Werewolves have to be one of the most under-utilized supernatural characters in video games. Other than Altered Beast, which is more of a wolf-man as opposed to a full werewolf, what other games come to mind that focus on these hulking beasts? Sabrewulf from Killer Instinct might be the only other noteworthy character. There are plenty of vampire-based titles and zombies are pretty much in every game but the werewolf hasn’t had much time to shine. Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood rectifies this by leaning into the strengths and visceral nature of this untapped potential.
You play as Cahal, a badass vest-wearing brute who is on a quest to stop a company, Endron, from sucking the life force from the Earth and giving into the Wyrm, a powerful being that is basically a mystical Satan-like figure. The narrative is the glue that links all the set pieces and expect drama like going into exile, betrayals, rage induced killings, kidnappings, and the like. The ending segment also gives the player a choice, each resulting in a different conclusion. Annoyingly, the game auto saves as you select one of the two options so you’ll need to replay the entire game if you want to see the alternative.
The entire campaign can be broken down into three repeating segments. First is the information collecting portion in which the player is free to roam the hub area, talking to NPCs, click on notepads to obtain some background detail, and look for hidden spirits that unlock skill points. Once the player learns the next objective and ventures into the place where the bad guys are, the human form of Cahal is all about stealth. Not as deep as Metal Gear Solid but closer in comparison to Splinter Cell or even Assassin’s Creed, human Cahal automatically hunches over to keep a low profile. Sneaking behind an enemy results in an easy stealth kill, gates can be sabotaged so the number of backup troops can be reduced, or ventilation ducts can be traversed to sneak into new areas. Equipped with a crossbow, security cameras can be shot or enemies can be sniped from a distance. Get spotted, however, and Cahal will transform into his Crinos form, a huge werewolf that lets his claws do the talking. There are two fighting styles available, light and heavy, but found the faster light approach to be the go-to since the heavy stance is much too slow as most battles involve crowd control as opposed to one-on-one. The third form, which is basically playing as a dog, doesn’t really serve a purpose and goes completely unutilized. Walking is faster in dog form but you cannot fight, use the crossbow, or even open doors; it is exclusively used for fitting through vent shafts.
Sneaking initially feels intense and satisfying. Clearing a room without being seen takes some thought even though the enemy can be mindlessly dumb. They won’t acknowledge their buddy suddenly disappearing and they conveniently stand in one position looking the opposite way, as if they are asking to be stealth killed. Almost every single room is laid out the same too. As you walk in, there is a waist high railing to hide your entrance followed by other conveniently placed boxes and objects.
Once the enemy spots you, Cahal transforms into his wolf form and the game basically becomes something that feels like a cross between Dynasty Warriors and Devil May Cry. You can button mash your way to victory as long as you occasionally dodge the brute’s mega attacks. Fighting as a werewolf is visceral and very gory. Once the battle is finished, the room is always covered in guts and blood and Cahal transforms back into his human form and continues to the next room where the cycle repeats. The camera also has a hard time keeping track of all the enemies and gets especially wonky when backed into a corner. Also like a Dynasty Warriors game, enemy types repeat, including one that looks exactly like Bane from the Dark Knight Rises movie, which also adds to the boring repetition. Eventually the enemies start turning to mutant Resident Evil zombies that look a lot like the Flood from the Halo games. Well, I guess gross mutants are better than pitting werewolves against vampires.
About halfway through the game, I stopped trying to be stealthy and just let the guards see me to start the battle sequence. Fighting is more fun than trying to sneak around and usually winds up being faster than picking off enemies one by one. It is also super cheesy that a giant werewolf can singlehandedly take out platoons of army men, then continue to the next room as if nothing happened. Can’t this next pack of guards hear the massacre taking place just feet away? I mean, there is a 12 foot werewolf mowing down enemies, wouldn’t they run in fear? So much doesn’t make any sense and makes the entire experience like a B movie, where it is so bad, cheesy, and trashy that you can’t help but continue.
If the odd combat doesn’t make you laugh for the wrong reasons the level placement will. For example, the game starts in the forest hub world and NPCs talk about how you need to take down this evil company. However, the enemy’s base is literally steps away, just outside the forest. We are talking a 20 second walk and the enemy’s compound is literally right in front of you. Imagine literally walking across the street from your house and there is your arch enemy that you need to take down. Why are they living so close but totally unaware of each other? How does the enemy not see a pack of wolves living feet within the forest? Again, nothing really makes sense, but I guess this is an action game after all.
Earthblood also features an odd juxtaposition of visual quality. The opening movie, for example, is gorgeous and gets you excited about this werewolf adventure. On the other hand, dialog segments with NPCs have characters awkwardly move in jumpy PS1-style keyframe animation. Assets also repeat throughout the entire game despite the environment. The dam level will contain the same walls, white truck without any texture or door handles, and green glowing air vents as the prison stage or the area in the desert. The voice acting is also hit and miss but the opening hard guitar rock music is pretty good. Loading screens are also long and boring and contain some crazy horrible pop-in as areas first boots. The text is also a little small and harder to read than it should be. New abilities can be unlocked but had an entire section untouched by the time I saw the credits so the balance is also skewed.
For every one step forward, there is one step back. Even though this is a flawed experience riddled with horribly generic gameplay troupes, I still found enough entertainment value to push through to the end. Like a train wreck, you can’t help but look and see where it ends.
Also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC (Epic Game Store).
Don’t Forget About: Altered Beast
Better Than: Blood of the Werewolf (Xbox 360)
Also Try: Rogue Ops (GC, PS2, and the original Xbox)