A non spoiler review of Werewolf Heart of the Forest.
By Michael Vachmiel and The Vampire Court of Houston.
October 13, 2020
Werewolf Heart of the Forest – Revised and updated. December 1st, 2020.
Werewolf Heart of the Forest was first reviewed by us as a demo back in July of 2020 and we knew it was going to be a hit. It was a sensation among The Vampire Court of Houston, who are fans of World of Darkness for decades! We fell in love with it instantly for many reasons. Its easy going way it approached complex Werewolf Terms. The story’s compelling narrative. The excellent choice to have pop up boxes giving further details. All this made for great game.
But we already knew all this!
Over the past few days, we have been telling the world on Twitter that this game was going to be great!
So you already know we are going to tell you to go buy this game, and you can get it as part of a bundle of White Wolf Games right now!
So this non spoiler review is for the archives!
What is Werewolf Heart of the Forest?
Werewolf Heart of the Forest is a visual novel game Developed by Different Tales and published by Walkabout Games . It is set in the World of Darkness . WOD is a Tabletop Role Playing Game world, TTRP, that has existed since 1991. World of Darkness is most famous for its game, Vampire The Masquerade, it’s video game Bloodlines, and it’s gothic inspired musical CD, Tales From the Succubus Club.
This latest addition to the World of Darkness cannon involves Werewolf The Apocalypse, a game featuring, you guessed it, werewolves.
Werewolves in World of Darkness are not mindless monsters. They are spiritual warriors, fighting for Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, against the pollution, corporate greed, and wanton destruction.
At least that is the line The Garou, what werewolves call themselves, say before they take your head off!
You play as Maia Boroditch, a woman in her twenties from the United States, who is searching for clues about her family in the last primeval forest of Central Europe.
Her companion is Anya. She is Maia’s friend from Norway, a fellow student who came to Poland to study medicine. She’s an activist. This will come into play if make certain story decisions!
Werewolf Heart of the Forest’s Setting – The Puszcza
The Bialowieza Forest, also known as the Puszcza or Puszcza Bialowieska, is one of the last primeval forests in Europe, located in Poland. It’s a special place where nature exists in its most primal form right next to the big industry.
The Puszcza is a vast area full of myths and legends, which you will also find in the game. The first people settled here 2,000 years ago, but their presence remained relatively limited.
It is here that you, as Maia, begins her journey of discovery. Along the way you met people and discover secrets about yourself and the world around you. Secrets that can help or hurt you and those around you.
Game play is simple and the decisions complex!
During your journey as Maia, a story unfolds. A story you get to create! Maia’s story is of loss, of searching for self, of longing for family.
As you respond to new story elements, Maia develops as does your story choices. Your relations with the NPCS also change throughout the game.
Your relations and actions will determine certain characteristics such as Auspices, or the moon phase that is a reflection of a werewolf’s personality. Another important decision to make is your Tribe, or the werewolf family you belong too. There are several combinations of Auspices and Tribes and each combination will influence each game play.
These combinations of character development and NPC interactions in your story choices makes for fun multiple game plays and increases the game’s overall value.
Speaking of game value!
The game by itself is only $14.99 US! This is an amazing price for a game of this quality. The game can easily be replayed three to four times providing you with hours of enjoyable play time.
The game has music by the group, Irdorath. Their song Vaukalak, can be found here! For the music alone this game is outstanding! You have to check out this band if you are fan of gothic, folk, and dark music!
As a bonus, here are the lyrics in English! Your welcome!
“Three knives into the ground. Oh my Lord, answer me: The wolf’s trace below me – Is it mine or not mine? Oh my Lord, am I a beast? What then, what now? Did they force me? Or is it me, by blood? This is my way, this is my wolf sign, I will not return home, let it remain so. This is my way, this is my wolf sign, I will not return home. Vaukalak! I suffered, I endured, I turned the other cheek. But here I am in the fight: Because I have only two cheeks! Oh my Lord, I could not resist! I paid evil for evil! My time has come! I became who I became! This is my way, this is my wolf sign, I will not return home, let it remain so. This is my way, this is my wolf sign, I will not return home. Vaukalak!”
Werewolf Heart of the Forest is the perfect Game Zero!
Now that the game is out, trending, getting all the love it deserves, it is time to address what I have been saying, what others are saying, and what WHITE WOLF NEEDS TO LISTENS TO!
This is your model for the perfect session zero! This is your model for your version of D and D Beyond! This is how you take Mage, Changeling, Fallen, and your other IPs into the future!
“But oh great and powerful vampire lord Vachmiel” you are asking, “how can a $15.00 game do all that?”
Simple, my Darklings! They did everything right!
Let’s get into it!
Perfect session zero – making the complex simple!
Different Tales is the developer that deserves the credit here. Passionate about White Wolf Mythos and Lore even beyond some of White Wolf’s sometimes botched initial offerings, they broke down the lore and terminology of Werewolf so that everyone could understand it.
Through dynamic writing, pop up boxes that gave more details, they gave enough information where a long term player such as myself could nod in agreement with a fangy grin. They also kept it short, as not to exposition bomb a new player. They got the balance perfect. Give enough information to play, keep the 5 dots (white wolf skill ranks) in lore for further reading!
Build the character as you go! Simplifying character creation!
Character creation in any RPG is difficult! Character creation in White Wolf is daunting! Two decades of books, magazines, LARPS (Live Action Role Playing), and supplements! That is hundreds of books! I know, I own a near complete collection!
So, when someone who may have heard about Vampire, Werewolf, or Mage, and wants to play, and the game books come out to the point the poor Storyteller can get a hernia form the volume of material they are digging out, the intimidation on behalf of the new player can go through the ceiling!
Heart of the Forest creates your main character as you play. Each choice updates their version of the White Wolf character sheet. Act angry – you get rage. Act thoughtful, your moon sign may be a Thurge, a wise person. Tired of being alone and join a group? That’s your family called a Tribe.
Heart of the Forest does not simply give pop up boxes of more information. They reinforce the information through imservie role playing so players are taught and reminded the how and whys of their character.
While any application version of a character generator must include a straightforward generator, this unique and organic way of “filling out a character sheet” is just brilliant!
Respecting sensitive material! Allowing players to process the difficult in private!
Heart of the Forest handles mature subjects in a professional and thoughtful way. LGBTQ community is shown the greatest care and respect in the game. Subjects such as extreme violence are carefully written, showing the full range of possible emotional possibilities. Complex emotions are handled well, such of being from a broken family, loss of people, and gaining of friendships. The game does not shy away from the difficult one bit!
Of all the points as to why Heart of the Forest is the perfect session zero this is the most vital! Allowing each player to get a taste of different themes allows them to come to the game table with the experience of facing a variety of intense emotional situations privately! They will already know to some extent what they enjoy and what they are not comfortable with.
With Heart of the Forest behind us, what can be learned?
Character Creation and learning the rules can be both fun, organic and simple. You don’t have to be a 20 year veteran of White Wolf to create a compelling character. You don’t have to memorize a ton of game mechanics, you character sheet can be electronically filled out for you and you can have in game, built in support for your character.
You can make a complex character. You can accept or reject as much drama, trauma, complexity as you are seeking for that character and still have that character 100% viable, acceptable, and respectable with in the scope of the White Wolf universe.
Will White Wolf follow Different Tales foundation and use this as the model for future games and applications to bring a 21st century, tech savvy, and socially aware gaming consumer in to the hobby we all love?
Let’s hope so!
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Definition – Noun* Manifestation of the collective Will of the Subcultures of the Greater Houston Area* A Private society of vampires and like minds forming a collective Inner Court. * A Global Society of vampires and like minds forming a public Outer Court. * A globally recognized business producing an array of art for the various global subcultures. * Hosted by Michael Vachmiel – Vampire King of Houston.
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