I’ve played through Heart of the Forest three times now so I can give you a more extended review too if you need convincing.
First up, the title of this review is “Get your werewolf fix” but you don’t need to know anything about Werewolf the Apocalypse to play or enjoy Heart of the Forest. In fact, I envy you and your chance to find out all about it by experiencing it for the first time.
There’s only one character to play in this game, Maia, and she doesn’t know about her family’s history in the wild Białowieża forest. You can find out with her.
While there’s only one character, you define her. In the prologue, your reactions to a weird dream of trees and death determine what sort of person you are.
What sort of person you are is incredibly important, it determines your possible actions in the future and how people react to you.
You don’t need to know the World of Darkness rule system to play Heart of the Forest. You get to see a simplified/inspired-by version running in this text adventure, and it might tempt you to learn the full system, but you can enjoy Heart of the Forest as a story and forget about the game engine in the background if you want.
Maia and a friend have come to town to find out… well, already that’s up to you. You can admit that you’re looking into your family, you can reveal more, or you can be an angry young woman and not reveal much at all. The important thing is; you and a friend are now in the forest.
You’ll soon meet interesting people and discover there’s a conflict between conservationists and loggers. The government doesn’t help much except to point out that the logging is being done for environmental reasons.
Of course, you can try and ignore all this and spend more time researching your family if that’s your main drive. Taking actions that bring you closer to solving problems that matter to you are generally a good thing in the game because they’ll boost your willpower. With that mental reserve, you can sometimes push yourself to take actions you wouldn’t otherwise be able to (or want) to do.
How long does it last?
Heart of the Forest feels like a short game because you’re bound to get caught up in the plot as it unfolds and the decisions you need to make. So I don’t want to give too much away here.
In truth, there are over 120,000 words in this text game, and that’s the size of a full novel. I’ve said I’ve played it three times, well, there are more than 200,000 different paths you can take through it to get to one of five primary endings.
If you know Werewolf then this next comment may speak to you. If you don’t, then don’t worry. The first time I finished Heart of the Forest, I died a hero, and as Bone Gnawer Ahroun and the next time, I lived to continue the war as a Glass Walker Ragabash.
I will play the game again. I don’t just want a different ending, but I want to see if I can walk the path of Theurge, Pilodox or Galliard.
It’ll take me an evening to play through again. I’ll already have faced some decisions, I’ll have a better idea of the options, but even on your first playthrough, I suspect you can play from start to finish in a quarter of your weekend.
Heart of the Forest look and feel
I’ve twice called Heart of the Forest a “text game”, but that’s unfair. Yes, the text is where the decisions happen, but the game makes excellent use of atmospheric cinemagraphs (slightly animated pictures) and sound.
You may hear wild animals in the forest before you see them.
With text appearing on the left, animations on the right and the occasional prompt it might sound as if Heart of the Forest is overwhelming.
It’s not. I don’t know how many hours of playtesting Different Tales, the publisher, put into to get this right but the text appears, and waits, at a perfect tempo. You’re never rushed. It’s never frustrating. You can intercede if you want.
It’s worth paying attention to the illustrations too, not just to admire the game but using your eyes while exploring a forest or a town in which people are becoming suspicious of visitors is a good idea.
However, yes, if you’re only used to playing Doom or Call of Duty then the entire concept of Heart of the Forest, let alone the look and feel, is going to be very different. My strong suspicion is that if you’re even tempted by the game, then you’ll enjoy the change.
Unlike the latest triple AAA-shooters, Heart of the Forest doesn’t need a monster machine to run. Windows, Mac OS or even Linux, 4 GM RAM, an Intel HD 4400 or better, Direct X 11 and Windows 7 on a dual core will do.
My Windows 10 machine could run Heart of the Forest without sounding like an industrial logging machine; which is more than can be said for it running The Witcher 3.
I would have been so disappointed if the full game did not live up the promise of the demo. Phew. Heart of the Forest delivers.
Heart of the Forest is a fantastic, sometimes dark, drama about grabbing life by the fur and making the most of it. It’s not always easy, and some people are monsters.
Disclaimer: My copy of Heart of the Forest was provided free for review. I bought multiple copies on the release of the game to send to friends.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below in the comment section below.