10/01/2021

๐Ÿบ๐ŸŒณ Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest | Review | Nintendo Switch | "A Punchy Visual Novel With Bite" ๐Ÿบ๐ŸŒณ @differenttales #GameDev #IndieGames

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My history with visual novels is somewhat patchy and mostly linked to stories of high school anime girls bickering in glacial stories that roll on for dozens of hours.

To be honest, my interest in them was renewed only last year with Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York which, whilst flawed, told an interesting tale in a breezy manner that was rich in lore without being bogged down by it.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest begins with your character, Maia, and her newfound friend Anya making their way by bus into a rural Polish village which is surrounded by a rich, ancient forest that Maia feels connected to, somehow.

Tension in the village is almost palpable due to loggers that have begun tearing down the forest which is having a catastrophic effect on those involved.

Now, given the title of the game, I was pretty certain of what Maia’s ‘connection’ would be to a dense, historic forest but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. The gameplay is in the form of making choices, following a prologue where you set the defining character traits of Maia (which state how many points you have of Rage, Willpower and Health), you then have to manage these as the loss of them – or in the case of rage, the maximising of it – means your character will not only be unable to make certain choices but will act impulsively, taking control of the character out of your hands and altering the path of the tale.

I’m unfamiliar with the history of Werewolf: The Apocalypse but the game does a good job of gently guiding you through some of the more specific parts of lore beyond the standard werewolf fare most of us are familiar with.

The story told within the game takes some nice twists and turns, I felt that there was always a choice that matched how I wanted to react to certain situations and the characters are well-sketched enough through the writing that they all had clear identities, despite the number of them.

Visually, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest is quite striking, with the left half of the screen taken up by stats and text and the right side populated by hand-drawn art and backgrounds in a style reminiscent of darker graphic novels.

The music and ambient sounds that weave and alter as you play are also high in quality, from crunching gravel to angry crowds, forests at night and thudding trip-hot beats with an ominous undertone, the audio work was really saucy and a highlight of the game for me, completely ensconcing me in this dark, foreboding world.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest is one of the strongest visual novels I’ve played and its length (a couple of hours) feels right to me.

I can imagine that the very same breeziness of storytelling that appeals to me maybe off-putting to hardened veterans of the visual novel genre – if my experience of anime ones is anything to go by – and maybe the multiple choices in the game won’t cover everyone’s preferred reactions to the situations but these points could be applied to all games in the genre.

For me, I’m keen for the next in the series, howling with delight, if you will.

Right, I’m off to run with the pack.

8/10

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