Werewolves Within Review – Virtually Social Nuance (PSVR)
The old man with the eye patch stared me down with his one remaining eye. “I’m the tracker, I swear!” I pleaded with him. A woman across the campfire pointed to me. “He’s lying! I’m the tracker,” she shot back. A man to my left piped up. “They’re both lying. The tracker isn’t present in this round, which means one of them is a werewolf, and the other one wants us to choose them.” The discussion continued like this for another couple of minutes until it was time to vote. Had we resolved anything? Which side would win? It was up to the ballot.
Werewolves Within is a VR take on the tabletop game One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Instead of sitting around a table though, everyone wears a VR headset and gathers around a few environments in a town that feels straight out of classic monster movies. The gathered avatars, up to eight people, are assigned roles and then must work together to deduce who the werewolves are (or to throw suspicion off of yourself if you end up being the lusus naturae). The complexities get even deeper as certain villagers have special roles that give them clues as to the identity of each villager. Knowing information is one thing though. Convincing everyone else you’re not lying is another.
For VR being such a solitary experience, it’s truly incredible how social Werewolves Within is. Once I got in with a good group, I lost hours in that VR headset, longer than I have ever sat for a single session of VR gaming. The only thing that jolted me out of it was one of the other players saying what time it was when they left, and even still, I played another three rounds before finally deciding to hop off. It’s not just the addictive nature of the game itself, but the sense of community. Playing recurrent games with the same group, I gained a lot of friends, even after trying to deceive each other repeatedly. It has an air of those classic weekends, getting together with groups of friends to play trading card or other tabletop games. If you haven’t had that kind of tactile social experience, I highly recommend it.
Bringing Monsters to Life
Ubisoft and Red Storm have put some great work into making sure that Werewolves Within feels interactive and personable. Every character becomes a real person. Mouths move as players talk, hands animate with their inflection so it’s easy to tell who’s talking, and the head movement is tracked directly to the VR headset so that the characters move around just as you would. Want to whisper secretively to the person on your right? Just lean in to the right and the two of you can share secrets, swapping knowledge or trying to hoodwink the other person. How about emphatically standing up to make a declarative statement when the rest of the group just can’t seem to agree on anything? You can do that too.
It’s these little things that really bring the characters to life and help define Werewolves Within as one of, if not the best social VR game out right now. I don’t say social game lightly either. Werewolves Within is a game that will not let you get away with not being on mic. The PlayStation VR headset has one built in on the underside of the visor, so nobody has an excuse to play silently, and groups will vote to kick you if you decide not to talk. That said, I feel like this is a great game to help get over social anxiety that anyone might have. So far I haven’t run into anyone vitriol in the games that I have played. This isn’t an online shooter, so nobody will be calling names for lacking skills, and with the roles changing each round, everyone will find themselves both deceiving and befriending the other players.
My first couple of rounds were interesting as I figured out the nuance of each role and the strategy for how to play. Pretty soon I had learned the basics, and was quickly lying and forming alliances, trying to reap the best outcome for myself. There are a couple of roles that offer additional win conditions, besides just catching the werewolves or not. The Saint is a role that can pray by bowing their head, receiving the identity of one werewolf in the group. The problem is that if the werewolves vote for the Saint to die, they win, so the Saint must share this information discreetly with those they feel they can trust. The Deviant is a selfish player that is trying to die to win. They basically act as a distraction, trying to come across as suspicious, but not overly so.
What Big Teeth You Have
The switching of roles, which roles can possibly be present in a match (i.e: some rounds have the possibility of not have the Saint, or can have up to three werewolves, etc.), and even the arrangement of the seating can have huge impacts on each round. Factor in playing with different people that have their own strategies on how to handle their roles and unique interactions between players, and virtually every single round feels standout from the next. It’s something I can see myself getting lost in weekly. There’s also cross-play between Oculus and PSVR, which opens up the playerbase and ensures that people are playing. I’m hoping for continued support, and maybe even updates that will add in elements from the other One Night tabletop games (One Night Ultimate Vampire and One Night Werewolf Daybreak) to keep the online alive for a long time.
Being the best social game on PlayStation VR doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, and Werewolves Within does have a couple launch bugs that can manifest and damage the experience. One glitch will cause the addition of an eighth player who was waiting in the queue to not have a working mic. Groups will cycle through a bunch of players before clearing the glitch and getting a full party with working voice chat. Some players have mentioned the disappearance of the book that acts as a guide each round, though I never ran into that one myself. The positive note is that Ubisoft has stated they are aware of all reported bugs and are working quickly to resolve them, and it’s a testament to how fun the game is that despite the bugs, I can still find myself getting lost in this world for many more hours than any other VR game.
Bugs aside, Werewolves Within is an incredible social experience and the first online game to really make it feel like you are sitting around the campfire with seven other people. The character animations are emotive and quite literally come to life through the voices and head movements of each player. Trust and deception becomes an intimate adventure. Friends are made. Time is lost. Was I really the tracker? Or had I been deceiving everyone, getting them to vote for one of their own to take the fall? I’m not going to tell, but maybe if you find yourself on the other side of the campfire from me, you can try to figure it out.
Werewolves Within PSVR review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.