GSY Review PC

In the '70s/'80s, textual adventures were riding high and no self-proclaimed guardian of the temple would dare to discuss their video game status. A few decades and absurd debates later, this genre has become more confidential but some studios still strive for it, and it's a good thing. Today, we've chosen to focus on Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Heart of the Forest, though we realize we're clearly behind schedule as this review was originally intended to be posted in late October.

Easy genealogy

Maia is a young American student who travels to a small Polish village her family once fled… well, maybe not mysterious reasons given the title of the game, but at least ones unknown to Maia. This fictive pilgrimage is merged with a very real 2016 event, a confrontation between the Polish government and environmental organizations regarding the exploitation of Bialowieza primal forest. Furthermore, the game also includes the very dense background of the Werewolf: The Apocalypse pen & paper rpg and even some of its mechanics. Yeah, that's a lot, especially for a 5-to-6-hour-long game.

The Wolf among us

The form is rather convincing. The writing is good, leaning toward poetry but avoiding a potentially indigestible lyricism. Sober sound design and stylized visuals contribute to establishing a dark and unsettling mood. A few more illustrations, especially to precisely identify some support characters, would have been good, but it's not that important. Maia's coming of age, or rather awakening to her bloody heritage, offers a rather compelling story. Despite a lack of overall suspense, the choices and sacrifices we have to do remain meaningful. The various paths in the branching storyline are enough to legitimate multiple runs and the realistic ecological setting also provides a natural link toward Werewolf mythos, even if Maia taking the forefront of the protest within 3 days is a bit far-fetched.

The beginning at the end

Unfortunately, the integration of the pen & paper rpg background ends up feeling rough. While this setting is rich, deep, full of interesting rites, beliefs and conflicts, we have to ingest it at a fast pace in the very last quarter of the game. And yet, we won't even actually delve into it before reaching the ending. Heart of the Forest feels more like the pilot episode of an upcoming TV series than a fully fledged movie. Furthermore, the basic decision system is burdened by ressources (Rage, Will, Health) and traits (Spiritual, Analytical, Inspiring…) that affect the player's possibilities while sometimes lacking meaning or interest. A more streamlined choices/consequences mechanic would have been enough to enjoy the ride though.

Verdict


Despite the front and center Werewolf : The Apocalypse licence, it's hard to shake the feeling of a late and forced addition to an already made game. The enjoyable story of Maia ends up becoming frustrating by unveiling a greater background that remains inaccessible and underused. That being said, if you can gest past that and enjoy horror fiction, then you'll have a truly good time with Heart of the Forest.
  • On the upside
  • Good writing
  • Nice atmosphere
  • The choices and consequences
  • The rich Werewolf setting…
  • On the downside
  • … that remains underexploited
  • The added mechanics aren't that interesting
Yarost
Yarost
Commented on 2020-12-22 12:04:20
Just a little correction : Werewolf The Apocalypse isn't a board game but a pen & paper rpg.
In reply to
About the game
Platform
PC
Published by
Walkabout
Developed by
Different Tales
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