Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood review: More bark than bite

Nacon /

Title: Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Publisher: Nacon
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed on), PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: February 4th, 2021

Translating a tabletop-RPG into an incredible video game isn’t always a guaranteed success, but expectations for Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood have been high since E3 2019, where it received a lot of initial praise and hype. Taking place within the Worlds of Darkness universe, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is the first game (not counting visual novels) in the Werewolf: The Apocalypse line to join other Worlds of Darkness properties like Vampire: The Masquerade and Hunter: The Reckoning.

However, the pitch-friendly idea of playing as a monstrous werewolf in a gorgeous 3D environment loses its appeal once you actually play Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, you realize that the game is, for better or worse, definitely a sum of all its parts, as many of those parts are average at best.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood was developed by Cyanide, a French game development studio that primarily develops the annual Pro Cycling Manager simulation games. However, Cyanide has also developed several non-simulation titles, including the positively-received stealth-based action title Styx: Master of Shadows and the less-positively received 2018 game Call of Cthulhu (itself also an adaptation of a tabletop RPG based on the supernatural literary works of H.P. Lovecraft).

The protagonist of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is Cahal, an eco-terrorist who looks like a lost extra from the set of Sons of Anarchy. The basic plot revolves around Cahal and his wolf pack, the Fianna tribe. The Fianna tribe are a pack of Irish werewolves that are protecting the Earth (or “Gaia”) against an evil corporation that is destroying the environment. Yes, you are playing as a werewolf… eco-terrorist. Not the most exciting hook, even though fracking is a real-world concern that at least makes the game’s setting feel very “modern.”

However, the plot does add more generic themes, like redemption and revenge, to the game’s story. Unfortunately, the overall story is dull and boring from start to finish, an embarrassing trait for any action RPG, especially one that has almost thirty years of lore to draw ideas and inspiration from.

The game’s soundtrack feels almost as generic as the art direction. It’s so unmemorable that I can’t even recall a single track from the game. Thankfully, its blandness means that the music isn’t so terrible that it hurts your ears. The worst audio offenses in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood comes courtesy of the atrocious voice acting.

Some of the NPCs sound OK, but the main characters, especially the protagonist, are plagued with some horrid voice-over work. The performances are dismal and lifeless, largely due to the actors delivering their lines with hardly any emotion outside of boredom. This makes the game feel more and more like a true budget title, negatively impacting the overall storytelling, which was already one of the game’s biggest flaws.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s environments look great at first, with some nice lighting and shadow effects that add life to almost every area. It’s too bad that the environments themselves don’t show much imagination, from a boring forest to an equally boring desert, with interior buildings throughout that all largely look the same. The graphic designers were either extremely lazy during development or had to work within a lot of limitations, but it doesn’t feel like much effort went into the game’s graphical development.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Nacon /

The environments certainly lack variety and imagination, but the character models and enemy art in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood are perhaps just as mediocre and uninspiring. The character designs are very generic and bland, with not even the main characters standing out from the background NPCs. Moreover, the eyes on every single character hardly ever appear to even move or blink, making the eyes look dead and soulless. It’s mostly noticeable during the cut-scenes, but there aren’t many acceptable excuses for not animating the eyes, something that is NOT a new concept in graphic design.

Elaborating more on Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s lazy art direction, the enemy designs are just as repetitive and lackluster as the main characters. About 80% of the enemies are just human guards that are dressed like basic security officers, military combatants, or robotic exoskeleton suits that were clearly inspired by Ripley’s suit at the end of Aliens. Later in the game, most of the enemies will begin to “mutate” into creatures that more than resemble the Las Plagas-infected villagers from Resident Evil 4, though they don’t look at all intimidating or interesting. There are only a few boss battles, which is one of the only times you get to fight other werewolves. Anyone expecting other supernatural creatures, especially vampires, will be disappointed, as even the final boss isn’t original enough to make it worth describing.

Speaking more on the enemies in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, almost every room and/or area has many “spawn points” that summons a new wave of enemies once the current wave is eliminated. This gimmick reminded me of the classic arcade game Gauntlet, an action RPG that also utilized enemy spawn points as a gameplay gimmick. However, the spawn points can only be “sabotaged,” which damages new enemies that spawn at that specific door. The doors themselves are indestructible, which means that the only way to advance past any engaged enemy is to kill them all, every single wave. As one can imagine, this quickly became a tedious chore, since the combat gameplay feels just like an average button-mashing hack-and-slash.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Nacon /

In Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, there are three forms that Cahal can morph into: human, wolf, and werewolf. The werewolf form is only available during combat, but the human and wolf forms can be switched between each other at almost any time. Both the human and wolf forms are used mainly for movement, item and dialogue interactions, and stealth. As a human, Cahal can also use crossbow bolts to silently take out enemies or cameras. As a wolf, Cahal moves much quicker, can travel through vents, and is often more difficult to spot by enemy A.I. The controls for the human and wolf forms feel OK and responsive for the most part, but the werewolf’s combat controls are not as intuitive and fun as they should be.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood utilizes a standard control scheme that most 3D action games utilize. This works fine in human and wolf forms, but the game’s combat controls aren’t at all fluent or satisfying, resulting in mostly button-mashing your way to success. The combo system is very limited, with only scarcely a few actual combos to input. While games like Batman: Arkham City and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt set standards with their excellent combat controls years ago, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood feels more like an old-school action arcade beat’em up, rather than meeting the basic standards for action RPG controls.

The werewolf form uses two different stances: a quick stance that utilizes speed and weaker attacks, and an aggressive stance that trades in quickness for slower, more powerful attacks. However, once you unlock the quick-dodge ability for the aggressive stance, the quick stance immediately becomes obsolete, since it allows players in the aggressive stance the ability to dodge attacks at nearly the same speed as the quick stance. In addition, players have a “rage meter,” that, when built up, allows them to trigger the werewolf’s “frenzy” mode, giving the werewolf form the strongest attacks in the game for a limited time.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
Nacon /

An annoying aspect for me, however, was the game always defaulting back to the speed stance after the frenzy meter expires. This is such a simple and easily programmable input, yet it sadly offers more possible evidence that Cyanide didn’t really playtest the game long enough.

The 3D camera in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood can also become problematic at times, often swinging around randomly during combat, which can sometimes change the control’s orientations. This unfortunate issue leads to enemies getting in unfair shots, disorientation, and possibly falling to your death later in the game.

The Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood combat controls certainly need more improvement, but the game’s greatest strength is, surprisingly, found in its strong stealth elements. At first, I found the stealth gameplay to feel a bit out-of-place, probably due to my expectations that the game centered on werewolves would mainly focus on combat. Switching between human and wolf forms is a quick and easy button press, although only “human” Cahal can technically execute silent takedowns, automatically switching over to human form every single time a takedown is executed. The stealth elements aren’t necessarily incredible, but they are easily the best features found in the game.

As good as the stealth gameplay is in some areas, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood fails at other crucial stealth elements, especially ones that have become standards since the 90s. For example, once an enemy fully spots you or a fallen comrade, all enemies in the area become alerted to your presence. That’s mostly standard, but unlike many modern stealth games, these enemies never go back to normal, regardless of how much time passes. I once hid in a vent for ten minutes, just to see if they ever would return to normal alertness, but they never did. That itself isn’t a big issue, especially since the game is so linear that the option to use stealth, while fun, isn’t usually the best option to proceed.

Another blatant problem with the stealth gameplay is being unable to move and/or hide bodies. Cahal isn’t a frail human, so why can’t he even drag a body somewhere, or why isn’t he able to hide any bodies? Metal Gear Solid perfected this formula back in 1998, so Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, a 2021 game that utilizes stealth gameplay, has no feasible excuse to be missing this element.

By the time I finished Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s relatively short twelve-hour campaign, I sadly realized that most rooms are designed to force you into combat, making the most enjoyable gameplay aspect, the stealth, just a meaningless option that doesn’t save time. In other words, it almost feels that Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood development team sabotaged their own game, adding in so many things that detracted from the strong stealth gameplay in favor of a very mediocre 3D action game.

Speaking of the campaign, that’s exactly what Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s entire plot: a single, overall quest that just keeps changing objectives. There are no actual side quests, and the linear environments further establish that Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is every bit as far away from being an actual RPG as possible, as it’s more appropriate to be labeled an action-adventure game similar to Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, although that game is superior in about every way. The only time the player is given any semblance of an actual “choice” is AFTER the final boss battle, which appears to let the player choose an actual path that impacts the ending.

Frustratingly enough, one of the game’s biggest missteps is Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s archaic save system. The game auto-saves at predetermined checkpoints, which itself isn’t an issue, but there is no option to manually save the game at any point in the game. A game with no manual save feature feels just like a terrible mistake, especially for an action RPG in 2021.

To further add to that, the game also doesn’t allow you to select from previous checkpoint saves, only reloading the latest registered checkpoint. Because of this outdated system, I was only able to see one of the endings, as I wasn’t prepared to put myself through the same campaign over again, especially one that was so dull and boring the first time.

In terms of being a “next-gen” title, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood looks and plays like something seen at the launch of the previous console generation. The only noticeable “next-gen” feature is the game’s extremely quick loading times. Loading screens are very uncommon, and every load only takes a few short seconds. However, that’s probably more credit to Microsoft’s development on the Xbox Series X, which leads me to shudder when thinking about how the last-gen versions perform in comparison.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is a game that initially had so much promise. A sequel to the classic Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is slated to arrive on consoles later this year, and the excellent Hunter: The Reckoning from 2002 gave me high hopes that Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood could be a fun diversion. However, the game falls short in so many important areas, making my overall playthrough feel tedious, slow, and boring.

As of this writing, there have been no announced plans for any additional DLC content for Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, but hopefully Cyanide will implement some patches to make the game more enjoyable. There may be possibly more than two endings, but considering how dull, linear, and mediocre this game is, the replay value is nearly non-existent.

Bottom line, Worlds of Darkness fans needing something to tide them over until Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2’s release should look elsewhere. Thankfully, a separate studio is developing that title, but anyone expecting even just a passable action RPG from Cyanide’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood will be extremely disappointed. At the very least, interested gamers should wait until this game inevitably ends up in a bargain bin, and based on this game’s overall quality, it shouldn’t take long for that to happen.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood. 5.5. Although there are some surprisingly strong stealth elements in the gameplay, <em>Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood’s</em> mediocre combat, dull characters, and boring plot makes this experience an average one at best.. Cyanide.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.