The wolves among us.
There is a party game commonly called "Werewolf" that I am terribly bad at. A group of people sit in a room and each is randomly assigned a role, whether by drawing a slip of scribbled-on paper from a hat or a fancy card from board game set. Everyone role-plays as medieval villagers, and one or two among the are secretly werewolves. The werewolves must stay alive long enough to kill as many villagers as possible, while it's the villagers' job to determine which one of them is a werewolf and kill them first.
Werewolf is a very stressful party game. Tensions run high and it's easy to become frustrated, especially when you're a bad actor. But developer Red Storm's newest creation, a virtual reality take on this game aptly called Werewolves Within, strips away the game's inbred anxieties and morphs it something that is still social, but, I daresay, more fun.
Set to launch this fall and in development for most VR rigs, Werewovles Within is a multiplayer game--one of the first we've seen made for VR. Online matchmaking will rely heavily on players' friend lists, but you can also create private rooms or match into a pickup game. I went hands-on with the game at an event held by publisher Ubisoft, with me and five others in the same room sitting around a fire bantering about our fates.
Part of what makes Red Storm's take on Werewolf so charming is its art style. The game is set in a town called Gallowston, plunking you into different environments that are fun to scrutinize if you can tear yourself away from the game for a moment. When you log in to play, you are randomly assigned one of a handful of cartoonish-looking villagers--a blacksmith with a beard that takes over his face and angry eyebrows; a scantily-clad young woman with buck teeth and a too-large nose; and a large-eared, large-eyed boy that is clearly the village idiot, just to name a few. You view the rest of the villagers in third-person, and as you speak the game will cause your character to make hand gestures based on the tone and volume of your voice. Through excellent use of positional tracking and vocal inflection, you can move your cartoon character effortlessly. You can also select from four different hand actions on a controller, including crossing your arms or pointing at someone. In an hour sitting around the crystal ball bickering with five other players, I never once felt out of place; the art style may be storybook-esque, but the movement was not uncanny, making for a comfortable visual experience.
At the beginning of each round, players are randomly assigned a role. You can keep your role a secret, and if you're a werewolf you absolutely should, or you can tell the others. You can be a villager, a player with no special abilities, or you can be one of a handful of others that can help suss out the monster. There is the Tracker, for which you can physically lead to one side in order to listen for werewolf growls coming from the people beside you. There's the Gossip, who over the course of one round will learn one player's true role and one player's possible role. The Watcher can reveal the role of one other player. Then there's the Deviant, for whom the object of the game is to be killed first, and the Turncloak, a villager assisting the werewolves. The game displays all possible roles in place once you start a round, but it will always show more roles and players. It could be anybody's game.
There is a lot of talking involved in Werewolves Within, and my favorite feature is one that commands attention: if a player stands up, the game will automatically mute the mics of all other players, allowing the standing player time to speak without interrupting. And there will be a lot of interrupting going on. It's easier to lie--especially for someone who can't lie to save her life, like me--when players aren't looking directly at your face, but at a cartoonish version. It's a digital mask to hide behind, making your deception a bit more simple and your fellows' hunt a lot harder.
Normally the werewolf party game frustrates me. But a moment didn't go by that I wasn't laughing while playing Werewolf Within. It's a smart, entertaining virtual reality spin on a classic game, and you don't even need to be physically near others to play together.
Further Reading: All the PSVR News and Reaction
- PlayStation VR Release Date
- PlayStation VR Price
- $400 PlayStation VR Requires $60 PS4 Camera
- PlayStation VR Bundle With Camera and Controller Confirmed
- PSVR Price Delivers Profit at Each Sale, Sony Exec Claims
- All PlayStation VR Games Confirmed So Far
- All PS4 Games Can be Played in PlayStation VR
- Star Wars Battlefront Experience Coming to PlayStation VR
- Ubisoft announces Warewolf VR game
- Here's All the Game Devs Supporting PlayStation VR
- PlayStation VR Sold Out in Minutes on Amazon UK
- Oculus VR Founder Says $400 PlayStation VR Is "A Totally Fair Price"
- PlayStation VR Sales Could Hit 1.6 Million Units, Analyst Claims