There’s something special about AA video games. They’re far from perfect, but you can very easily see that the developers are passionate about what they create; however, it’s not all rays of sunshine. Time constraints and/or tight budgets hold many AA developers back from fully realizing a vision. There is always one thing consistent with the best AA games: they excel in one aspect. Take Dontnod’s Vampyr, for example. While the combat and area variety felt pretty lackluster, the characters and how they all interact with one another stood out among the rough. Another example is Pirahna Bytes’ Elex; what it lacked in the fluidity of gameplay, it more than made up for it with an interesting world and story. Unfortunately, Cyanide’s Werewolf the Apocalypse – Earthblood fails to distinguish itself from other titles in the resurging AA space.
Story – Revenge never ends well
In Werewolf the Apocalypse – Earthblood, you play as Cahal, a half-man, half-beast so hell-bent on the rage that his fury leads him to leave his Caern (or his pack) out of shame and guilt. Over the course of the game, there is a constant battle between the protagnosit, his fellow Werewolves, and an evil corporation called Endron that are rapidly destroying nature, which the Werewolves are intrinsically linked to. As you slowly destroy many of Endron’s facilities, the mystery of Project Earthblood is unraveled.
There are a few recurring characters during the story, but I failed to develop any sort of connection to these over my 6 hours, even Cahal’s daughter and wife, who the game very desperately tried to create emotional moments around. I feel there are a few reasons for this; the animations are extremely janky, and while some of the acting is delivered relatively well, other lines are written and delivered very poorly and lacking any real resonance.
Based of a tabletop RPG titles Werewolf: The Apocalypse, I’m assuming there is an abundance of lore already established; however, Cyanide does a poor job of explaining any of this. Throughout my playthrough, I had a notebook beside me to jot down the words that were thrown at me. The Wyrm seems to be an evil force of some description; Fomori is a zombie-like creature. Things like this made the already poor narrative even harder to get into based solely on the fact that I was slightly confused as to what was going on.
Gameplay – Some Janky Fun
As I said, the best AA standout in one aspect and typically can alleviate some of the other glaring issues with the game. I wouldn’t say this is the case for Werewolf the Apocalypse: Earthblood; while the combat is without a doubt the best part of the game, it lacks any real depth to create an experience that is anything but button mashing. Now don’t get me wrong, transforming into a big hulking beast and absolutely annihilating your foes is extremely fun for a short time, but it gets repetitive rapidly. The basic structure of the game is to talk to an NPC, go to an Endron facility, use either stealth or action to clear out rooms of enemies, press some button on a terminal, and then leave.
Cahal has two forms, a stealthy wolf and a giant werewolf. Going into the game, I was excited to use stealth as my main option to clear out missions, but it swiftly became apparent that stealth is borderline useless. You can clear out missions without being seen, but it takes longer than smashing your way through enemies. In addition, there are few useful upgrades to improve stealth. The game is clearly weighted towards action as there are only a few skills that aid you in stealth, and they’re no fun in comparison to the abilities you can unlock for the werewolf form.
I’m not going to lie, the werewolf form is pretty fun. You have two stances: an agile stance and a heavy stance that are useful against different enemies. For the little grunts, I ran around picking them up and executing them, netting me some rage that can be used for abilities like healing and lunging. The enemy variety is pretty good here with ranged enemies, small grunts, shield-wielding brutes, mechs, and just as they were becoming stale, the game added a whole new class of enemies that switched up the gameplay, so I will give Cyanide praise there.
Eventually, the combat boiled down to one combo – light attack, light attack, heavy attack; this combo helped me through the whole game, and once I figured it out, the combat quickly became a bore. While it has a bit of fun in it, it wasn’t the diamond in the rough that made bearing the glaring issues easier.
Speaking of glaring issues, the structure of the game is super linear; inherently, this isn’t a problem, but the missions became repetitive slogs of running through the same looking Endron facilities, completing the same tasks, then leaving. This sort of sameyness could be excused in an open-world game; after all, every open-world game suffers from these issues; most of the tasks feel the same but when executed properly, freely exploring makes up for it. I think the game would’ve benefited from a more open approach, potentially a mechanic where you have to clear the map of Endron facilities the cleanse the land. Combine this with better stealth mechanics, and the game could’ve been a bit of fun, but instead, it drags on through uninteresting facility after uninteresting facility with no incentive to keep moving forward.
Graphics and Audio – A mixed bag
Unfortunately, things don’t pick up in this department. The game looks like a PS3 game, which really baffles me, considering one of their other franchises, Styx, looked better back in 2014 and 2017 than this game looks now in 2021. I understand budgets are tight, and the developers were probably short on time. Something that has become so much more apparent to me after reading Jason Schreier’s Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. Enemy and boss models look nice, and the two wolf forms look average too (unless you zoom in on the fur), but other NPC’s, like Ava, your techy companion, animate like they’ve been frozen in ice for the past 72 years. The animations in werewolf form are the standout here. Leaping around and slashing at your enemies has a decent flow to it.
There is only one thing that stood out to me in the audio department, and that is the battle music. When you become enraged and shift into your werewolf form, a heavy metal track accompanies you as you destroy your enemies, and it amplifies the experience immensely. Voice acting is a mixed bag. Cahal is voiced well, but other characters like Major Graner are voiced so poorly that it detracted from some of the bigger moments in the game.
I wasn’t expecting too much from a presentational standpoint, but as a package, it leaves a lot to be desired. At its best, the game looks just okay, but at its worse, it could pass as a game released on PS3.
Werewolf the Apocalypse – Earthblood was reviewed on PC, a code was provided by HomeRun PR.