Ultimately, Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood is a mediocre experience all-round. The story is dull (with confusing bits of lore for the uninformed), characters are just as bland, combat is repetitive but fine. There's nothing about these aspects of the game that are fundamentally infuriating or terrible. If they were all that mattered, it would just be another B tier Action-RPG that you could play once, enjoy partially, and then forget about forever. However, in game where you're the monster and no-one is scared of you, it's hard to be invested in the idea that you have awesome powers, and Earthblood fails to truly deliver on it's core promise: making you feel like a werewolf.
I had really high hopes going in to Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood.
As I said in my preview, werewolves are just cool, simple as that, and it’s a crying shame that there are so few werewolf-themed video games. I thought Earthblood might be the silver bullet that put an end to the werewolf-game drought we’ve all been suffering through. But it’s just too lackluster on too many fronts to be anything more than a shaggy beat-em-up that’s only really enjoyable if you can switch your brain off.
Everything about this game is just… forgettable. There’s nothing of substance. Combat, story, characters, all of it is just… dull. In my preview, I said that if lycanthropy was enough of a hook for you, you might enjoy this game. Now that I’ve seen all this game has to offer, I’m not so sure.
You play as Cahal, a massive dude with a fearsome ‘tude, and a beard and tats to match. He’s a werewolf (or Garou) originally from the Fianna tribe who fights against the Wyrm, killing Fomori and Banes to protect Gaia. If you’re like me, you’ll only understand about 20% of that sentence.
Earthblood is based on a tabletop RPG set in the World Of Darkness universe, and thus has a rich lore to draw on for its story. Unfortunately, it does almost nothing to explain that lore to players, and so anyone who isn’t a World Of Darkness buff is going to have a hard time understanding the greater forces at work in this here, and the story suffers for it.
Anyway, Cahal is part of a community of werewolf and human eco-terrorists taking on Endron, a big, bad, corporation that’s destroying the planet. Missions generally involve you infiltrating an Endron base (a logging site, or an oil well or something similar), beating up the bad guys inside, and then disabling it in some way.
It’s pretty straightforward, and does little to really be interesting. The story simply moves from point to point, Endron base to Endron base, and the only reason things don’t drag is because the game is not incredibly long.
Earthblood seems to be trying to convey a sense of tension, a doomsday plot with character tragedies on the side, but I was never able to engage with this at a level deeper than surface because of how dry and dull the delivery is. A major reason for this is the characters.
To call Cahal’s performance wooden would be an insult to the emotional capacity of the trees he’s fighting to protect. He drones through every line in near-complete monotone, his mood barely shifts, even in the face of major character deaths, and when he does make the effort to feel a little blue or a tad grumpy it’s only for a split second.
Side character’s are as one note as a whistle, and do little more than fall into tropes while they’re on screen, and this makes them impossible to get attached to. This isn’t helped by the janky animations and character models that look like they were ripped out of a 2012 PS3 game.
In terms of the gameplay, things are pretty simple. You get two options: sneak around in your wolf form, Lupus, or tear everything to shreds in your werewolf form, Crinos. In my preview I mentioned that in the first few stages you didn’t actually have a choice, the game locked you into one or the other for story purposes. Fortunately, that falls away after your first two hours or so.
Combat is basic and just fine, but becomes inanely repetitive. You’ve got an agility stance and a damage-dealing stance in your Crinos form. Both have combo heavy and light attacks and up to four special moves that you unlock from a skill tree. Skill points are obtained by killing foes to gain experience points, or through finding “Spirit Points” that fill up the same bar. There’s also a “Frenzy” mode that powers you up for about half a minute.
That’s as deep as the game gets, and it quickly becomes tedious. A combat sequence has you wailing on a room of enemies that come in three or four flavours (standard minions, some bigger, tankier guys, every now and then a small mech, you get the picture). Some enemies have silver weapons that deal damage you can’t heal from, but that never made fights seem any harder, though it’s worth mentioning that I played the game on “normal” difficulty. Hard mode might have changed this. In each mission you can end up going through dozens of rooms fighting the same enemies the same way again and again, which really makes it a slog. Boss fights offer a change in pace, but they’re few and far between.
Additionally, combat lacks any sort of impact that would make it satisfying. You’ve got these massive claws that you’re swinging at a hundred miles an hour, but a lot of enemies are still able to load their shotguns or swing a baton while you’re hitting them with what looks like force enough to send them over the wall. Worse still, none of them are scared of you. This might seem silly to complain about but it’s an important part of feeling like a werewolf. I want to inspire terror in my enemies when, right in front of them, I transform into an 8 foot furry monster with claws as long a your forearm. Instead, they call for back up and immediately take aim at you. Kudos for their bravery, but it really hurts the immersion factor.
After the first two missions or so, I began to opt for stealth so as not to quickly become bored with the mash-fest that is combat. In your Lupus form, you can hide behind walls, crawl through vents, and sneakily take guards down without raising suspicions. It’s actually pretty fun. Levels are designed well for it. You’ve often got several different ways to get across a room undetected. Do I take my time knocking out every Endron drone so that I can scour the area for items and Spirit Points? Or do I bolt across the floor and up that staircase in the corner as quickly as possible so I can get to the next story beat? Like combat, it can get repetitive, but you’ve got some variety to spice it up with.
Unfortunately, sneaking around is a decent amount harder than walking in and smashing everything into a bloody mess from the word go, and getting through a level on stealth alone doesn’t net you any bonuses or rewards. So, really, your only incentive to opt for sneaking around is to give you a break from the potential tedium of combat. Yikes.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood The Verdict
Ultimately, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is a mediocre experience. The story is dull (with confusing bits of lore for the uninformed), characters are bland, combat is competent but repetitive.
There’s nothing about these aspects of the game that are fundamentally infuriating or terrible. If they were all that mattered, it would just be another B-Tier Action-RPG that you could play once, enjoy partially, and then forget about. However, in game where you’re the monster and no-one is scared of you, it’s hard to be invested in the idea that you have awesome powers.
Earthblood fails to truly deliver on it’s core promise: making you feel like a werewolf.