As we know, Virtual Reality requires developers to dig deep and invent new game concepts, and Ubisoft has already presented an interesting title in the shape of the quite good Eagle Flight. With Werewolves Within, they go a step further and translate a well known game into the virtual space.
The original is known under the title Werewolf, which is based on the card game Mafia. In the game, people sit in a circle, and at the beginning of each round everyone is randomly assigned a role. At the centre are the human villagers, as well as one or more werewolves in human form. There are some other roles, such as saints or hunters, who all have specific abilities, but also have their own objectives. In conversation with one another, the players must figure out who belongs to which group, in order to reach a conclusion as to who needs to be killed in the final vote, and reach their own respective goal. It's a social game, one that you could easily play outside of the world of video games.
Since it's all about communication, conversation tactics, and ice cold lies, naturally the game doesn't provide any AI players. All participants must be real people, and if the game doesn't have at least five people, it's impossible to play. This can of course be an issue, because VR is, as a medium, still not very widespread. Thankfully, Ubisoft does its part to help matters as users of PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift can play together without issue.
Technically this works pretty well, and the players find themselves in a fantasy location around a campfire setting, the design reminding us somewhat of the Fable series. At the beginning everyone gets assigned their role, and with the help of a thick book which can be viewed at any time, you can see what responsibilities come along with it. Thanks to head tracking, the real movement of the player is transferred as much as possible into the virtual world, and players can even stand up if they want to argue passionately or lean towards their teammates to say something quietly, and as a result only the person you're leaning towards can hear what you say, an inspired feature that, of course, awakens suspicion amongst the other participants.
Werewolves Within is very much concerned with psychology, which can take quite nerve-wracking dimensions, as with any good thriller. In contrast to the "offline" game with friends at a table, the anonymity, the virtual avatar, and the possibility to play with complete strangers online creates a quite unique brand of tension. Nevertheless, this is also the main problem we had with the game, because if not enough teammates come together or fail to communicate, the situation becomes not only peculiar but also no fun at all.
As with any other online game, the quality of experience with the other players depends on the language barrier too. In this case, good to excellent English skills are mandatory. Technically, and in terms of content, it certainly delivers, and the experience it offers is extremely immersive. However, in the end, there's still one thing that bugs us: there is no progression. Of course, one's own experience of how best to act in the game with the individual roles increases, but experience points and levels are nowhere to be found and would have added something.
The bottom line is this game is perfect for those who want to dive into the lies of the dark forest with some friends, or even strangers for that matter. For others, the concept is possibly too far removed from a traditional gaming approach, and with the added difficulty of finding other players that make for a good experience, this may just prove too tiresome and frustrating for some.