Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York (PC) Review

By Athanasios 11.12.2019 1

Review for Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York  on PC

Fans of White Wolf's gothic-punk RPG setting, World of Darkness, and especially of the magnificent - despite its many flaws - Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, were pleased to learn that, after 15 whole years, a new VtM title was finally being developed. Before gamers get to sink their fangs at the upcoming Bloodlines 2, however, they can try out Draw Distance's narrative-driven adventure, Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York, which serves as a very, very tasty appetiser, as well as an excellent introduction to neonates. Note to the fellow, disappointed VtM aficionados: don't be discouraged by the fact that this is a visual novel…

Yes. This is a visual novel. Plus, a product of a limited budget, so don't come in expecting flashy cut-scenes and animation. It keeps things quite simple: text, still images of characters/backdrops, a bit of ambient sound, and that's it. Nevertheless, everyone, including genre haters, should give this a chance. They might find their selves unable to stop this four-hour long journey into the enigmatic, yet strangely familiar, world of vampires. Coteries of New York is pretty darn good.

You take the role of one of three (gender-locked) protagonists, each one representing a different clan, with clans being distinct 'bloodlines,' with specific characteristics - behavioural, and otherwise. The story follows you, as you leave your mortal life behind, unwillingly become a vampire, and get entangled in the power play of your new family. Of course, like all good VtM tales, the focus in here is on the experience of such a transition, and not on comic-book-esque, supernatural action.

The basic idea is that you are trying to build a so-called 'Coterie;' which is a small group of "friends" who can help each other out. In gameplay terms, this means that you are given a set of missions that you can carry out, with each one revolving around gaining the trust of a specific character. Depending on your choices, and there are many, the story will change accordingly, affecting your relation with the various bloodsuckers of New York, and alter the grand finale in the process.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York  on PC

Being a Vampire: The Masquerade instalment, this isn't just about clicking on dialogue options. As a kindred, you are able to use certain disciplines; abilities that increase your survival, investigation, and persuasion skills. These, however, need blood, and using blood increases your 'Hunger,' essentially getting you closer to your bestial, unpredictable nature… and opening up additional lines of dialogue. Going out for a drink, of course, isn't something as simple as pressing the 'Feed' button.

This is one of those visual novels where choice and consequence is at the forefront, and that includes dealing with your vampire munchies. Along your quest you'll get some 'Feeding Opportunities,' but you have to think when to take advantage of these moments, and when to avoid giving in to your hunger. In case of the Ventrue, the setting's picky eaters, for instance, you must be careful whose neck you sink your fangs into.

In the long run, these mechanics aren't something special. They make this far better than any other generic visual novel, but, as a whole, this is still a create-your-own-adventure title, without much interactivity compared to a more… game-y game. It's definitely highly replayable, both because of its relatively short length, and how it lets one try different paths, but the story doesn't really branch out as much as it could, which means that play-throughs can get a bit repetitive after a while.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York  on PC

The good news? You'll really "feel" every second of this experience. From your vampire baby-steps, where you'll try to cope with your new self and learn the ropes of this new life, to your dealings with the constant political scheming of the many colourful undead you'll meet, this is a deeply engrossing deal that grabs and never lets go. It's really urban fantasy at its best. Surprisingly, the immersion on offer has nothing to do with the audio-visuals at hand, although these are awesome.

Character models, designed by Rafal Gosieniecki, don't move or change facial expressions, but are beautiful, have a fittingly mystical, and subtly monstrous aura around them, and the way their features are lit in the different (and slightly animated) environments really bring them to (un)life. Finally, both sound and music help with giving the Big Apple's many sides the required atmosphere. All in all, the audio-visuals do what they have to. Having said that, this game's strength is its writing.

Coteries of New York has a pretty simple plot. Less epic than Redemption's, and less mysterious and full of surprises than the one in Bloodlines, this is a typical political thriller that just happens to have vampires in it. It doesn't matter, though, because the boys and girls at Draw Distance have a talent with words. This isn't your ordinary anime visual novel. You'll eat every line and be hungry for more. The writing is so good, that your eyes will forget about the visual aspect.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York  on PC

The quality of the writing can be mostly seen in the people you'll meet, as they are multi-layered characters, who, like in real life, aren't easy to read, are usually more than meets the eye, and can't always be categorised as 'good' or bad.' Again, no, the storyline on offer isn't something that good. In fact, it plays things a bit too safe, and can even be called forgettable as a whole. As mentioned before, however, the focus in here is immersion, and in that regard this is flawless.

Fans of World of Darkness already know it, but Vampire: The Masquerade is a heaven for those who are into franchises with a deep and complex lore that's aimed at a mature crowd. The team behind Coteries of New York really "gets it," evident at how it handles the setting's rich mythos, managing to create a world that will appeal to both veterans and complete and utter newbies. This is really a must-have, whether a fan of VtM, or just someone who likes adult-oriented dark fantasy.

Yes, the story isn't really that impressive; the paths don't diverge much; night time New York could be explored more; and the characters, while promising, aren't as iconic as the ones in Bloodlines. There's also a certain lack of closure, as reaching the end will make you feel as if you played what's really half of the actual storyline - and yet, this remains a must-have for those who love Vampire: The Masquarade, and a perfect entry point for those who want to learn about it.

Screenshot for Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Forget the fact that Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York is a visual novel, as it really knows what the setting is all about. From the world, to the characters, to the absolutely fantastic setting and handling of the franchise's deep lore, this is really a Vampire: The Masquerade game done right, and one that's highly replayable. There are a few flaws here and there, like how forgettable the plot at hand is, or how the paths don't diverge as much as one would want them to, but this is such an engrossing, and deeply atmospheric experience that it doesn't really matter.

Developer

Draw Distance

Publisher

Draw Distance

Genre

Visual Novel

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   

Comments

Butter Ball (guest) 13.12.2019#1

Looks like worth a try.
I've loved bloodlines so much (after fan patches).

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie, ringlord71

There are 2 members online at the moment.