Sunday 13 January, 2008
Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines
Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines is an action role-playing game with elements of horror as well. The game centers on a player created character that has just been turned into a vampire. The game is built to emulate the rules and setting of the White Wolf Inc. pen and paper game Vampire: the Masquerade. As the player navigates the politics of vampire society and performs quests in an around the LA area, they gain experience points to purchase more vampiric as well mundane abilities. The game demonstrates moderate open-endedness when compared to other RPGs, more so than Bioshock but less than Oblivion.
On Saturday night I began playing Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines, a lesser known action RPG that suffers from an overly cumbersome name. Truly it is a thing composed of the stitched together titles of the games of ages past and animated by forces best left unexplained. So I think from now on I’ll go ahead and refer to it as VtMB or Bloodlines depending on my mood. The interesting thing about this particular title is that its creators, the now defunct Troika Games, managed get Valve’s permission to create the game with the now consecrated Source engine. It’s hard to tell at points; however, due to the vast differences between the two games and the fact that Troika didn’t have the time or money Valve had access to when they were making HL2.
As may have become instantly clear to you upon seeing the first word of VtMB’s monstrous title, the game is about vampires. And not the kind that live in castles and scare helpless Romanian peasants, but ones that live among us and ruthlessly enforce their secret existence with an arcane spectrum of laws collectively called the Masquerade, a coda that begs to be italicized. There are also several different kinds of vampires with all sorts of crazy powers like summoning wolves, telepathy, or making people vomit blood. After some thought, I eventually settled on a Tremere due to their being renown as the most intellectual of the bunch and therefore more capable of remembering not to go sunbathing, also they do the whole making people spew blood thing, which is awesome. Oh, and I named him Emmanuel Salazar, which is comparatively awesome. In addition to the vampire “class” choice there was also the array of skills and power options, many of which differed depending on which bloodsucker you chose. These included things ranging from firearms to intimidation to brawling to scholarship, so there is a great deal of room for experimentation.
So after the character creation the newly created Emmanuel is thrust into the cutthroat world of vampire politics. After a rather brief PG-13 sex scene in which my character is bitten by his partner who, horror of horrors, is actually one of the undead. But before Mr. Salazar is able to so much as ask whether or not this means he’s technically a necrophiliac the vampire Special Forces kidnap both his vampiric consort and him. Without spoiling much more, I’ll go ahead and say that a great deal of vampires are then introduced including their “prince” Sebestian LaCroix who did an excellent job of making me immediately dislike him. He is seriously a combination of every bad stereotype of a politician, lawyer, and aristocrat and these are all evident within the first five minutes of the game. This brings me to the subject of the voice acting - it’s stellar! I have yet to encounter a character whose dialog was not delivered expertly. Even though the vampire leader made me hate him, he did so because that was the idea.
The graphics were also something to marvel upon. The facial textures and character models look like they would fit in perfectly in Half-life 2 (except for one fellow whose long hair and beard are rather shoddily done) if Half-life 2 had vampires in addition to all manner of alien and robot. The unfortunate part of the game’s look is the hit-or-miss animations. Why does my character look like a scarecrow when he walks and a marionette when he runs? Thankfully, though, I don’t have to look at that unless I’m in the over-the-shoulder view, and I mostly prefer first person perspective.