you that you are a human and you cannot brute force your way out of everything. As anecdotal as it sounds, it’s not clear to the player why this is a thing when later on they aren’t punished for compromising their stealthy approach.
Lastly, there’s the graphics and they aren’t the best. Everything is dark and muddled, which is a shame considering the intro cutscenes showed differently from what the game ultimately shows itself. The character models are laughably bad, everyone’s eyes and faces look like they are drugged out, with bulging eyes and weird expressions that don’t match what’s being said.
Earthblood Is Well Aware Of Its Campy Nature
The characters all look doll-like, which I’m certain was not the intention, and as this is the PlayStation 5 version, these types of graphics are simply inexcusable. Perhaps with some more time, the graphics would have been fleshed out, but these looked like something you’d see on a late PS3 title!
I won’t even begin to talk about the dialogue. Watching the accompanying video is enough to show how little I took the plot and the “Oscar-worthy voice acting” seriously, but, maybe all of these flaws are what drew me more into the game. It’s like a “B-Movie” in that it’s bad and it’s on a budget, but it has a charm that you just appreciate. Sure if Bethesda or some other big-name company made this I’d rip Earthblood a new one, but, for what it’s worth, it’s charming enough to at least give it a try. Certainly not at full price though, maybe $20? $15? That doesn’t sound convincing either...
Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is now available on the PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S.