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Review: Werewolves Within

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Uncanny valley

Odds are you've played a game called "werewolf" or "mafia" once in your life. The rules are simple -- one or more people are an "imposter" of sorts, among a group of normal players who are attempting to figure out said imposter. At the end everyone makes an accusation, and goes "Oh no, I can't believe it was/wasn't you!" Depending on your group it's either droll and drawn out, or a heated battle of wits.

That's Werewolves Within in a nutshell. But in VR. And $30.

Werewolves Within (PC [reviewed with an Oculus Rift], PS4 [PSVR])
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: December 6, 2016
MSRP: $29.99

When I was first tossed into the world of Werewolves, I was terrified.

Suddenly five other people were looking at me, saying they hadn't seen me around before, and asked if I was new. Five strangers started quizzing me on my experience with the game before I even began, and I had to deflect a bit to ensure that they didn't doubt me. This meta-experience is all part of the show. The character models, while hideous and Fable-like, are very emotive. Werewolves Within tracks your head perfectly (direct eye-contact is possible, and a huge part of the game), and an emote menu takes care of the rest. Although Touch controller support would have made it even better, this is as close to reality as I've gotten in any "virtual" experience thus far.

I'm hesitant to say that this isn't an endeavor for shy people, because it's the perfect training wheels for public speaking. You can take off the headset or quit at any time if you experience anxiety, which could easily happen if any given player is pointing fingers at you and accusing you of being something you're not. Mechanics like whispering to nearby players or standing up to silence others while you deliver a monologue are interesting ways to facilitate variety, which, ultimately, falls upon the group itself. It's amazing how a little side project like this can become a legitimate psychological tool, even if the actual game part is so basic.

Breaking down the roles, most people fall into two categories: villager, or werewolf, but there's a lot of delineation for the former. Villagers can appoint a ringleader to speak for the group, or you might also be assigned to a specific role at the start, which can learn the potential identities of other players in clue form -- clues that may or may not be true depending on your class. Then you have turncloaks, who win if the werewolves win, and saints, a pivotal role, who learn the identity of werewolves, among several others.

Yet, even with these powers, you can't just directly share your knowledge with just anyone, because then the werewolves will eliminate you in turn. It's a constant cat-and-mouse game, and even plainly revealing your role to try and ruin a match (something no one has done yet in my online sessions) isn't something that will always garner support. If you're confused, you can look to your helpful guidebook at any time during a match, but your non-distinct head movements will probably clue other players in that you don't know what you're doing. There's four win conditions. If the deviant (another villager role) tricks people into voting for them, they win. If the saint is eliminated, the werewolves win. If you pick the werewolves, or the werewolves pick all of the townsfolk, that respective team wins. 

Sometimes it's fun to just observe. I watched one match where there were two werewolves and one turncloak out of six players, who managed to turn the entire group on the saint. That exact same scenario happened next game when I played a werewolf, which kind of exposed how a lot of sessions play out in a same manner. While there are a lot of roles, only several of them (mainly the saint), are fun to play. It's especially evident if you're constantly a werewolf, as they can only highlight people to falsely accuse or discover "scents" of other classes while whispering. There simply aren't enough "powers" to go around if you get a dull or otherwise uneventful group.

Cross-platform multiplayer might help people connect with each other, but it's struggling to rapidly match me up with new games even just several days after launch. Given the relatively low adoption rate of this tech Ubisoft needed to make it cross-platform, so I hope it picks up steam, but it's something to keep in mind since this online game is more reliant on a community than practically anything else on the market.

In other news, Uplay strikes again! Just as I had redeemed my code to play Werewolves on the Oculus Rift storefront after it debuted, I discovered that my account had been hacked, and two-factor authentication was enabled, effectively locking me out of my account. After 20 minutes on hold with Ubisoft support the next day (since they had already closed), a helpful agent disabled the authentication and reset my account.

Werewolves Within is a cool experiment wrapped into an above-average game. It's limited and laser-focused, but it's good at what it does.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Werewolves Within reviewed by Chris Carter

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 



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