Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood PS4 Review
Reject humanity. Embrace belly rubs.
Cyanide Studio’s action-RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood places you in the hirsute role of disgraced lycanthrope Cahal, who returns to his clan of eco-warrior werewolves five years after a personal tragedy drove him into exile. They’re taking the fight to Endron, a nefarious oil corporation working in allegiance with the Wyrm, a powerful and corrupting entity that utilises the worst of mankind as pawns in its ancient mission to destroy the natural world.
Werewolf does not make the greatest first impression. No, I’m not talking about the nu-metal soundtrack that dominates the main menu. That’s fine. I’m more alarmed about being immediately thrown into a roundtable discussion between a bunch of reheated Xbox 360-era character models, all leering at each other with haunted, dead-behind-the-eyes expressions, stiffly animated arm gesticulations and lip-synching that could generously be described as loose.
That jarring opening at least serves to introduce the dialogue wheel portion of Werewolf. Despite dressing like an employee of Lord Humungus, Cahal is quite happy to engage anyone in exchanges of flowery exposition about mystical mumbo jumbo. Though you can pick what to say, all options just offer a slightly different dialogue path to the same inevitable outcome, so don’t expect to be making any significant decisions (at least not until Cahal is presented with a melodramatic 11th hour ultimatum).
When not jabbering away, Cahal is able to shift between two different beast forms, the first of which is a straight-up wolf. As the goodest boy, not only do you look absolutely adorable, but you can quickly bound across the game’s two moderately sized hub areas and squeeze into ventilation ducts used to sneak around the many (many) cut-and-paste Endron facilities polluting the landscape.
In all honesty, there’s not much to say about stealth in Werewolf beyond that it is perfectly functional. As a human, Cahal is armed only with his biceps and gaming’s most pathetic crossbow. It carries a maximum of five bolts and I cannot emphasise enough just how disappointing it feels to aim this thing at a soldier and watch them crumple like a mildly annoyed wet towel. It’s best used for taking out security cameras, but even those can be disconnected upon reaching the computer terminal required to unlock the exit door of pretty much every room.
So you’ll spend most of these completely optional stealth sections creeping up behind patrolling enemies as the wolf before changing back to human form and introducing their necks to the immense, crushing force of Cahal’s elbow pit. Maybe you’ll even ghost through the whole area and no one will know you were ever there. Or… you could turn into the eight-foot-tall bipedal werewolf and murder everything in sight. You know, if you think that sounds like a good time. Because it is.
Rip and Tear
This second form is called the Crinos. Upon unleashing it, the sweet sound of butt rock fills the air and large numbers of enemy reinforcements begin flooding the arena (emerging from clearly marked spawn points that can be nerfed ahead of time when stealthing about). Most of these guys don’t stand a chance. A single claw swipe from the Crinos can take out half a dozen lesser goons at once, and distant enemies can be leapt on from across the room, picked up and then thrown at their friends like a ravaged chew toy.
For a little while, playing as the Crinos is a hilarious power fantasy unlike anything I’ve experienced in quite some time. But it doesn’t take long for stronger and spongier enemy types to join the fight, at which point Werewolf starts to become just another hack ‘n’ slash. You’ll have to deal damage to build up your rage, which will then let you pull off a number of devastating special moves, all while switching between light and heavy attack stances depending on the toughness/agility of your designated foe. Standard stuff, certainly, but it remains mindlessly enjoyable throughout, with boss fights (usually against “bad” werewolves) providing the most hyperbolic of smackdowns.
Werewolf is based on the tabletop RPG of the same name (minus one subtitle), so in between all that rending of flesh you’ll be upgrading Cahal’s abilities via the obligatory skill tree menu (oh boy, here we go again). Cahal gains most of his XP by huffing the souls of pot plants and mushrooms, and I recommend funnelling the vast majority of it into unlocking new moves for the Crinos. There’s also the occasional side quest to undertake if you want some extra XP, but these are mostly of the “go to old place, kill new enemies” variety and probably aren’t worth the effort.
A Hairy Conclusion
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is a game out of time. It’s clumsy, kind of ugly and the loading times on PS4 are just the worst, but there’s an undeniable charm about it that I can’t shake. 10 to 15 years ago, its mix of high-concept enthusiasm and low-budget reality would have landed it in the same bargain bin where you’d find nonsense like Bullet Witch or Vampire Rain. It’s a potential cult classic and comes highly recommended to connoisseurs of only the finest schlock.
Review copy provided by the publisher.