Every once in a while a game will come along that will just be so damn GOOD that it deserves to be played by everyone…and yet something or another happens and it just….doesn’t seem to catch the attention it deserves.
Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines is one of those games.
Basically, it got rushed through final production and came out on the same day as half life 2 (It I remember right). As a result, the original release was about as buggy as a tropical jungle. Surprise surprise, the game didn’t sell well at all, the studio folded, and this amazing game was almost lost and forgotten about.
Fortunately, dedicated fans have not only patched almost all the bugs, but they also restored a LOT of the cut content, making this one of the BEST games I have ever played.
How so? Let me break it down for you all.
Vampire the masquerade Bloodlines (referred to as just “bloodlines” from this point on) is an action RPG with stealth and lots of social interaction. Basically, it’s Deus Ex with Vampires. And none of this “sparkles in the sun” silliness. I’m talking predatory, monstrous, manipulative and nasty vampires coming in many flavours (from the sexy Toreador to insane Malkavians to ugly as hell Nosferatu).
If you woke up with a face like this, you’d hate your unlife too.
The story is pretty riveting, delving deep into the mess that is vampire politics, with you being a new agent of sorts for the local overseer, Lacroix. Not that you really want to. In the very first cutscene, you get Turned, are informed that serving Lacroix is in your best interests if you want to live, and get a VERY rude awakening to the draconian rules of vampire society. The Masquerade.
Ah yes, the masquerade. You see, if humans find out about the vampires walking in their midst, right down the streets of modern downtown LA…Well, they are going to go Simon Belmont on you all. So, you have 5 strikes. If you Feed on people in public, use obviously supernatural powers in plain sight or get spotted by a civilian when playing the above mentioned Nosferatu, you will get a Masquerade violation. With each violation, you run greater risk of running into vampire hunters out in the open. 5 violations and, as Smiling Jack (One of the most awesome characters in the game) puts it: “You wind up staked and baked”, Game over.
So not only do you need to accomplish your missions for your new overseer, but you need to be careful when and where you Feed and use your powers.
Each vampire clan (ie: Character class) is fairly unique, each with a specific focus, and a clear weakness. For example, Nosferatu are so ugly that being seen in a civilian area will likely lead to a masquerade violation (throwing social interaction mostly out the window for them), but they make up for it with excellent stealth skills and melee mastery. Then there are the Tremere, who can never fully level up their physical attributes, but can bend blood and break into the minds of most enemies.
And then there are these guys who seduce the hell out of everything and shoot the survivors
But most of your powers come at a price. Blood. To fuel your various powers, you’ll need to feed on mortals, blood packs, or rats if you can stomach that. If you run low on blood, you can’t use your various abilities, and worse, you run the risk of frezying and losing control, which could easily lead to a Masquerade violation, or running right into an ambush.
Gameplay has a lot of diversity. You can focus on stealth, wasting armies of mooks without taking a hit. You can charm your way through a lot of encounters. You can pick locks, hack computers, mind control or seduce or bribe people to get what you want…You can go close combat or guns or focus more on your higher end abilities like making glowing wolves appear out of nowhere to chow down on your enemies. The variety is excellent.
Decisions, decisions…What do I want to be awesome at next?
That said, it suffers a bit of Deus Ex Human Revolutions problem of boss fights. While most of them aren’t anywhere NEAR as frustrating as HR’s bosses since you likely have a skill or two you can use to gain an advantage (and the bosses only really start getting hard around the second half, when you should be more than prepared), it can be frustrating to have a melee character facing off against someone who can teleport out of range after a few whacks, and then starts pestering you with his gun.
The real star of the game is how engaging the world is. The characters are well written (Smiling Jack, Nines, and the Voerman Sisters really stand out) and the game makes a concerted effort to make you wonder which side in this conflict you’ll ultimately side with, and one in particular is a refreshing choice to be able to make. Favors will be curried, backs will be stabbed, and your status as a newly Embraced Vampire will be exploited by every corpse with a week of seniority and some dirty work that needs doing. And you will love it.
So if you’re a fan of action RPGs or stealth games, or really loved the Deus Ex games, you owe it to yourself to sink your fangs into this game. It really is that good.
Just make sure you grab the latest fan patch HERE. And it’s still being updated and improved to this day.
Happy hunting everyone.