Hungry Like the Wolves
In the near future, werewolf-kind hovers on the brink of extinction. Werewolves 2: Pack Mentality, a text adventure by Choice of Games, casts the player in the role of a young but talented werewolf resistance fighter trying to rescue their species from human aggression. This thrilling interactive novel kept me on the edge of my seat, even if the plot tended to railroad me a bit.
Werewolves 2 is closer to a choose-your-own-adventure book than what I’d call an adventure game. There are no puzzles and no failure state. Every few pages, the player chooses from a list of potentual actions. Their answer determines how the story progresses from there. That’s the theory anyway, as I often had trouble discerning what impact my decisions had, if any.
The player’s first main goal is to rescue a group of their fellow werewolves from a secret government facility. During the planning stage, the rebel leader asks what role you’d like to play in the operation, the choices being logistics, spy, assassin or shock trooper. I chose spy, hoping for some text-based social stealth action.
Plot Hole Junction
At first, it seemed like I was going to get my wish, as the second scene involved me talking my way past the base’s second in command. But that’s where things got kind of wonky. After going through the whole process of creating a fake human identity, you still have to infiltrate the base by posing as one of the prisoners. After that, there are precisely two instances when you feel like a proper spy sneaking around behind enemy lines. The first time, when the player character spends an entire day undercover, is very well done and exactly what I was hoping to see. The second was practically an afterthought where you’re in and out in five minutes. Everything else is identical across all of the roles.
They probably did this so that all the different roles can have mostly similar scenes, but this ended up creating a few big plot holes. During the spy path, the player character spends about two-thirds of the mission posing as a prisoner, then changing into a guard uniform to sneak around outside their cell block. I’m no infiltration expert, but I refuse to believe it would be that easy to go back and forth unnoticed. Come to think of it, is the spy even necessary if the resistance already had people on the inside? And why could the other agents get in alright, but you have to go in with the prisoners? Why even include the spy option if it was that difficult a fit for the narrative?
Full Moon Fever
Despite these criticisms, I still enjoyed the story overall. The characters were interesting and I thought the romance subplot was well written. A lot of the characters were static, but they were written with enough personality and nuance to keep me engaged. You will be at a slight disadvantage if you didn’t play the first game, but the prologue does an alright job of catching you up.
Werewolves 2 is very good at building tension, especially when it comes to making decisions. Once you pick one, there’s no going back, so you’d better weigh the options carefully. That said, there were several instances where a seemingly obvious solution was missing from the list. Other times I saw the choice I wanted, but it was phrased in a way I disagreed with. This is frequently the case when you’re called to make a moral judgment, and the game assumes there can only be one rationale for a given action. This wasn’t always the case, but it happened often enough to be noticeable.
Werewolves 2 also falls into the same traps as many other urban fantasies. There’s a lot of excellent background lore, but the universe itself seems way too similar to ours. One character explicitly mentions 9/11, meaning that Al-Qaeda exists in this timeline. That means WW1, WW2, the Russian Revolution, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan all played out exactly the same way they did in our world. All I’m saying is that you’d think the existence of werewolves would have had a much bigger impact on human history.
Then there are the issues that always crop up whenever mythical creatures act as a stand-in for a marginalized group. Werewolves 2 frequently invokes real-world atrocities when describing the human treatment of werewolves. The difference here is that the villains have a point. More than once, a lone werewolf quickly overwhelmed an entire squad of armed soldiers. Werewolves in this universe also have the potential to turn feral, becoming extremely irrationally violent, even to other werewolves. Combine those two facts, and it’s hard to argue that they aren’t a threat to humans. I’m not saying the humans in Werewolves 2 are secretly the good guys or anything, but there’s definitely friction between text and subtext.
Did I enjoy Werewolves 2? Yes. Would I play it again? Maybe. If you like urban fantasy and YA novels in particular, you’ll probably like Werewolves 2. It’s not the perfect experience, but still an enjoyable ride that’s worth the price of admission.
Is it Hardcore?
A decent interactive urban fantasy novel, Werewolves 2 is a fundamentally flawed but genuinely enjoyable experience.