Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (PC) Review

By Athanasios 29.09.2019

Review for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines on PC

Unlike other night owls like demons, ghosts, programmers, etc, vampires have received the least amount of videogame love - in fact, even one of the best settings for some blood-sucking fun, White Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade, has only been touched twice (Vampire: Prelude doesn't exist in the mind of this reviewer). The first foray into the World of Darkness was Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption; an action-RPG that had its charm, but was also insanely flawed. The second one, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, was, undoubtedly, much better, but due to a number of complications, one of which being the pressure from Activision, it was released unfinished, and heavily problematic, to the point that it led to the disappearance of developer Troika Games... and yet, it still remains one of the best role-playing games ever, has a fanbase that loves it passionately, and still holds up, up after 15 freaking years.

Glasses have been emptied, panties and bras are on the floor, and the playful couple that's doing all the smooching has even brought a pair of handcuffs to play with. One slightly more passionate love bite later, as well as a pretty rude awakening, and the protagonist will feel a strong urge to drink a few pints of blood. You see, rather than just having vampires play the role of the enemy, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines lets you be such a creature of the night yourself. Yup, it comes as no surprise that being "cursed" with vampirism lets you do all sorts of cool stuff - and its more than just being able to run faster, hit stronger, or take a beating and recover afterwards.

A 'kindred' holds the power of Disciplines; abilities or spells that can buff your innate skills, transform you into a ferocious beast, summon spectral predators, turn you invisible, create mass hallucinations, and many more. The fuel for all these things, of course, will be blood; blood that you gather from willing or unwilling victims. You can't just go around gulping your favourite juice, and doing your voodoo thing left and right, though. The setting of World of Darkness is not about cool vampire action, but about what it means to be a "monster," and why you should hide that fact from mortals. These two, central themes at hand, are 'Humanity' and 'The Masquerade.'

Drink your food-bag dry, or do evil deeds, and you'll lose Humanity, letting the 'Beast' come a little closer the surface. In gameplay terms, it will be easier for you to get into a brief, frenzied state, during which you will be unable to control your actions. Hiding your supernatural nature, however, is far more important, unless you like to attract those who hunt your kind. Sooo... interesting mechanics, yet, other than those, this is probably, nothing more than a typical, first/third-person RPG. You'll explore a night-time LA, interact with a bunch of shady folk, do a couple of them quests, kill an enemy or two, and that will be all, correct? Yes, and no.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines on PC

Indeed, this seems like a smaller scale action-adventure akin to The Elder Scroll series. In reality, though, it's actually closer to the original Fallout. The story itself isn't something special; just a tale about a discovered sarcophagus, and the rumoured coming of vampire apocalypse that this will bring forth. The beauty of it all, however, lies not on the mysterious McGuffin, but on how the local supernatural community is affected by it. Furthermore, while the storyline is simply about the power struggle between the various factions, it manages to remain very interesting by masterfully avoiding giving straight answers about whether what's going on has a rational or mystical basis...

Speaking of factions, instead of... Bethesda-ing them between bad guys and good, things are a bit more complicated in here. Like in real life, the universe of Bloodlines is drenched in political schemers, diplomats, and idealists (honest or not). More importantly, however, it includes many people with their own way of thinking; people that tend to have a point, which, thankfully, is never shoved on your face. Finally, and again, like with Fallout, rather than forcing you to choose a side, this has a strong emphasis on individualism. In fact, the best characters are exactly the ones who choose their own path - including you, if you are willing to do so.

Sure, this can occasionally give out an - intentionally - comic-book-esque, silly, and straight up corny vibe, but it mixes that with a narrative that can be exceptionally satirical, unrelentingly cynical, and deeply philosophical, with one example being a - sadly only minor - character by the name of Pisha, who doesn't exactly play a large role, but offers dialogue that deals with the intricacies of the vampiric condition, and questions your sense of morals. Generally, this urban realm this takes place into, is an immersive, believable world, and its inhabitants feel like (un)living creatures, that actually have a past, and aren't there just to sell you stuff, or provide quests.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines on PC

Bloodlines manages to be that engrossing for two reasons. The first is that it looks and sounds phenomenally good for such an old and rushed (more on that later) title, managing to perfectly capture the vibe of a gothic metropolis, and make you feel as if you are truly roaming the streets of a city full of dirty secrets - one of them being your avatar. The music also fits like a glove to the style of the game, with musicians like Lacuna Coil, Die My Darling, and Ministry, providing the tunes that bop along your adventure. Finally, courtesy of the Half-Life 2’s version of the Source engine, facial animation and design is simply wonderful - particularly lifelike and emotional for the main characters.

The second reason why this is so immersive, is the exemplary attention that has been given to the writing. Yes, even if there are six different options available while talking to a character, these usually lead to the same two or three paths, and yet these parts are so finely crafted that dialogue becomes its own reward. The love that conversations have received can be seen in clans Nosferatu and Malkavian. With the first, you essentially play someone who is and looks like a monster, thus NPCs will react accordingly, with additional dialogue responses. As for the crazy, or frighteningly insightful Malkavians: Every. Single. Line of their dialogue options has been rewritten!!!

...and don’t forget the voice-acting, that, oh-so-simple element, which can make or break an RPG. If you are looking for the perfect illustration on why this is an extremely crucial part of any plot-driven videogame, look no further than Bloodlines. The actors behind every character, minor or not, have done a great job in bringing life to them, conveying the necessary amount of emotion to do so. It’s also no surprise that most of these talented men and women are industry professionals, with some notable examples being Courtenay Taylor, Daran Norris, Grey Griffin, Michael Gough, Kat Cressida, as well as freaking John DiMaggio of Futurama fame... among others.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines on PC

Right now, some are probably thinking: "how come I've never played that excellent videogame?" Well, the thing is that, while the immense love that Bloodlines has received is a testament to its multiple strengths, it's sadly a title that has a great deal of problems. The idea behind it is one with some great potential. You have the option to choose between seven classes or 'clans,' each with its own strengths and weaknesses, many skills that you can help you further customise your built, and, as a expected, many different ways to confront a problem, similar to Deus Ex, Fallout, and so on. Sadly, the execution leaves much to be desired.

The very first hub area is almost flawless, as you can play through it whether you are a fierce warrior, a persuasive seducer, a sneaky thief... or a Tremere. After that, however, it will become painfully obvious that not all skills are created equal, as the game, slowly but steadily, becomes a combat-oriented experience, with many skills becoming obsolete... after all you can't kill a boss with your hacking abilities. Oh, yes, the combat sucks big time too, since it's nothing more than a boring and clunky case of a hack 'n' slashing. In the end, and similar to the original tabletob RPG, this was meant to be an RPG about storytelling, not a dungeon crawling.

The reason for all these flaws, and many others? A ridiculously rushed production, the result of which being something that has been left incomplete, and unpolished. Many areas feel (and are) empty; promising characters are soon forgotten; animations in cut-scenes are laughably bad; missions become fetch-quests the closer you get to the finale; and, last but not least: tons of bugs and glitches. Thankfully, much of this has been fixed by the community; a community that keeps on providing updates even in 2019! Alas, if some people loved this so much, just imagine how bloody awesome this would be if it had spent more time in the oven.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

What is Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines? Simple. It's one of the best RPGs of all time... and a perfect example of how some production companies (in this case good 'ol Activision) can ruin their own darn merchandise! In conclusion, this is a cult classic that could have easily been a true classic. Here's hoping the upcoming sequel will manage to be the one…

Developer

Troika Games

Publisher

Activision

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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