Different Tales’ penchant for story telling is evident with their latest release, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Wolf; a dark tale of lycanthropy, tense relationships and destiny.
Heart of the Wolf is a visual novel which incorporates elements from its tabletop RPG counterpart, weaving it expertly to give a real sense that you are moulding the main character. It’s just a shame that it’s all over far too quickly.
You play the role of Maia Boroditch, an American of Polish ancestry whose haunted dreams have her seeking the truth of her heritage by travelling to Bialowieza. It’s not long before things get a little hairy, with Maia getting involved in a logging conflict to try and protect the ancient forest she’s been dreaming about. Queue the arrival of werewolves, ancient battles, angry police, money making fat cats and you have the recipe for potential disaster. The decisions you make carry weight and affect every facet of the game’s narrative.
This was evident from the start with Maia awaking from a dream of the damned forest. I chose to awaken startled and my relationship with Anya, my friend sat next to me, immediately changed to ‘cautious’. When we arrived at Bialowieza, she left to go and do her own thing, showing a strong negative reaction to my outburst. From then on, I was more careful about how I spoke to her, making sure I put her at ease again until our relationship got better.
This kind of decision making persists throughout the story, I’m happy to say. Meaning you can truly have a unique experience, akin to a tabletop RPG. It’s definitely something Different Tales has captured correctly.
In keeping with the RPG origins, you have a character sheet which keeps track of everything as you proceed. You have your basics like name, age, nationality, and most importantly, a section called Personality Assessment. This section initially has five traits (Brave, Inspiring, Analytical, Spiritual and Cunning) with ratings for each one going to a max of ten. As you make decisions, certain choices will increase these ratings and subsequently open up more dialogue choices, and some of these choices are really important. Below these ratings, you can see the various relationships with everyone you’ve met so far.
At the top of the screen, you have three gauges that also change depending on dialogue choices. Your health Health obviously keeps track of how healthy you are, while Willpower is spent on making key choices, and the Rage gauge changes your dialogue options depending on how high it is. These are also neatly woven into the gameplay, making your choices very important.
Depending on what kind of Maia you are roleplaying as, you may decide you want to make dialogue choices that increase the rage to the max, meaning you get access to a lot of aggressive tenancies. The downside of this is being locked out of other choices, of course. This is where willpower comes into play. If you’re about to do something really stupid, sometimes willpower options present themselves to either reset the status quo or lead you to better outcomes. Make too big a screw up, and you might start finding your health bar draining, which is a problem.
Later on, new elements are added to the character sheet as you join a sect of werewolves and choose a path to finish out the story, as well as some other cool mechanics. The sad part of this is not really getting to enjoy these more interesting mechanics as it’s all over a little too quickly. Just as Werewolf feels like it’s taking off, it ends quite abruptly, leaving you wanting. The game is only six chapters long and can be completed in around two to three hours. The plus side to this is there are five endings to discover. This still didn’t feel like enough, though.
I ended feeling a little shortchanged by the length of Werewolf. It’s so expertly written I just wanted more. Its dialogue is extremely descriptive, drawing you into the atmosphere of the darkness, but by the time it has you hooked, it’s all over. Tabletop RPGs are lasting experiences and this felt more like the first act of a game as opposed to a full blown experience.
There’s some nice hand drawn art to accompany the story of this visual novel, but there is also some confusing imagery in there too. Even though the characters were being described in detail, in a lot of cases, I couldn’t tell who the pictures were relating to. The music is nice and atmospheric, delivering a haunting score in key moments to drive you deeper into the narrative.