May 23, 2022

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood – PC Review

Following the success of Cthulhu, Cyanide release their hotly anticipated next game, Werewolf Apocalypse Earthblood. Let’s review.

werewolf

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood (henceforth Werewolf if you don’t mind) is the latest game from excellent Parisian developers Cyanide Studio. Cyanide are hardly new to the scene, but following 2018’s exceptional Lovecraftian misadventure, Call of Cthulhu, expectations for the studio’s next release have been high. Cthulhu gained critical acclaim at the time across the board, with a rich story steeped in intrigue, a subtle trip out of sanity with lead character slowly piecing together an ancient story, while simultaneously losing his mind. Werewolf, it’s fair to say, is an entirely different beast.

Cyanide pitch the title as a pulse-heightening action adventure with RPG elements, a far cry from the subtle detective work of Cthulhu. It tells the tale of ostracised and pack-less Cahal, and his “ruthless struggle to save mother earth”. Well, it tries to, anyway, but we’ll get to that. What is certainly true is that Cyanide have dialled up the action to 11 from Cthulhu’s few, forgettable entangles, and this new direction is not at all unwelcome.  

But, lest we forget to mention, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Werewolf Apocalypse; Earthblood through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was evaluated on PC, with a Radeon RTX 590, 8GB Ram, and a AMD Ryzen 5 3600 chipset. For full transparency this review was made using a provided copy.

Graphical Fidelity

It’s fair to say that Werewolf is a decent looking game. But to be completely upfront, if you’re looking for the next Red Dead 2, then you’d better keep walking, partner. If asked, I’d reckon Cyanide would peg Mo Cap as a Simpson’s character. But then again, what on earth were you expecting? This is not a triple A game, although there are aspects to the gameplay that could give some recent Triple As a thing or two to think about. So that said, let us together reposition the bar at an appropriate height.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
Mech suited enemies, found later in the game certain ratchet up the difficulty

The core characters to the story, namely Cahal and his werewolf brethren look pretty sharp. Granted the facial animations won’t win any awards, but the textures, hair and movement are in the most on point. The environments, whilst a little bereft of complexity and at times individuality glisten and sparkle under the watchful gaze of the Unreal Engine. Almost too much at times. I spent an unnecessary amount of time admiring the shine on floors that given that context had no business sparkling with such wanton abandon. Full marks to the prison senatorial staff of Nevada, it’s honest work at least.

Not for the single beat of a bee’s wing did the frame rate drop below 60fps. That’s on a rig with no business running a newly released game on Ultra in 2021. There was no screen tearing that I could discern, and no other graphical glitches that have seemed to plague many more salubrious studios in recent years (or months, you know who you are). Action sequences are smooth, transitions between Cahal’s various states seamless, and really, once you’re in the thick of it, that’s more than you could ask for. Solid, if not ground-breaking work.

Characters and Story

In the words of the developer,

“You are Cahal, a powerful Garou who chose to go into exile after losing control of his destructive rage. You can transform into a wolf and a Crinos, a huge ferocious beast.” Cyanide continues. The developer adds, “You must master the three forms and powers of human, wolf and Crinos to punish those who defile Gaia, Mother Earth. But your worst enemy is yourself: if you don’t contain your rage, it can destroy you once again…”.

Let me break this down a little for you. You’re a badass biker-gang looking skin-head pissed at the money men fucking with Mother Nature. And you’re a werewolf. As backstories go, I’m just glad it’s not a post-apocalyptic zombie survival scenario. Cyanide had the good sense to put you in the middle of an apocalypse, rather than scavenging around for non-irradiated water after the event.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
Cahal pictured, clearly suffering from a bout of the ol’ kill everything rage

The opening sequence sees you pit against generic evil corporation “Endron”, on a pseudo-rescue mission to return your non-werewolf wife (how does that work? You think she occasionally asked for beast mode at sexy time?) from their inimitably dastardly clutches. Things don’t go as planned, naturally, and Cahal imposes self-exile, estranging himself from his caern (“pack”) and daughter in the process. A very whiny teenage daughter, I might add, who I for one would have thought twice about going back for.

I don’t know, it does the job. At the least it set up a few easy Greta Thunberg jokes in my play through (catch all episodes on our YouTube channel from the 4th of Feb, BTW), and for that at least I am grateful. It’s a werewolf game, and revenge is on the menu. If you expected The Hound of The Baskervilles then, well you probably wouldn’t be reading this. Let’s move on.

Content and Length

Werewolf takes place over two main areas, which act as pseudo-hubs around which the two halves of the story unfold. The first, set amidst the wooded backdrop of “Tarkers Mill” is the home of Cahal’s original pack, or caern as the game would have you call it. It’s lush with forest flora and littered with allies form your canine protagonist’s previous life. Conveniently, it’s located within easy running distance of Endron’s base, when on four paws at least. From here you will foray into the fight at leisure, although once engaged the progression is fairly linear with few opportunities to return for the very few side missions on offer. And this is the dish of the day; it’s a semi-open world set around various hubs, if you will.

Finishing here will see your hirsute hero whisked away to prison for some fairly forgettable stealth action. Once complete, you’ll be hustled off to Nevada, where, surprise surprise, Cahal’s gang has set up yet another base-camp located, you guessed it, next to your next area of attack. This makes up the bulk of the second half of the game, and introduces a number of new NPCs, and arguably the best, or at least most innovative boss encounter of the game. I say innovative in the context of the game, and so tentatively. Spoiler alert, it’s a Zelda boss.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
Many of Endron’s complexes are situated conveniently close to the pack

The final leg puts you squarely up against Endron head honcho HQ, and that’s the game. All told it took me about 9 hours on medium difficulty. There is replay-ability for the purists out there, keen to hone their combos and rack up those perfect kills, but that’s about it. No collectables as such, at least that I could find. Whilst I did enjoy my play through, it’s a one time deal.

Controls and Gameplay

And here we come to the meat and potatoes of this game. Cahal is a werewolf. A throat ripping, gore gouging, arm severing were-fucking wolf, and I’ll bet this is for most the reason why this game will sell. And rightly so, but we’ll get to that. Before, let’s see how Cyanide pitch it.

“You can transform into a wolf and a Crinos, a huge ferocious beast. You must master the three forms and powers of human, wolf and Crinos to punish those who defile Gaia, Mother Earth… Each form has its advantages: the wolf can sneak around undetected, Cahal as a human can interact with other people, and the Werewolf can unleash its rage to tear enemies apart.”

It’s a great premise. Cahal can act as a human to navigate the technological mine-field of the human condition. Which pretty much includes opening doors and turning turrets off. He can also turn into a very good boy, aka a dog (ok a “wolf”, but he’s still a good boy). Ultimately he is a very sneaky boy, and allows the play navigation of vents which can add a layer of planning and tactics to a more stealth approach.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
A very good boy watches the world burn

In most, the human and wolf parts are….ugh forgettable. The stealth is ok, I guess, and the mechanics proceeding a fight can allow the patient player an edge on the inevitable battle ahead. The wolf really is just for going through vents and, as it happens useful for covering ground between various areas in game more quickly. And for being a very good boy. But here’s the crux. You won’t care a fig. Because Cahal, as the discerning reader may have come to understand, is a fucking werewolf, and this is where the game shines.

It works like this. You enter a closed combat arena, you shimmy around a take a couple of guards out stealthily. You might happen upon a room where a console allows the disablement of a turret, and the opening of a door to proceed. It’s likely you used a vent to get here. So you exit the room, laugh briefly at the patrolling AI walking over a dead body mutter “fuck it” under your breath and go full rage mode. You become the beast, and that’s where the fun starts.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
Above: Cahal will converse with his link to Gaia throughout the game

Once werewolf’d up, enemies are immediately aware of Cahal and will engage. Clear a certain number of enemies and a bullhorn will let you know that more are on the way, usually increasing in variety and number with each onslaught. Cahal the Beast dispenses with this fodder with relative ease, each successive hit building an arcady combo meter which pumps up your rage and ferocity until a certain point, where a flick of the d-pad sees you enter full fury mode. Enemies disintegrate in clouds of vaporised blood, the room is redecorated in red, none are left.

As I mentioned above, the combat is gloriously smooth, the hits connecting with real weight and the enemies themselves spike increasingly in difficulty as the game progresses. Cahal has two “stances” in werewolf mode; either agile which does less damage but improves mobility markedly, or “heavy” which is slower but does work. It’s no gimmick, either, with certain enemies responding very differently to each stance. Shielded enemies, for example, are all but immune to the agile stance, whilst more mobile enemies touting “silver” weapons that permanently reduce Cahal’s health for the length of the encounter are easily dispatched in either stance. It’s when Cyanide puts these enemies together, that a keen sense of which stance is best, and when will ultimately define your experience, and whether you have to play the section again.

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Nevada, pictured above, will provide your backdrop for the latter half of the game

There are a host of abilities to utilise, unique to each stance that can be upgraded throughout the game with “soul”, the in game currency. Again this adds variation to play style and some abilities in particular are all but invaluable, particularly in late game (the ability to heal silver damage, for a start).

In short, the action is where it is at. Whilst stealth and NPC interaction do something to break the game up, that’s all they do. A beige intermission to the satiating blood sport, let’s face it, we’re all here for.

Sound and Cinematics

Sound design in Werewolf is pretty good, in the battle sequences. The music changes, or starts really, and this driving metal overlay to the carnage kicks into 5th gear. Gun noise and audio cues in battle are a useful aid, and carry weight. Outside of combat dialogue and voice acting is a bit tongue in cheek, but does the job well enough.

Cut scenes all use in game graphics, or at least I hope they do. It’s rare that in game cinematics are graphically worse than the gameplay itself, but there are times when Werewolf achieves this unsort accolade. An early encounter with an entirely over-hyped antagonist fell flat, and had me somewhat embarrassed for the animator. It’s a shame on the whole, as the action sequences are fantastic. Still, I guess it needed a story, didn’t it? Hold “X” to skip.

Conclusion

So when it comes to the crunch, I had a lot of fun playing Werewolf Apocalypse Earthblood, despite the time invested not ripping limb from limb. But therein lies the rub; there is quite a bit of game that has you untransformed, impotently hobbling behind railings or skitting through vents in search of yet another console to deactivate. Or worse, interacting with other NPCs. It’s not that those sections are really bad, it’s just that compared to the action sections, it’s just a bit “meh”. It’s been done better before, significantly. Undoubtedly, if the Arkham series doesn’t spring to mind when playing Werewolf, then you’d better go spend some time with your backlog.

Werewolf The Apocalypse Earthblood
Some of the artwork that influenced the game is truly remarkable. It doesn’t always look like that in game sadly.

And speaking of the inimitable batman games, Werewolf borrows heavily from them. But Cyanides mistake, perhaps was not borrowing more. The fluidity to fights in the Arkham series would have translated so, so well in the combat sections. The multiplier too, could have been invested so much better. What about a “stage complete” screen, with a grading for a perfect clear, and scores for combos? The game seems so clearly to have advanced in the arcade hack n’ slash direction, only to halt progression at the last minute, frankly at the last moment favouring investment of scant developer time in aspects of the game that add nothing to the overall experience. Add a little sprinkle of area grading, a little dollop of level select and boom! Instant replay-ability.

That said, with all its flaws it’s unquestionably an enjoyable game, and a curious avenue for Cyanide to explore. It is an imperfect experience, with moments of pure, unbridled joy thrown in. A little revision of the formula, and this adventurous studio could be the next Rocksteady. Just not quite yet. A solid, if slightlighty underwhelming 7/10.

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Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood releases February 4th, 2021 for PC on the Epic store, on PS4 and PS5, and Xbox Series S/X. Price TBC.

What did you think of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood? Let us know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this content, why not check out our other reviews while you’re here?

Want some more? ABG’s Let’s Play is ready to watch!

In line with the release of Werewolf, we have a whole Let’s Play series tee’d up and ready to roll as soon as the game launches. You can check out Episode 1 at 12pm, 4th of Feb on Any Button Gaming’s YouTube channel. Enjoy!


Ambitious change of pace, falling just short of the mark
  • 7/10
    Score - 7/10
7/10

Summary

+ Fantastic action when in combat

+ Great looking game for a AA

+ Fast paced enough to keep the action flowing

– Human and wolf modes a little lackluster

– Areas feel a little uninteresting

– Quite repetitive 

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