Werewolves are rad. Despite how rad they are, there doesn't seem to be a lot of good werewolves in video games. Thankfully, World of Darkness has an entire spin-off devoted to werewolves. Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is set in this world, and is the second Werewolf: The Apocalypse game to release in a short time frame. Is this a chance for werewolves to finally get the cool action game they deserve, or should you find some other monster to slobber over?
You play as Cahal, a werewolf ecoterrorist who's currently doing battle with an energy company called Endron. In the game's intro, a raid on Endron goes wrong, leading to Cahal's wife being killed and Cahal giving in to his rage and accidentally killing his best friend. Exiling himself from his pack, he returns five years later when he finds out Endron is still after them and his daughter is in the company's sights. Along the way, he must stop a mysterious project known as the Earthblood Protocol, deal with werewolf rivalries, and maybe just save the world.
While the basic concept is fine, Earthblood's plot is only noteworthy in how bland it is. Cahal is barely a character, with no personality and little to no driving force behind him. The supporting cast isn't any better, almost all of whom show up just to vaguely advance the plot with nothing resembling a character in sight. Even worse, the game gets caught up in some really strange ruts. There's an entire hour-long segment where people keep dropping the exact phrase "pump action rifle with holographic sights" and I'm not sure why. It becomes really noticeable when several characters say those exact words in that exact order, back to back.
It should be noted that Earthblood is, of course, a World of Darkness game. I have very little knowledge of said world, and the game dropped quite a few terms on me without explanation. Terms like Black Spiral Dancer, Red Talon, Weather Stormers, Caern, Fianna, and more are dumped with 0 contexts. Thankfully I could get by without knowing a lot of it. In fact, it may be better that way. As I was playing the game, I was shooting snippets of the plot to a friend of mine who is both a World of Darkness fan and happened to be currently playing in a Werewolf game. The result? He continued to get more upset at how poorly it fits with established lore. I also think we're not friends anymore.
Some of this could be forgiven if it's just fun being a werewolf and smashing things. For a little bit, it actually is. Generally, levels have you moving from room to room, needing to throw switches to open doors. There isn't much variety in the 8 or so hours it took me to finish Earthblood. Of course, there is at least plenty of enemies to kill. You generally have two ways to deal with enemies: stealth, or combat.
Almost all rooms with enemies start in the stealth phase. While in stealth, you can freely swap between your human and wolf form, both of which provide different advantages. The human can interact with objects in the environment, like sabotaging entrance doors so enemies enter arenas at half health, and has a crossbow for stealth kills or shooting out cameras. On the other hand, the wolf can sneak through small passages and bark to attract the attention of enemies. Using this combination of skills you can try and sneak around.
I say try because stealth in Earthblood just feels wonky at best. Enemy AI is pretty much brain dead, and soon I found it was hilariously easy to run circles around them. Until it suddenly isn't because the enemies will see you through a wall or some other nonsense. At one point I discovered the secret was to stand in the doorway and keep barking, as enemies couldn't pass through doorways but would walk right up next to them, letting you perform a series of stealth takedowns while the next victim just awkwardly lines up.
Here's the truth: stealth is boring. Thankfully Earthblood never requires it. Instead, it has a handy button that doesn't do anything other than make the main character scream real loud and turn into a werewolf, instantly starting a combat encounter. Unfortunately, it placed that button next to the "umbra vision" button that highlights all the enemies and interactable objects. So, on more than one occasion, I started a combat encounter when I was actually trying to stealth. Oops.
Combat in Earthblood is pretty simple. The werewolf has both light and heavy attacks that it can combo and two different stances that focus on either mobility or strength. As you smack enemies around, you gain rage, and each stance can spend rage to heal or use one of three abilities unique to that stance. You also gain frenzy and, when you fill that bar up, you can unleash it and enter a special third stance for a limited time that combines the speed and power of the other two. Using these abilities, you'll smash your way through various enemies.
As I was playing the game, I was shooting snippets of the plot to a friend of mine who is both a World of Darkness fan and happened to be currently playing in a Werewolf game. The result? He continued to get more upset at how poorly it fits with established lore. I also think we're not friends anymore.
At first, this even feels pretty good. There's a nice weighty feel to your attacks, and many of them cause enemies to go flying. Much of each combat environment is destructible, and when you swipe and hit both regular enemies and splinter a bench into a bunch of pieces of wood, it's just joyful. Then, about 30 minutes in, you hit a problem. You've seen it all, and there's still a lot of game left. What's fun for the first few fights is dull by the fifth hundred.
The only real twist the game ever sees comes in the form of Fomori. Introduced about halfway through the game, Fomori are enemies that, when killed, come back to life, often with gruesome modifications that let them fight in new and unique ways. Much like most gameplay elements in Earthblood, it's okay the first time, and a few fights later you realize quite literally every single enemy in the game is now a Fomori. The end result is that you now have every fight in the game taking twice as long, as enemies get back up from the dead so you have to kill them a second time.
Occasionally there's a boss fight. The game has somewhere around eight bosses. Of these eight, six of them are other werewolves and basically feel like reskins of each other, and of the other two, one of them is just a normal enemy with a big health bar. To say the least, it's disappointing and feels like another cut corner. In fact, that's what a lot of Earthblood ends up feeling like: cut corners and ideas never really brought to their full potential.
A great example: there's a hub world. There is also nothing at all to do in this hub world, outside of a single side quest that, upon completion, gave me a trophy for finishing all side quests. There's a dialogue system, but the choices you make never matter. There are "oral confrontations" where you have an argument with someone and, if you lose too badly, you risk turning into a werewolf and being forced to kill them. But you can win or lose every oral confrontation in the game and nothing changes other than a single fight.
While Earthblood does have an XP system for skill trees, you don't earn it through combat. Instead you can only earn XP from set story points and finding collectibles, which is another bizarre choice in the many that are here.
It doesn't help that I ran into several glitches in Earthblood. On a few separate occasions, a fight ended but the main character refused to shift out of the werewolf form, meaning I was forever trapped in combat. Other times combat would start before I entered an arena, and I would be locked out of a room. One ability, which knocked enemies in the air and away from me, kept phasing them through walls and out of my ability to kill, which is a real shame. All of these glitches led to the same thing: me having to reload a checkpoint. At the very least, checkpoints were common enough that I didn't lose much.
Perhaps worst of all, the entire game is set to what can best be described as generic butt rock. The title track is almost comical, and the rest of the soundtrack is just forgettable. There's one exception, an actually rather fantastic final boss theme, but everything else is just bland and bad. It doesn't help that Earthblood looks dated as well, with stiff facial animations, awkward scenes, bad voice acting, and all-around technically unimpressive graphics. At least the werewolf itself is A++ pretty fantastic and I could stare at him all day.
While the titular werewolf is hot, the rest of Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is not. An extremely repetitive game with very little going for it, Earthblood is probably the first major disappointment I'm getting out of this year. The only silver lining (silver kills werewolves, get it?) here is that we seem to be getting plenty of World of Darkness content, so hopefully, a better Werewolf game is on the way.
TechRaptor reviewed Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- The Werewolf is Hot
- Combat Feels Ok for About an Hour
- Pretty Rad Final Boss Theme
- Bland Story
- Super Reptitive Combat
- Wonky Stealth
- Weird Mechanics that Don't Go Anywhere or Do Anything
- Terrible Butt Rock Soundtrack