“Man, lycanthropy is not all that it’s cracked up to be…”
The World of Darkness is definitely not for everyone. Is it a fun and cheesy playground stuffed with every horror trope known to man, or is it a melodramatic and juvenile cringe-fest only the most clueless edgelord could take seriously? Bit of both?
Werewolf: The Apocalypse is not quite as famous as Vampire: The Masquerade, but features the same love-it-or-hate-it over-the-top world-building with tragic heroes, cackling villains and a healthy helping of the supernatural. Fittingly, Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest is a visual novel that really captures the style as well as substance of the source material.
The story follows Maia, an American girl who travels to Poland to explore the Białowieża forest and learn more about her family’s heritage. Cue eco-conscious supernatural conspiracy fun as the woods call on Maia to stop the government cutting down all the trees. Thanks to activists protesting the logging, Maia discovers that she’s actually a werewolf and, well, the plot only thickens from there.
While your path through the story is shaped by your relationships to the characters living in and around the Białowieża woods, your decisions are also determined by three values: Rage, Willpower and Health. Every choice you make affects these values, which determine what choices will be available to you further down the line.
Rage makes you more determined, but can also force certain choices. Willpower lets you make hard choices, but you don’t have an awful lot of it and it can only be replenished by solving parts of the mystery Maia finds herself embroiled in. Health is … fairly self-explanatory, but doesn’t come into play as often as Rage and Willpower.
If you go in expecting an adaptation of the role-playing game, you will probably be disappointed, but Heart of the Forest is a pretty neat visual novel. The collage aesthetic is suitably bizarre and nightmareish, weaving a dense atmosphere dripping with tension and excitement. The prose is pretty distinctive too, conveying a world through the heightened senses of a werewolf as well as the pain and horror of transformation into a savage beast.
It's a pretty short story by visual novel standards, but it's worth replaying to see how the story changes depending on your choices. It's certainly worth playing it a few times just to read all the delicious prose and gawk at all the imagery, so don't be put off even if the story is more of a novella than a chronicle. It should also serve as an excellent primer on the Werewolf universe ahead of next month's Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood!
- Fun writing
- Great presentation
- Good introduction to the Werewolf universe
- A bit brief
Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest is available now on the Nintendo Switch. Publisher Walkabout Games kindly provided a Nintendo Switch review code to DailyBits for free for the purposes of this review.