It's damn near impossible to give all the background inherent in the World of Darkness, a staple of role-playing games for over twenty years, originating as tabletop games and having since stretched well outside of those bonds. The world is vast, and is perhaps known best in the realm of video games for the cult favorite Vampire: The Masquerade series. Taking place in the same fictional universe, Werewolf: The Apocalypse has its own tabletop beginnings, and is now being developed as an interactive game by the team at Cyanide. I had the chance to sit with Julien Desourteaux, a director on the project, and discuss some of the inner workings behind this game, and the universe as a whole.
The first lesson I learned from Julien: forget everything you ever thought you knew about werewolves in popular culture. World of Darkness follows its own strict designs and ruleset on the subject. In this universe, werewolves — Garou, as they are called in the lore — are the guardians of nature, "eco terrorists" as Julien jokingly calls them, whose goal it is to preserve nature and protect it from its imminent destruction at the hands of Homids — humans — amongst others.
The next thing I wanted to know is what was putting nature in such danger in this world? This question is not easily answered; the vast World of Darkness universe sees humans and supernatural beings exist side-by-side, and includes certain metaphysical concepts that have taken on an almost tangible shape — living metaphors. For example, the balance between man's expansion and nature has come to be called The Great Wyrm, and it is precisely this Great Wyrm that has turned its back on creation and engineered the game's titular apocalypse. This threat to existence, as well as mankind's general ongoing destruction of nature, is what the werewolves are sworn to protect.
Make no mistake: these werewolves may not follow lunar cycles or be the beasts we've come to know them as, but that doesn't make them any less ferocious as adversaries. The conceptual artwork Julien shared with me depicted violent, savage creatures who are not to be taken lightly. To ordinary humans, they are still the same feral creatures they've always been. This is evident in the game's combat system, which revolves around Rage Management, a way for the werewolves to control their fury. Powerful opponents by default, if a werewolf loses control, he goes into a frenzy. This gives him the advantage of making him significantly more lethal, but leaves him unable to distinguish friend from foe, turning his rage onto anyone near him. This can even happen outside of combat; should a werewolf be provoked into a frenzy during dialog, he may well rip the conversation partner limb from limb.
Of course, acting as a werewolf is only part of the game. As anyone knows, hidden within their furry shell is a human being, and when not transformed, that human is able to do some things the werewolves cannot, like stealthily sneaking and interacting with the environment in certain ways. Since the game has a modern-day setting, this includes operating computers. Due to the Garou's connection to nature, they can also tap into a spiritual power, the game's version of "magic", to give them yet another edge.
The World of Darkness is vast, and this presentation barely scratched the surface of it. The game is still in its earliest stages of development — in fact, this E3 is one of the first times it's been unveiled to the public in any capacity — so the team at Cyanide was unable to share much in the way of assets. There is no word as of yet of a targeted release date or platforms. However, the team is aiming to create an action RPG that is as user-friendly to newcomers as it is pleasing to long-time fans of the universe. Look for more information on Werewolf: The Apocalypse in the near future.