by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
World of Darkness Sees The Light
Maybe itís just me, but Iíve always felt like World of Darkness has never quite gotten its fair shake. While I only came into the world of tabletop gaming in recent years, I first got my exposure to the World of Darkness franchise about sixteen years ago with Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines. One of my first PC RPG experiences along with the likes of Deus Ex and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines offered up an experience like no other available. Then as quickly as it came, it seemed to disappear. Itíd take a long time before World of Darkness saw a proper resurgence in the world of video games.
With the announcement of Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines 2, the World of Darkness franchise has been trying to gain footholds with other WoD titles in the world of PC gaming including the upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse-Earthblood, and lesser known games like todayís Werewolf: The Apocalypse-Heart of the Forest. Iíve had the opportunity to sit down and take this text based roleplaying game for a spin, and overall I liked what I saw. But is it a proper World of Darkness experience? Well letís take a look shall we?
Of Wolf and Woman
The game begins with the player character, Maia, finding herself in the midst of an unsettling dream. Something primal in nature, she recalls a forest that simultaneously fills her with calm, at times anger, and overall with absolute uncertainty. This particular dream, and moments prior that the player doesnít learn of outright, has lead to Maia traveling to Poland where her family lineage began. Itís in this opening hour that the stage is set for the region of Białowieża, the basic gameplay mechanics that elaborate on the impacts that player choices will have on their Rage, Willpower, and Health, and after a brief learning curve the player is let off on their adventure proper.
In the first hour the game does a good job of explaining just how the different gameplay systems under the hood work in conjunction with your choices, and it does it mostly without feeling like too much of a hand holding tutorial. Heart of the Forest is sure to point out the risk/rewards of different interactions with characters and choices within different scenes, but at no point in time do you feel regulated to choose a certain way. Maia is, for all intents and purposes, a blank slate as far as this adventure is concerned. Itís up to you to determine how she acts, and whether that will shape her into something refined or something full of primal rage.
Bite of the She-Wolf
The World of Darkness franchise has always had underlying themes and commentary that help move the narratives forward, but Werewolf: The Apocalypse has themes that are quite a bit more obvious, though thankfully not in a bad way. Itís always been a matter of nature versus the wheels of industry. The sanctity of the forests versus the corporate machines that pick them apart. The balance of need versus greed and how the scales often tip too far towards the latter.
To werewolves, or the Garou as WoD calls them, industry has been a war on their homes for quite some time. While humans are often the cause behind it, something more sinister lurks in the shadows guiding their choices. Maia is met with this first hand as her journey of self discovery also leads to the inevitable confrontation with those who are gradually deforesting this area of Poland. What Ferngully was for a generation of kids growing up during a time where people were beginning to become more environmentally conscious, Heart of the Forest is for that same crowd grown up that realizes werewolves are infinitely more awesome than faeries.
The story may not be one that is applauded globally by any means, but to be fair itís hard for text based games to get the same fanfare as those with the bells and whistles of traditional gameplay and cinematic experiences. All the same, Heart of the Forest offers up a compelling narrative where each choice does make an impact on Maia and the world around her. What more can you asked for from a text based game, than to make the narrative matter right?
Night of the Werewolves
Werewolf: The Apocalypse-Heart of the Forest is an easy choice for me as far as text based games go. It ticks the boxes of a setting that I love, a plot that I enjoy, and most importantly I felt like my choices mattered even if some of them seemed more subtle and took a while to pay off. Is it a game for casual World of Darkness fans? Probably not. Itís not difficult by any means, but without the action that draws a lot of gamers this may not be for casual players. Youíre probably better off waiting for 2021ís Werewolf: The Apocalypse-Earthblood and Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines 2. But for those who are really finding themselves pulled into this universe, you should definitely check out Heart of the Forest.
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Excellent use of setting and themes of nature vs industry, meaningful choices.
A text based adventure may not have the same appeal to most as traditional gameplay.