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Review: Werewolves Within

 

I was not expecting the insane amount of fun I had playing Ubisoft’s latest foray into VR, Werewolves Within. When I think of VR, I think of moving around with wireless controllers in tow and exploring my new virtual world and all the things to see inside it. So, when I sat down to play Werewolves Within, I didn’t really know what to expect. What I received, however, was a game I will play more than any other VR game in my library, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s get in to it.

The game

Werewolves Within is not your typical VR game. For starters, when the game begins you’re seated around a camp fire with anywhere from 4-7 other people, all VR users, so they could be from PSVR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive. I had no idea what to expect when playing the game, but I read the material the Ubisoft PR team sent me and it really didn’t seem like my type of game. After all, I’m mainly an action / adventure game player, and this game was modeled after board games, like D&D, where you sit with your friends and try to figure out who the good guys and bad guys are. So, I didn’t head in to the game with any expectations at all that I was going to like it. In retrospect, I’m really glad I did that because the game took me by complete surprise.

For those of you, like me, that have never played these types of games before, you’re given a card nobody else can see. You’re either a villager or werewolf. If you’re a villager, your job is to try and figure out who the werewolves are, and conversely, if you’re a werewolf, you try and confuse the villages so they suspect other players of being the werewolves.

Some villagers have special powers, and some don’t. At the beginning of every round the special book you’re given tells you what type of special villagers might be in the round, but you can always bet there’s at least one werewolf. Some examples of special types of villagers are The Saint, The Houndsman, The Drifter, The Astrologer, and The Gossip, but there are plenty more, and each type of villager has their own special powers that go with their role. Very rare is it that you’ll just simply be a villager without any special powers but it does happen on occasion.

werewolveswithin_saintrole_1481001187If you’re a werewolf you have the ability to sniff out the people to the left and to the right of you. You do this by convincing the person, either to the left or right, to lean over and whisper to you. They might not do it because they know werewolves have the ability to sniff out villagers but not only that, the werewolf can also tell what special abilities that villager has, if any. Some villagers, depending on their ability, can also detect werewolves, so it’s in their interest to want to whisper with you also. If someone doesn’t want to whisper with you, you can bet they have something to hide or they’re trying to trick you. That’s a big part of the fun, trying to find out who’s who amongst a group of liars!

werewolves-within-whisperingTo make a long story short, it’s a huge game of misperception, lying and attempting to get away with it, and attempts of being honest and trying to convince people you’re not lying to them.

The game is so much fun you can literally spend hours inside the game and not even realize it because it’s that much fun! Before I ever review a game I play the game on at least 3 different occasions because I want to really get a good feel for it before I give the world my opinion. Each and every time I played Werewolves Within I wound up inside the game for at least 3 hours. That’s a huge deal for me because with the exception of this game, I’ve had to stand up, often times move, and more often than not, I would perspire through the Vive headset. Anybody that owns a VR headset will know how frustrating this is. Since you can sit down playing this game, and I highly advise that since you too will be playing for this long, you’re not doing anything as physically taxing as other games so you’re more relaxed. You’re talking to practically everyone around the camp fire, telling jokes, laughing, trying to lie without giving yourself away, and when the round is over you try and figure out other people’s “tells”, little signals they give off when they’re lying to you. My ability to figure out if someone is lying is pretty bad; maybe that’s why I’m such a bad poker player. What’s worse, when you’re playing poker you can look at someone’s face to see if they’re lying. In Werewolves Within, you have an avatar’s face and body, so nobody can look at your face to see if you’re telling the truth or not.

The game moves along at a good pace, which is determined by the hour glass in the middle of the circle. Everybody has a chance to try and figure out who the werewolves are within a certain amount of time. If you’re lucky enough, and people believe you’re not only a werewolf, but also telling the complete truth, the other villagers can appoint you their leader, in which case you get two votes instead of the normal one vote everyone else gets. Let me tell you, it’s extremely rare to be garnered with that much trust because everyone knows you’ve been lying to them the past 8 or so rounds.

The Social Aspect

One of the coolest parts of the game is the fact you’re playing with a bunch of other people from around the world on all the different VR platforms, so there are not only a ton of people to play with, but they’re literally from all over the place and on one of three different VR headsets, not to mention the diversity among the group. Since you don’t pick your own avatar,  you could wind up being a black Muslim, a white witch, a brown gypsy, a white pirate, etc. Every time you join a new game you’re given a new avatar style and gender. Even though it’s a game, and the time is ticking, everybody always winds up talking, laughing, telling stories, and having an overall good time together even though everybody is a complete stranger! That doesn’t last long, however, since you actually build relationships with these people. I feel I’ve made more real friends playing Werewolves Within than playing any other multiplayer game. Maybe it has to do with the fact that you can lean in to the person next to you and have a secret conversation, or just that everybody is having fun and laughing. Whatever the case may be, I’ve already added over 40 people to my friend’s list because we had such a good time playing together.

werewolveswithin_queen_1481001181This game is the most fun I’ve had playing a video game for as long as I can remember, and after my review is done, I’m going to jump back in and play because the last few nights I started too late, around 9pm local time, and when I pulled off my headset it was close to 2am. That’s what kind of game this is, you lose all track of time when you’re playing Werewolves Within. Isn’t that how all video games should be?

Before I forget, I have to tell you about the one feature people love taking advantage of: each player has the ability to stand up, once per round, and everyone in the game gets muted and you get to stand on your soap box and preach to the group. Whether it be to try and convince people you’re not a werewolf, to try and shut everybody up, or just to go on your own diatribe, it’s a great feature and everybody playing loves to use it for their own purposes.

werewolves-within-standing-upA simple game balanced extremely well

It’s true, the game play is very simple, but that’s what makes it so much fun (another example is Tetris). Sure, you can look around at the gorgeous environments and wish you could walk over there, but then you turn your attention back to the game and you’re once again enthralled. I kept overhearing the other people playing with me telling each other how well the game was designed, how glad they were that they purchased the game and how well balanced it is, and they’re right! I have no idea how long it took Red Storm to get it right, but they did an excellent job.

Possible improvements

I noticed, on more than one occasion, I was forced to wait in spectator mode for someone to quit the game so I could join. The problem is, since the game is so addictive, you could be sitting there in spectator mode for a really long time. I had to keep giving up and going back in so I wasn’t forced to sit in spectator mode again. It’s also really painful to sit there in spectator mode because you see everyone having a blast and you can’t say anything and nobody knows you’re even there. It’s torture, plain and simple.

The other thing I thought could have been explained better was the fact that you have so many ways of expressing yourself physically, like crossing your arms, giving the thumbs up or thumbs down, or any of the two pages of movements you can find in the book that you pull up when you’re ready to vote on who the werewolf is, for example. There is one default expression, when I click the right trigger on my Vive controller it points to whomever I’m looking at. All the other expressions must be selected and assigned to your controller. So, while it’s great there are that many physical expressions in the game, the fact you have to physically choose one at a time is kind of a bummer.

That’s it, just those two things. To make sure I didn’t miss anything else, I asked people in the game what their thoughts on the game were. Everybody had an opinion, but most important of all, everybody absolutely loved the game. I firmly believe you will too. Ubisoft and Red Storm did an excellent job on the game and if I were still in development, this is the team I would want to work with, they are clearly very talented.

The price

Don’t let the price of the game scare you. The reason why it’s $29.99 is because the game is so well done. I wouldn’t have given it such a great review and such a high score if it wasn’t. You’ll be playing this same game for a very long time, so that $29.99 is going to pay for itself time and time again.

 

Review guidelines: This review is made in accordance with VR Today’s official game review guidelines. If you have a review request for a game you’ve developed or published please send an email to reviews@vrtodaymagazine.com

Review: Werewolves Within
9.1 / 10.0
Pros
- You'll be laughing for hours
- No two games are the same, ever!
- Great interaction with other
players on other VR systems
- Very high production value
- You'll want to keep playing
Cons
- Sometimes there's a wait to enter a game
- Each ambient movement needs to be
assigned to a button
Summary
If you're looking for a really fun game you can play with total strangers, make friends online, and laugh out loud constantly throughout the entire time you're playing, then you should definitely pick up Werewolves Within. You won't be disappointed!!
Gameplay Mechanic9.5
Sound Effects & Music9
Artwork & Visuals9
Cost9

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Written by Paul Trowe

As VR Today's Entertainment Editor, I use my 30+ year tenure in the interactive entertainment industry to research, test and play the latest VR games and applications for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung GearVR head mounted displays. I take notes on various attributes and features, collate my notes and write an article, review, or preview of one of the games or apps after I've done all the research. If it's a review, I give the publication a rating out of our 10 point rating guideline.

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