Sanctuary Woods' highly original role playing game, Wolf, is a welcome diamond in the rough with so many RPGs dealing with overused scenarios of medieval monsters and fantasy dungeons. Having the player take the roll of a wolf and then making that roll as realistically accurate as possible is a brilliant concept. You won't encounter slimy creatures and dark, dank castles but you will get a truly awesome lesson about a wolf's life, from birth to death and everything that happens in between. Although a role playing game at heart, Wolf incorporates some interesting strategy requirements as well as being a simulation of a wolf's life in the great outdoors.
Wolf, although not flashy, can be intensely rewarding. What you get is exactly what goes on during a wolf's lifetime. The designers have gone to great lengths to emulate real life surroundings and environments and have packed the game with a stunning and absolutely complete review of every conceivable aspect of a wolf's survival regimen. Even some of the in-game wolves are patterned after real life counterparts that you get to meet through superb interactive segments and documentation. The presentation is beautifully done with a multitude of choices available on how you want to approach the problems facing survival in the wild. The structure is such that you can play individual scenarios (more than forty), basically tutorials, on various aspects of the wolf's existence such as pack hierarchy and basic skills or you can go for the throat and tackle the ultimate open-ended scenario that assumes you know everything there is to know about how to survive as a wolf in the wild. The latter option is not recommended until after you've conquered the step-by-step scenarios intended as learning tools. Since every facet of a wolf's life is covered in the game, you'll experience in detail aspects that include foraging, protection, wariness (usually from human hunters), all the basic keen senses (e.g., scent, direction, hunting for food) inherent in a wolf, social structure, emotions (to use a human term), marking territory, sleeping, mating and more. Although the game has forty scenarios (not counting the full simulation), be advised that even the beginning ones can be difficult to master. The biggest challenge, besides day-to-day survival using hunting and pack interaction, is working your way up in the pack to become the alpha male via direct confrontation with the leader of the pack. One nice feature allows you to take over the body of another wolf if the one you are controlling dies. There are three types of wolves (and environments) available: timberland, plains and arctic. Each environment (and wolf-type) has specific characteristics and realistic wildlife. There is no "winning condition" per se since the game is designed to be open-ended (take your wolf through an entire life and then continue through his offspring) and game play can drag somewhat when everything is going well (time to use the auto-mode feature). Playing Wolf successfully for any prolonged length of time will have you howling at the moon in triumph.
Graphics: Game is viewed from a top-down perspective but has many cinematic cut scenes. The CD-ROM version contains a wonderful animation sequence with live-action video.
Sound: Sound effects of surrounding environment are top notch (e.g., running water, rain, birds). A minor complaint is the unfair advantage given to the human hunters who, if anything, are overly stocked in the scenarios. They attack the wolves by air on occasion and apparently always approach when the wolf is upwind since the wolf has trouble hearing the engine sounds.
Enjoyment: Fresh and innovative RPG when first released. You've got to love nature and at least be interested in learning about wolves if you're to get enjoyment from the game. No monster bashes, dungeon crawls or world-saving exploits in this one, just a marvelous challenge of pure survival from a four-legged point of view. Oddly enough, when you're being the most successful is when the game slows down a bit simply because you've got everything under control. This is a simulation of a wolf's life, twenty-four hours a day, so obviously you take the quiet times along with the action scenes while learning that a wolf's life is far from mundane and, in fact, is surprisingly complex.
Replay Value: Game could have used a scenario builder in order to allow for expansion of game play into more diverse landscapes, or at least different landscapes. Random placement of human hunters and prey is about the extent of replaying scenarios.
This game is, quite simply, a wolf simulator. In the game, you take the role of a wolf, either in a mission (such as survive for a day) or in simulation mode, which alllows you to do whatever you want. All the aspects of life as a wolf are simulated, from eating and hunting to mating and avoiding hunters. The game also features an interactive wolf encyclopaedia.
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