The social game called Werewolf has been around for a long time, in which one or two people are given the role of werewolves, while others are regular villagers trying to suss out who the werewolves are and eliminate them. It’s a game that requires people to lie convincingly if they are the werewolf, and to use the words people utter as evidence to support their innocence or damn them as the guilty. Werewolves Within is Ubisoft’s take on that game for VR, and what the studio has produced is one of the best, if not the best, social videogame.
Werewolves Within follows the basic rules of Werewolf but also has additional roles over the regular party game. You have the werewolves present and villagers, but now there’s Turncloaks, Saints, Gossips, Astrologers, Deviants, Houndsmen, Trackers, and Watchers. Each of these roles can make it much harder to trust the people you’re playing with as the accusations start flying.
A Turncloak, for example, wants the werewolves to win and knows who they are, but the werewolves don’t know who the turncloak is. It becomes a job for the turncloak to build a case against someone else, but werewolves may latch onto your lies and accuse you of being the werewolf instead. This actually happened to me during a game, but I luckily managed to convince the others that an innocent player was a werewolf instead.
Gossips will get two clues duing a game, one which is false and the other true, which may reveal the identities of two players. Astrologers look up to the sky to determine at least one role that is in play, Deviants want to be killed to win, but if a Saint is killed the werewolves win even if they too are killed. Houndsmen have the option of leaning in to other players to find out their roles, but the other player must give permission for that. Should a player refuse to lean in to the houndsman suspicion is cast on them. Trackers can hear which side a werewolf is on and watchers can watch one player to reveal their role.
It’s an added layer of complexity to the game, as these roles are all randomly assigned before a match, and that helps to muddy the waters if two people claim to be the same thing and cast doubt on each other.
Werewolves Within relies completely on the group you get matched up with. When it comes to multiplayer games and communication, there is a history or either silence or childish insults dominating when playing with strangers, and before starting a quick match there is some trepidation about what you’re going to face. So far on my Werewolves Within travels, every player I’ve played with has been welcoming and after a couple of rounds it feels like you’re playing with friends. It may be because you’re forced into a social setting with set rules which everyone follows, but it is pretty relaxing game and the time flies by.
For me Werewolves Within isn’t just a great game in its own right, but a prime example of how VR in general can create these social spaces around games, bringing together people that share the same passions and allowing them to experience it together. The game shows the possibilities of bringing other party games and board games to VR as well. Werewolves Within is a cross platform title, so you’re playing with people using PSVR, Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive.
Outside of a few regular bugs, Werewolves Within is almost perfect. One of these bugs is not always being able to hear a new player that joins a game, forcing you to boot them and wait for a replacement that isn’t effected or play with fewer players. Matches will never start without at least five players, though. Another example was a black screen popping up so you can hear players but can’t see anything. This happened to me while trying to send a friend request, only to be confronted with a black screen when I returned to the game, forcing me to restart.
You won’t get into a game straight away either. While waiting you’re able to spectate the group you will be joining as they play, but you have to wait until the game ends to join to keep the game fair. Even then there may be a couple of players queuing in front of you, at which point it’s better to leave and join another lobby or start your own.
Graphically Werewolves Within looks fantastic. The player avatars are all distinctive and their mouths move when the associated player is speaking. You can emote to emphasis your points as well, which makes it feel like the player themselves is sitting there instead of just an avatar. The environments that you play in vary between sitting around a campfire to the village centre, and outside a castle. They’re all rendered well and give hints to the life the villagers lead too.
The first few months of PlayStation VR have delivered a vast range of experiences, but I have to say that Werewolves Within is my personal favourite. It’s such a basic concept, but how it’s realised brings players together in a way that’s rarely done in videogames. The community is fantastic and helpful, the rules are easy to pick up, and soon enough you’re mixing it up with people from all over. While there are some bugs that Ubisoft need to iron out Werewolves Within is a must have title for anyone who owns a VR headset.
Version tested: PSVR