Red Storm Entertainment, a North Carolina-based Ubisoft studio, is jumping into the world of social VR with Werewolves Within, a unique take on the Russian social deduction game Mafia (also known as Werewolf). We went hands on with the first ever demo of the game at this year’s GDC.
I sat down with four other journalists at a private Ubisoft press event to play a game style I’ve never played before, a unique take on the 1986 Russian party game Mafia. Ready to strap into our respective Oculus Rifts and handed our Xbox One controllers, we were told that we would assume a number of roles that would have us accusing each other of the unthinkable. At least one person at the campfire was a werewolf, and we had to root out the person(s) using our wits and a mix of randomly assigned abilities. Root him out and kill him.
We were first taken through the classes of players–thankfully displayed in a handy book rendered in the virtual space that allows you to review and use your abilities, and of course cast your vote against any potential wolf-people (max of 2 possible werewolves allowed each round). The randomly assigned player classes are meant to be hidden from plain view, giving each game a constantly dynamic ‘who-done-it’ vibe. Maybe there’s two werewolves in a game, a class that has the automatic ability to detect fellow werewolves and a further ability to sniff out another person’s role. Is there mutual trust between the two werewolves? Will you turn on a loved one, cast doubt upon your dear old grandmother, or sit back and play it quiet while the room erupts in wild accusations?
My avatar was a Romani woman with a fairly revealing lowcut shirt that I wouldn’t normally wear out of modesty. I also wouldn’t normally have breasts, which is a novelty that did have a certain effect on me. I was first assigned the role of ‘the deviant’, a person that can win the game only by attracting the most votes. Essentially it was my job to act like a werewolf who didn’t want to be discovered, but do it badly enough to be considered a serious candidate for execution. So I did the first thing that came to my mind. I started insulting people. Standing up and automatically activating the game’s ‘monologue mode’, which silences the other party members, I announced that we shouldn’t listen to our Ubisoft-employed guide and that we shouldn’t dare trust anyone so deeply entrenched in “the Industry.” I didn’t attract a single vote, maybe a sign that I should have pulled back on my approach some.
The next round I was a ‘watcher’, a villager that let’s you reveal one of two possible roles of another player, one being the true role and the other a decoy role. As a villager I also had the chance to vote for a ‘ring leader’, which gives a democratically elected player the ability to cast a double-strength vote. I wanted to start sewing discord among the party, but also see who was being genuine enough to deserve the right to punish the would-be werewolf double-wise. Leaning in close to the journalist to my right, I activated a ‘whisper mode’ that allowed me to speak directly to her, telling her that if she would help me then I would appoint her the ring leader. Quickly leaning over to the journalist to my right, I told him the same spiel. But I wasn’t being coy enough, and I started attracting attention from our guide. The votes poured in, but in the end I was spared. We found the werewolf, and he burned to a crisp, leaving a ghostly wolfman in his place.
Set in a number of locales straight out of the movie Frankenstein, complete with Bavarian villager avatars, traveling minstrels, Moors, and Romani to give it an authentic flavor, Werewolves Within is looking to appeal to a massive audience of future VR users–and with a level of polish that looks nearly ready for the spotlight. Although Red Storm is keeping a tight lid on their target platforms, they maintain that they haven’t picked a specific headset, and could very well be publishing across all major headsets coming this fall. While the current build uses the gamepad, which give you a set number of character emotes (point an accusatory finger by hitting up on the d-pad) I was told by Red Strom’s senior creative director David Votypka that the game would also potentially be adding hand controller support.
In the build we played there were only four roles available, but the plan is to release 9 different roles so that the 5-8 people in the same game will have a diverse enough set to play with.