I wasn’t sure what to expect when Werewolf: The Apocalypse first came across my desk. I’m aware of the White Wolf brand, mostly because Hunter: The Reckoning was my jam way back when. But I don't actually know much about it. I do know it’s a tabletop series originally, and I do know how pen and paper RPGs work.
And I’ll be honest - playing Earthblood wasn’t great. But in terms of the source material, the team nailed that vibe. Tabletop RPG games are all about the lore. There’s the lore the players themselves come up with via their adventures, and there’s the lore powering the world and mechanics they play in.
Earthblood is more of an action game than a full-on RPG, like its Vampire: The Masquerade siblings. So all that juice is in the lore. It’s reasonable to expect most players to be unfamiliar, so Earthblood’s biggest challenge is onboarding.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood Nails the Tabletop Vibe
For what it is, Earthblood does an excellent job. I’m never a fan of handholding, especially when a lot of Proper Nouns are involved. There’s plenty of the latter here, but a refreshing lack of the former. Earthblood has decades of fiction behind it, and you’re dropped right in.
That doesn’t mean we’re talking in media res here, though. There’s a self-contained story happening, and you’re following a specific character’s story. But what’s important here is that Earthblood uses its plot as a tour bus through the Werewolf lore.
There are concepts in the Proper Noun space, such as The Wyld, and huge supernatural beings such as Yfen, that aren’t explained so much as introduced. You come to the form and functions of the lore organically through the more grounded story about a dude seeking revenge and redemption after his wife gets fridged. Videogames.
Obviously there are resources like in-game explanations via menus and outside research you can easily do, but you don’t need that stuff to understand. It’s a lot like how everyone at the table doesn’t need to be masters of Dungeons and Dragons lore to enjoy a game session. Even the person running the game doesn’t!
From the different werewolf tribes, to the nakedly evil corporation (Endron? Uh-huh) and the cosmic forces governing this world, there’s a lot happening underneath the hood. Meanwhile, as Cahal you’re generally trying to sneak around corporate facilities and tearing grunts to shreds when you inevitably fail.
It’s an effective balance in terms of storytelling. But unfortunately I doubt we’ll be hearing much more about Earthblood in particular. As many reviews have already noted, there are problems here that make Earthblood stumble upon landing. Cahal’s VO is totally void of tone, addressing anything that happens in the same monotone cadence regardless of how intense it’s supposed to be.
The combat is either extremely rote (stealth fueled by mazes of knee-high guardrails), or too slapdash to function as a solid character action game. There’s an audience for sure, especially if you aren’t expecting an AAA blockbuster.
Related: Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood Game Trailer Takes the Pen-and-Paper RPG and Brings It To Life
Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood looks, sounds and feels like a PC game from the early aughts. But it runs at high resolution with a silky-smooth frame rate due to its next-gen console exclusivity.
And you know what? Tabletop RPG games often give off that sort of vibe too. It’s corny, low on big budget affect, but full of imagination and earnestness. So really, mission accomplished.