Cahal, the jacked-up protagonist of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood, channels his rage into a righteous crusade to save the environment—a show of eco-terrorism that will feel more than justified. Indeed, if the unsubtly named Endrom weren’t dangerous enough with its reckless oil drilling, it’s also injecting its biofuel—the titular Earthblood—into its employees, transforming them into demons. For good measure, the corporation fridges Cahal’s wife in the game’s prologue and later kidnaps his daughter.
That’d be enough to drive an ordinary man to violence, but Cahal is also a werewolf. Once he transforms into his two-legged, half-wolf Crinos form, and to the beat of a heavy metal soundtrack that’s as loud as his roar, he knocks foes and objects alike into oblivion in a blur of rushing, swiping ultraviolence. Earthblood, then, has the essential components to be a righteous, fast-paced action game. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that it undermines itself with cumbersome stealth mechanics, especially on higher difficulty levels.
Earthblood suffers from an identity crisis, one that doesn’t stem from the differences between Cahal’s human and four-legged Lupus forms, but from Paris-based developer Cyanide’s failure to give players more than one way to proceed through a level and never making that linearity feel particularly purposeful. There’s a level here, in which Cahal has to find a way to kill two prison inmates without being detected, that may have you wishing you were in the terrain of Hitman, where you can infiltrate a locale and assassinate your targets in a variety of ways.
Worse, your choices here aren’t freighted with moral urgency, which is disappointing given the game’s eco-terrorist themes. For example, whether you’re gathering information on a paramilitary training site or attempting to sabotage a dam, the only consequence of getting caught is that Cahal must activate his rage and murder every guard in the area before proceeding to the next area, with the next batch of patrollers you encounter none the wiser.
Perhaps the development of the stealth came at the expense of the combat, or vice versa, but the result is a game where almost every encounter feels like an unthinking chore. Either Cahal is surrounded by spongy foes who can consistently interrupt his attacks and dodges, killing him rather quickly, or, if he gets a little bit of breathing room, he’s unleashing skill after skill, decimating everything around him. No room has been made here by Cyanide to discourage players from adopting such a violent, head-on approach, or punishing them for it.
As for the stealth sequences, they’re even more agonizing. The only gadget that Cahal gets is a crossbow that he can’t seem to aim correctly, resulting in area after area of you doing the exact same routine: waiting behind a fence until a guard comes close enough for you to instantly kill him, hoping all the while that your takedown doesn’t give away your position. Earthblood does inadvertently nail the way in which rage triggers combat—that is, the game’s sloppily designed stealth is bound to lead frustrated players to just brute-force their way through the campaign.
The strongest part of Earthblood is its lore, which is pulled from the tabletop role-playing series The World of Darkness that includes both Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Vampire: The Masquerade. Cyanide has done a compelling job of lacing the war between a triune of spiritual forces—the Wyld, Wyrm, and Weaver—with ecological concerns. Advancing the cause of the Wyld are the werewolves, who help their Guardian Spirits protect nature from those who would pollute it, while corporations like Endron act as proxies for the Wyrm as they seek to destroy the planet, and humans sit in the middle like the Weaver, playing both sides.
For how rooted it is in real-life ecological concerns, this lore feels purposeful, even as the story becomes increasingly cliché. Earthblood also offers glimpses of the better, richer game that could have been in between missions, when Cahal is free to roam through portions of Washington State Forest and the Nevada desert, chatting up his clanmates, human collaborators, and various lesser spirits. It’s here that he can find objectives on his own by using his Penumbral Vision and starts to move with agency—a sense of freedom that’s washed away in blood whenever you’re handed yet another checklist of tasks to complete and sent down yet another identical-looking corridor leading to by-now repetitious combat.
The game was reviewed using a code provided by HomeRun PR.
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