Looking for a fangtastic adventure that isn’t quite Vampire: The Masquerade? Publisher Nacon and developer Cyanide just launched Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood today on PC. Based the pen and paper Werewolf: The Apocalypse franchise, this new jaunt into the World of Darkness universe follows on from the recent Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest and arrives not too long before we hope to see the upcoming Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. This, however, is not likely to be like either of the aforementioned adventures. Following the paw prints of Cahal, a lost and found werewolf warrior, Earthblood pits this powerful Garou against an evil earthbound corporation in what might initially seem like a simple blood-soaked eco rampage.
If you have already taken the time to indulge in the teaser trailers for Earthblood, then you’ll be fully aware that combat is at the core of this adventure. As players take control of Cahal, a range of environments are available to claw through and move through a series of linear hub style environments. Subtlety isn’t always our protagonist’s aim here and Cahal can transform into a terrifying werewolf to tear through any resistance that awaits. The Endron megacorporation that provides plenty of nameless lackeys for Cahal to dispatch in a whirlwind of claws malice. Transforming into the monstrous Crinos form, a traditional werewolf, provides some basic light and heavy attacks, a range of special moves, and heals early on. There’s a lot to take in early on and while hack and slash combat is engaging, what makes Cahal’s most ferocious form interesting is the supporting combat mechanics.
Combat stances allow players to swap out an agile or heavy combat mode, largely influencing the amount of movement speed and melee damage on offer to players. These stances synergise well with a range of useful progression points that unlock by collecting Spirit Points dotted around levels. A total of 32 progression perks cover everything from healing mid combat to enhanced stealth systems and do a good job of supporting these fundamentally polar play styles.
That’s not the only surprise that Cahal has in store for weapon wielding employees of Endron either. Cornered by anything particularly problematic, this now savage beast can unlock a rage bar to boost combat ability and utterly eviscerate everything in its way. While many beat ‘em ups and RPGs simply fill their own ultimate bars for inflicting combos, Cahal’s own emotional rage meter is influenced in several ways, from his reaction to in game events, by swigging booze, or even silently taking down Endron soldiers.
The result is a combat system that feels solid and visually channels the frenzy of an angry Garou into a cathartic button basher. The level of threat encountered from the off is never particularly high but plenty of inventive choices mean that you’ll stay engaged in the lead up to an encounter and while many of the same troublesome corporate salarymen appear repeatedly the option to grab hold of and eviscerate vulnerable guards takes a long time to stick in the throat.
Fighting your way through each Endron installation isn’t the only avenue for Cahal and Earthblood attempts to add an element of Stealth to proceedings. While crawling through outposts, refineries, and more Cahal can stay in his human form. Entering a location with combatants forcibly puts Cahal in a crouching position before playing some exposition and implying it’s time to go full Deus Ex on these corpos. This also proves to be a fitting stage for Cahal’s Lupus form. Morphing into a seemingly large wolf this third form offers up increased agility and movement speed across open ground while opening up areas of the map that are unavailable to larger incarnations. While this is a clear attempt by Cyanide to build in plenty of paths into an otherwise linear path, it doesn’t work.
The chaos of combat and the considered supporting systems might work while enraged, but stealth sections are not particularly satisfying. Cahal’s options when taking down opponents quietly are limited. In fact, all the eco warrior can do is to knock out opponents and scuttle off leaving plenty of evidence on show. Like clockwork, enemies will find the bodies or spot you crouching off behind a crate making it rare that the last remaining guards in any room won’t set off an alarm and call in re-enforcements. Even if you manage to hide from sight successfully, NPC AI has a particularly long memory and you’ll end up having to engage in combat either way. Couple this with bugs that saw AI trigger of their own accord and even ignore gravity when pursuing Cahal and this makes a system that should be a welcome change to bookend combat into a long winded, repetitive, and largely pointless affair.
This problematic stealth system would not be quiet so egregious but it is compounded by hugely repetitive tasks and light touch systems. Hacking computer terminals, for example, are simply a case of reaching the target and pressing a button and feel devoid of any real skill. Given more time I’m sure Cyanide could have concocted deeper and more engaging ideas. But as it is, outside of the visceral combat and engaging character interaction, taking on Endron is something of a homogenized slog.
Earthblood isn’t just a linear hack and slash and certainly has a littl e more to bite into. taking its cue from the rich history that World of Darkness is steeped in. Just like Heart of the Forest, Earthblod manages to draw from the existing lore that has built up since the pen and paper Werewolf: The Apocolypse landed on store shelves back in 1992. Appearances from celestial entities such as the Wyrm firmly root this battle for mother earth in the Werewolves’ world and set it apart from generic tales of gods and monsters. Unique flashes of the fantastic source material are displayed when dealing with the more mystical side of Earthblood’s lore. The design of Cahal’s Lupus form and the forest spirits are an early highlight that just stand out as the type of design that works to draw players into the more unusual side of Earthblood.
Playing on these established tropes for Werewolf players, Earthblood’s seemingly simple clash of worlds is something of a hit and miss. Plenty of large ideas about eco terrorism, prejudice, pollution, and a wealth of designs that Werewolf: The Apocalypse fans will be very familiar with are open for exploration, yet very fleetingly touched on. This contrasts with some solid character dialogue and fantastic voice acting and yet somehow Earthblood still manages to undermine that. Unpredictable movement and some awful character models manage to ruin more intimate moments in Earthblood. There’s nothing worse than listening to a believable performance while watching a crooked character model flail out of time to the script.
Despite Earthblood’s roughshot ride over opportunities to explore the wider world of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, the focused exploration of this end of the World Of Darkness manages to deliver a bloody good time when combat gets going. It’s just a shame that it’s let down by some repetitive stealth scenarios. The more interesting elements of this bark and bite do make it worth a visit if you want to get a flavor of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Think of Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood as a fantastic beginners guide to Werewolf: The Apocalypse, rather than a classic in the making. You can grab Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood via the Epic Games Store now.