Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood Review
Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood tackles the hefty task of turning a beloved, story-heavy tabletop RPG in the World of Darkness universe into a fast-paced action RPG. Unfortunately, it misses the tackle target, races off in entirely the opposite direction, then trips on a tree root and lands in a mud puddle. Not only is it missing what makes Werewolf special for fans, but there’s not enough on offer for action RPG or stealth fans either.
Earthblood opens with a brief glimpse into the broader Werewolf universe and the endless fight against the Wyrm, the spirit of destruction, then parts with the source material immediately after. Earthblood takes the complex Werewolf world and streamlines it: one tribe, one fight against an anti-environment corporation, and (mostly) one wolf.
It’s a good idea in theory. Avoid complex stories so newcomers feel welcome and enjoy the experience. The problem is Earthblood drops tidbits of the broader world in conversations with NPCs and the innumerable Naughty Dog-esque documents littering the world without exploring any of it. The shallow treatment makes it frustrating for players who already know the world — and know what’s being left out — yet pointless for those who don’t.
Cyanide tries adding a personal layer to the esoteric struggle through Cahal, Earthblood’s protagonist. Following a double dose of tragedy in the fight against the Endron corporation, the angry, bald, white werewolf leaves his family and tribe behind and returns years later to keep fighting Endron, only with more werewolf angst this time.
A good boy
Earthblood wants you to care about Cahal and his tribe, but dodgy writing and no development turn Earthblood into one big, hairy cliche and a far cry from 2020’s Werewolf: Heart of the Forest.
There’s some inescapable ludonarrative dissonance in all this as well. The Wyrm feeds on destruction, we’re told. Yet Cahal makes killing everything his goal, justifying the death by saying Endron employees are about to sell themselves to the Wyrm and ripping their bodies open is actually giving them salvation. The lack of solid surrounding context means it comes across as a demented manifesto and makes feeling any attachment to Cahal even more difficult.
Choice rarely matters, especially when traversing Earthblood’s stale, samey environments.
Earthblood’s shallowness extends to the game’s key gimmick, switching between Cahal’s forms. It touts Homid (human) form Cahal as the form for stealth and interacting with technology, but it just means he presses buttons to unlock doors and uses a crossbow. Wolf Cahal can find paths human Cahal can’t, which translates to squeezing through air vents and… squeezing through more air vents.
Does this taste right to you?
Form choice rarely matters when traversing Earthblood’s stale, samey environments, even where stealth is concerned. Stage design is painfully linear, but even worse when they do try including choice. More than one situation saw me faced with the difficult decision of pushing a button to open a door or using Wolf Cahal to go through a vent and end up right next to that same door, but on the other side.
The stealth is, unfortunately, not much better. Add a dash of murder and a dollop of incredulity to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s infamous Hyrule Castle stealth events, and you’ll get a good idea of Earthblood’s sneakier side.
Guards line each facility in patterns highly conducive for picking them off individually, and the ideal path you should take to remain unseen might as well be marked in neon.
Not much resistance
Not that carefully choosing the right path matters in Earthblood. Cahal can snap someone’s neck and drag their body away less than a foot from another guard, and they’ll never notice because their gaze is about 15 degrees in the other direction. He can even run across an open area with guards facing his direction without getting spotted, and I’m pretty sure it’s not down to special werewolf magic.
Every element would benefit from more time and polish.
However, you can trigger Cahal’s combat form, Crinos, and bypass most stealth situations if his rage meter is full enough. While Cyanide describes Earthblood an action RPG, calling it a werewolf-themed musou might be a better fit. Cahal gets three attacks, normal, strong, and jump, plus a dodge, some additional skills unlocked through a very small skill tree, and a strong form. There’s also Rage, which combines his speed and strong forms.
A medium dog
Like musou games, though, you don’t have to focus much on what’s going on or even plan your moves. Normal attacks deal with almost every foe, and you have ample time to dodge the health-halving silver bullets. Endron mechs called Exos shake things up a bit, but they’re too predictable to make Earthblood’s combat interesting.
Most of Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood feels like a game entering early access, and every element would benefit from more time and more polish. Too shallow for World of Darkness fans, too simple for ARPG aficionados, and too much tedious exploration filler for button mashers, it’s hard to recommend this one, especially for the asking price.