Reviewed on PS4, copy supplied by Ubisoft.
I should probably open this review by saying that I have played a LOT of Werewolves, as in the classic card game that turns friends into mortal enemies when you lie to their face. So I was more than familiar with the concept, and when it was announced Ubisoft were publishing a VR version developed by Red Storm Entertainment, I was intrigued. A game of deception could be very cool in VR, and for the most part Werewolves Within lives up to this, but some fundamental issues with VR and playing this sort of game with strangers means it falls a tad short in the end.
For those that have never played, the rules for Werewolves Within correspond with the card game, where each player is given a role only known to themselves at the beginning of each round. Depending on your role you’ll have to either suss out the werewolves in your midst, or deceive the other players as to your lycan affiliation. Certain roles have special abilities, such as being able to ask the stars for hints, sniff out other player’s roles or discover facts about the game set up. To win you need to successfully kill the wolf, kill a villager, or get killed yourself by influencing a vote at the end of each round which will eliminate a player.
The core elements make for a fun game, and as a VR title there is a certain intimacy that comes with lying to other players. As for gameplay it’s all pretty much discussion based, with a few emotes to help you out. Should you wish to have your voice heard, you can stand up, making your in-game avatar stand and briefly hushing the other players, you can lean in and whisper to those next to you, and if you want to throw some serious shade you can point at someone in the circle directly.
If the rules sound a little bit daunting, there is a playbook in front of you at most times, which you can seamlessly flick through to stay in the loop. Despite having played the card game, I did feel a bit daunted in this version, because knowing what to physically do can take a bit of time to get a hang of, for instance whispering to other players escaped me for a while considering you have to actually lean towards them.
The real joy of Werewolves Within is the avatar animation, which is done spectacularly. As a multiplayer VR title it really does show what’s possible in the medium, however it’s still not up there quite yet. Players heads move in real time, so you can get a good feel of who they suspect, or generally what sneaky little tactics they may be up to. It feels extremely real at times, especially since voices aren’t masked, so that old gypsy lady next to you sounding like a man in his 40s from Northern England feels actually there… sort of. Visually the game is great, with an art style not unlike Fable, after some time I forgot myself and felt like I was really sitting around in a town meeting talking to these people, which is the sort of experience that keeps a flicker of optimism about VR burning within me. I must say that occasionally the avatars looked janky and jittered, but it wasn’t too immersion breaking.
Despite being done well, the social aspect is kind of what throws this game, as having a fun time or a bland time really depends on who you play with. Considering I know very few people with VR, I was left to play with strangers, and well, it was kind of boring at times. Usually Werewolves is a heated game of deception and debate, but Werewolves Within sometimes boiled down to the loudest person cutting people off and winning the vote because people just go along with them. Or even worse, just nobody really talking, and then the game’s over and you wonder why you sat down with an ugly contraption on your head for this awkward experience. Unfortunately for me, my PSN name has ‘HowlinWolf’ as part of it (I like blues a lot) so I got voted for a lot on that basis alone, which was kind of hilarious but also frustrating considering it’s supposed to be a game of deduction and logic.
I would be very keen to try this out with friends, as it could be a real laugh, but the joy of Werewolves for me is looking my friends directly in the eye as I lie to them and throw years of trust away, so the VR component is kind of unnecessary. But hey, it’s not all bad, I did still enjoy the game a lot more than most VR titles on the PSVR. On that note, Ubisoft made a smart decision with Werewolves Within by making it a cross play title between Occulus, Vive and PSVR players, keeping the player pool broad, as if it were device specific I feel the servers would be pretty bare soon after launch.
Ultimately it’s worth it if you have friends or are keen to venture into a VR world of social interactions, but I wouldn’t expect tons and tons of gameplay out of this one.