Game director Julien Desourteaux speaks with GamingBolt about the upcoming action RPG.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse is a particularly fascinating property, and having garnered a strong a dedicated fanbase in the pen-and-paper RPG space, it’ll soon be hoping to do the same in the games industry with the upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood. Developed by Cyanide, the upcoming action RPG holds the promise of action-heavy combat, a thematically charged story, and more, and to learn more about the game, we recently sent across a few of our questions about it to its developers. You can read our interview with game director Julien Desourteaux below.
"The environmental part of the license will be at the center of the story we tell in our game."
Werewolf: The Apocalypse stories tend to have very strong and consistent themes, from social issues to environmental issues and a lot more. How much of a part is that going to play in Earthblood’s story?
Obviously, the environmental part of the license will be at the center of the story we tell in our game: Werewolves fighting for the Wyld spirit to protect Gaïa from an evil corporation, Endron – led by the Wyrm – devastating nature to gather all resources and feed their greed.
But Cahal will also have a more personal quest inside this big picture (which I won’t say to avoid any spoilers).
In the World of Darkness universe, while vampires tend to integrate themselves into human societies, werewolves tend to live more on the fringes. How will this play into the narrative, and how will it manifest in terms of gameplay mechanics?
In our game, Cahal left his former pack after a tragic event and serves the cause as a Ronin (a lone mercenary) with only but a few human allies.
But as his Caern (a sacred place in a Werewolf territory) is in great danger, he will join them back while seeking redemption, and will face Endron to protect their territory.
He will have to interact with werewolves and other NPCs, friends or foes, with whom he’ll have to talk or fight his way through in order to gain access to specific locations.
Of course, in case of failure during the dialog the combat is always a valid solution to pass any situation.
How much of an emphasis will the game put on player choice? Are there multiple endings that players can get depending on their actions?
The story is straightforward, but the player has to choose how Cahal will approach a situation, either by sneaking around doing some stealth assassination or charging on enemies in his Crinos form.
Also, during dialogs, he can choose the way he will answer to his interlocutors or the topics he wants to discuss.
And we have two different endings based on choices made by the player in specific situations.
"The story is straightforward, but the player has to choose how Cahal will approach a situation, either by sneaking around doing some stealth assassination or charging on enemies in his Crinos form."
The Rage meter mechanic is one of the most interesting elements of this game, and the idea of players not being in control of who they’re attacking and killing when their Rage overflows is a particularly interesting one. Can you talk about how this will play into things such as stealth, combat, and even conversations with NPCs? How dynamic can players expect this mechanic to be? Additionally, will this have any narrative impact or impact on how quests progress?
Actually, the rage is like a resource that you gather by doing stealth kills or using flasks you can find by exploring the levels. It will fill a rage bar that you can use to perform special skills when you are in Crinos.
While performing combos in Crinos (especially on the Agile Stance) you will gain Rage and Frenzy.
When the frenzy bar is full, you unlock a 3rd stance that is the Frenzy, where Cahal is more powerful and has a great resistance until he empties his bar. But using this special stance will lock your special abilities and your combos you might lose a bit of control.
What has your approach been to world design in Earthblood? Roughly how large will the individual locations in the game be, and how varid can players expect them to be?
We alternate between huge areas where the player is free to explore and use his wolf form to navigate faster to do secondary missions within Endron’s facilities outposts, before entering other areas where he will reach for his main objectives.
What’s progression like in Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood? How much control will players have over their upgrades and powering up and gaining new abilities?
By completing secondary and primary missions and serving or finding spirits, players will be awarded spirit points that they can spend in a skill tree with 2 main branches. One of them is more tactical and the other is dedicated to fighting.
Shapeshifting abilities are, of course, another one of Earthblood’s major draws. Can you talk about how much work went into ensuring that each of three different forms players can take felt meaningfully different from each other? How have you approached designing levels or combat and stealth encounters to ensure that players will have opportunities to leverage the unique advantages of each of these forms in different ways?
Each form is specific and is bound to several gameplay mechanics. The human form is about interacting with people and the environment, the wolf is great to sneak, travel quickly, or use narrow places to hide. Of course, when you fight you will use the more convenient form, that is the Crinos.
All areas (except for boss fights) are designed for the player to choose the way he wants to manage the situation he is facing.
But as I told before the fight is always a valid solution.
"By completing secondary and primary missions and serving or finding spirits, players will be awarded spirit points that they can spend in a skill tree with 2 main branches. One of them is more tactical and the other is dedicated to fighting."
With these shapeshifting abilities in mind, can players expect Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood to have immersive sim-style elements, where each objective can be completed in one of several ways, with plenty of room for experimentation and player choice in gameplay?
As the objectives are often about sabotage or destruction, we kept the freedom of approach but not really alternative ways to accomplish the objectives, except for a few missions where it is more about information gathering or terminating specific targets. In these cases, the player will find alternative ways to complete those missions.
Combat in werewolf form looks rather interesting, and quite different from anything we’ve seen in previous Cyanide games. Can you talk about the process of coming up with a combat style that felt punchier and more action-oriented, and what the game does to ensure that those aspects are highlighted?
It has been a long road to achieve this, because as you mentioned, it is the first action / combat-oriented game made by Cyanide. We really wanted the player to feel what it is to be a werewolf.
Since the beginning, we wanted a kind of Brawler with combos and special abilities, bound to a rage system with stance gameplay, allowing players to change them very quickly (even during a combo). We wanted to give the freedom of choosing to be agile and fast to earn quickly some rage to perform special abilities, or trading this mobility for strength and resistance. It is like playing a rogue and a heavy armored knight at the same time and switching from one to the other by only pushing a button!
On top of that, to challenge players, we have different enemy archetypes that will be more efficient against one stance or the other.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood be?
It is quite hard to tell because it will really depend on how players like to take their time and analyze the situations they will encounter or explore the levels…
But roughly for a straight experience only focusing on the main objectives, it will last around 12 hours.
NOTE: In response to questions about the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S’ specs and tech-specific features and their impact on development, Desourteaux had this to say:
I think it is too soon to say because from our experience on the development of Werewolf – The Apocalypse: Earthblood, we could only see a great technological gap between the old and new gen and I think that the real difference might be done later or maybe at the end of this new console generations.
We’ll let you know as soon as we will ship our first games specifically targeted for those new consoles!
"Roughly for a straight experience only focusing on the main objectives, it will last around 12 hours."
What resolution and frame rate is the game targeting to run at on PS5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S? Will the game have multiple graphical modes?
We will be 1080p with Vsync, so if your screen is 120Hz it will run 120 FPS, and less if you have a 75/60 Hz (75/60 FPS).