Based on the popular party game Mafia (also known as Werewolf), Werewolves Within represents Ubisoft’s first dive into the world of social VR games. I first got my hands on the game at GDC earlier this year, and while it remains basically the same since I last played, really settling into the gameplay provided me with some amount of insight into myself, including just how comfortable I am lying to complete strangers. The answer: I’m surprisingly comfortable.


Werewolves Within Details:

Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Available On: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PSVR 
Reviewed on: HTC Vive
Release Date: December 6th, 2016


Gameplay

If you’ve ever played the party game Mafia, which is designed around the idea of assuming a number of assigned ‘innocent’ roles in effort to root out the bad guys, you’ll be right at home with Werewolves Within. When starting a match (requiring at least 6 people), you’re automatically assigned 1 of 11 different roles, each with their own abilities. Your job, providing you’re neither a Werewolf, Turncloak, or Deviant, is to sniff out and correctly guess who among you is a shape shifting fiend.

werewolves-within-roles

Thankfully the game provides a handy in-game reference guide to see what role is what, so first-timers can jump in without too much fuss. That same guide can also be used to vote for the suspected Werewolf, use your unique abilities, and mute/kick fellow players.

Because everyone was functionally a newcomer to the game, the playsessions I participated in were casual and pretty forgiving, but I can imagine savvier players picking it up and dominating once they get an instinctual handle on how each role functions.

It took a few matches until I was assigned the Werewolf, and I was surprised to see another Werewolf sitting across from me. We exchanged a furtive glance, and taking his lead we started to gang up on what was revealed to be a the Drifter sitting next to me, a British guy playing on PSVR.

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Like most players, he would lean over to the left or right of him to initiate the ‘Whisper Mode’ and secretly talk to people next to him. Eventually I stood up, initiating a ‘Speech Mode’ that lets you mute all other players, and summarily accused him of conspiring against us, the peace-loving townsfolk. Hook. Line. And sinker.

Of course, once voting was over and we had falsely convicted the Drifter, my Werewolf-kin and I were ousted to reveal our true natures. Absolutely sure that no one would trust me from that point forward, I left the match for another group.

WerewolvesWithin_BookInTownsquare_FINAL

The game is cross-compatible with PSVR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and also offers private matches so you can try out your new deception tactics on friends and family. And while the aim of the game is virtual deception, I really wouldn’t be surprised if I made real friends in the process during random quick matches.

Any which way you slice it, Werewolves Within proves to be cleverly balanced and frighteningly fun.

Immersion

Setting the right atmosphere for a game is important, and that goes doubly so for one that’s essentially static like Werewolves. Thankfully the game is absolutely dripping with cool outdoor set pieces, that because of a constant bustling of background wildlife, really makes the game feel alive. It’s actually a shame you can’t get up out of your seat and explore the Romani camp, or the little village’s various pubs, stores and churches. They’re just too expressive not to be curious.

WerewolvesWithin_CaravanCamp_FINAL

Set in the fictional town of Gallowston, a cartoony Central European village filled with timber-framed houses seemingly pulled straight from classic monster movies like Frankenstein (1931) or The Wolf Man (1941), you’re supplied with a randomly assigned avatar. Around the campfire you’ll see Romani fortunetellers, headscarf-clad spinsters, gruff tradesmen, hunters, and an assortment of dopey looking serfs. This is where the polished aesthetic of the game somewhat clashes with my idea of personal choice.

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Firstly, you can’t choose your avatar, which isn’t the worst thing in the world I suppose. But regardless of whether you have hand controllers like PSVR Move, the Vive’s controllers or the recently released Oculus Touch, you are constricted to use automatic emotes, i.e. ‘press A for clap your hands’. This is by far my least favorite part of the game. I would much rather have the weirdness of imperfect inverse kinematics that you see in other games than downgrade my positionally-tracked hand controllers to that of a mere gamepad. Because of this I ended up not using the emotes, often times forgetting they were there and uselessly waving my controllers to no effect. The next time I play, I’ll probably use a gamepad, which is a damn shame.

Comfort

As a 100% static experience, you’ll either be sitting the whole time or standing very briefly to activate ‘Speech Mode’, so there’s no artificial locomotion to contend with. This makes Werewolves Within hands down one of the most comfortable VR games to play, which would be great for inexperienced users like curious moms and dads who just don’t quite see a point in VR just yet.

Although not specifically a point on comfort, getting out of your seat and walking around the environment proves to be a bit unsettling as your avatars head is stretched form its still seated body—so staying in your relative real-world position is a must.


exemplar-2We partnered with AVA Direct to create the Exemplar 2 Ultimate, our high-end VR hardware reference point against which we perform our tests and reviews. Exemplar 2 is designed to push virtual reality experiences above and beyond what’s possible with systems built to lesser recommended VR specifications.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Gameplay
8.5
Immersion
7
Comfort
10

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