From the pages of the past! Ads of yesteryear – Werewolf the Apocalypse: The Heart of Gaia

The Secret of Vulcan Fury’s cancellation by Interplay was a blow to Trekkie gamers everywhere, but given Interplay’s financial situation, it was probably the only thing they could actually do at the end. It’s not something specific to Interplay or to any one company, but it’s a cold truth that game development can often tread lightly between fast or famine.

White Wolf was a pen & paper publisher and developer of tabletop titles the most popular of which were its Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf lines at the end of the nineties. Developing a video game with either line seemed like the next logical choice just as it was for FASA’s Shadowrun on the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and even the Sega CD for Japanese audiences.

At least that’s what developer, Dreamforge, hoped to do with Werewolf the Apocalypse: The Heart of Gaia. Using Epic’s first generation Unreal engine which had debuted with Unreal in ’98, Werewolf was going to be a game that would allow players to rampage through it from either a first or third person perspective. It would embrace the alternate modern world of White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting where gothic terrors ruled the shadows.

According to White Wolf alum and executive producer for the game, Travis Williams, it would sport cutting edge morphing tech, an arsenal of guns and melee weapons, and multiplayer goodies. It would have a deep story tied into the mythology of the series as you play the role of Ryan, a werewolf cub who soon becomes wrapped up in a conspiracy taking him to face his destiny as a promised hero. Players would be free to develop Ryan’s abilities with a classless system mirroring that in the PnP. It sounded like it would beat Nihilistic Software’s Vampire the Masquerade – Redemption to the punch by a few years.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Publisher, ASC Games, which apparently had also bankrolled the project for Dreamforge, also had shaky finances and went bankrupt shortly after the turn of the century. For DreamForge, that was the kiss of death not only for Werewolf, but for development house as well.

We’ll probably never know how the final game would have turned out. DreamForge was no stranger to CRPGs having worked on a number of TSR licensed games for SSI in the nineties such as Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession and Menzoberranzan. Both of those games were first-person CRPGs based in TSR’s AD&D multiverse, but they had also created a number of independent titles such as Anvil of Dawn and the classic adventure game, Sanitarium. DreamForge had the talent to bring worlds to life, but it wasn’t enough to save them from collapsing as ASC went under.

The few screenshots that trickled out from production are on the ad below along with a poly werewolf leaping out at you. Unfortunately, it would be one of the few pieces of media in print that had ever made it out to remind players that there was actually a game being made. As the years passed, more assets began to trickle out including a huge number of cut scenes that were created for the game which have been preserved on Youtube.

Since then, Vampire the Masquerade has had two PC games released to the masses with mixed reviews, though the last one, Bloodlines, continued to thrive well after its own developer, Troika, went under. Thanks to a community of fans who continued patching it themselves, it’s now better than it was initially released. Yet no one has gone back to Werewolf again. It’s too bad. Despite its buggy debut, Bloodlines was a remarkable CRPG with plenty of depth both within its story and character development system. Like many fans, I liked it a lot, and can’t help but wonder if a Werewolf game could have turned out the same way.

Werewolf the Apocalypse: The Heart of Gaia ad 1999

Low poly counts were the rule of the day in the late nineties before fancier tech gave developers more room to stretch their CG skillz with. But those screenshots still looked really good.

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