Werewolf: The Apocalypse – The Heart of the Forest Review (Switch)
Release Date: January 7, 2021
File Size: 758MB
Publisher: Walkabout Games
Developer: Different Tales
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Werewolves: the classic monster that overstayed its welcome (along with vampires) nearly a decade ago when every movie, book, and video game featured the two supernatural creatures. Today, it feels as though it has become more of a rarity thanks to the zombie craze. And thankfully, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest is there for those looking to scratch that itch.
Werewolf: the Apocalypse is a visual novel role playing game, meaning that all gameplay revolves around the player making choices and based on what they choose, the story will unfold in different ways. There are three main stats that are tracked throughout the story that affect what choices you can make and what scenarios you will see: rage, willpower, and health. With rage, you can do and say more daring things, but your actions will have consequences, whether it’s with your relationships with other characters or the story spiraling out of control. Willpower allows for you to access more information and perform more difficult actions. Finally, your health acts as your health bar. If your willpower or health is completely depleted, your character will become impaired, making it harder to make choices (or in the case of health, they will probably die). Thankfully, you can regenerate health and willpower throughout the story. However, you will have to make choices on whether you want to learn something at a current moment, or save your willpower and health for later.
There are other stats that are tracked in the game as well, mainly revolving around the player’s personality. The character can be brave, inspiring, analytical, spiritual, cunning, or a blend of them. Along with those, you will meet other characters whose relationships can vary from unfriendly to loyal, depending on the choices you make. These relationship statuses do affect how people react towards you, which can come in handy if you’re looking to progress a certain way…but it can bite you in the butt, also.
This game does not have a manual save option, instead simply autosaving after each scene change. Keep this in mind if you are in the middle of a scenario, as exiting out will bring you back to the beginning of it. Each new scenario is marked by header text and a screen wipe that brings up new artwork, making it obvious when this change has occurred, though.
You play as Maia Boroditch as she travels to Białowieża, Poland in order to learn more about her family heritage and her connection to the Białowieża Forest. Separated from her father’s side of the family when she was young, Maia has no idea what her connection is outside of stories that her grandfather told her, and strange dreams that she has been having. As you go through the story, you will have the choice of trying to figure out what information you want to pursue.
The general story beats will remain the same with each playthrough. However, certain characters can appear or disappear from certain scenarios, certain scenes may or may not play out, and you can come across one of five main endings. The only downside with the narrative is that towards the end, things can progress at a pace that ends just when it feels like it’s starting to really pick up. Since there is no manual save option, there is no way for you to save during a key point in the story. So, if you want to experience everything that the game has to offer, you’ll have to play through the entire game multiple times. Given the short nature of each playthrough, however, this isn’t too much of a hassle, but do keep that in mind if you want to experience everything.
Since this is a text-based game, you will mostly be seeing text. There are accessible font options available, which can be toggled on and off at any point. The text is displayed on the left-hand side of the screen while any accompanying artwork is displayed on the right. The art is mainly photo-realistic, with color filters overlaying it to fit the tone of the scene. However, there are more abstract pieces that appear, mainly related to the dream and vision sequences that Maia encounters throughout the story.
There is very little music, with only a light ambience playing in the background. For the most part, the sound ebbs and flows, but in times of higher tension, the noise will pick up, adding to the adrenaline that a scene can bring. There is also occasional voice acting (mainly with groans and screams) as well, which brings a sense of realism to the scenes they are utilized in. Werewolf: the Apocalypse is a good example of “less is more,” using their sounds in a way that works well for the story. The UI for the game is nice overall, but the amount of space allowed for the journal and character sheets feels very small and scrolling can be awkward. Since this was originally made for PC, I am sure the screen allowance for those two forms are much wider. Paired with how small the text is, it can make reading a bit cumbersome.
Werewolf: the Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest is a short, yet enjoyable text-based adventure. With five different main endings, the player is able to make choices that shape Maia’s outcome as she takes her journey through Białowieża, Poland in order to learn more about herself, her family, and the forest. Going in with very little knowledge, things unfolded in a way that, while expected in retrospect, took me by surprise and kept me on the edge of my seat.
In typical visual novel fashion, playing in a calculated manner may not work out entirely how you’d expect, while throwing caution to the wind may bring you closer to your desired result. With playthroughs being relatively short, it is easy to jump right back in and try for another ending. The only downside is that since the main story will remain the same, you will come across repeated scenes with each subsequent playthrough. Regardless, for fans of the visual novel genre looking for something to scratch that werewolf horror itch, and also learn a little bit more about the Białowieża logging protests that occurred in Poland in 2016, this is definitely a game to pick up.