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Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was published by Activision on November 16, 2004. The game runs on Valve's Source Engine, notable for running Half-Life 2. The game begins with you creating a vampire by either answering a questionnaire or directly picking you vampire's clan and stats. The clans are diverse in their abilities, ranging from pet summoning to invisibility.
You start the game as a freshly turned vampire, when you and your sire are attacked and brought before a gathering of vampires. Apparently there are certain rules that all vampires must abide by to keep up the masquerade, and creating more vamps without permission of the presiding Prince of the Camarilla (see: Guy Le Douche) is a big no no. So your sire is executed and you're in short order as well, until the leader of the opposing order, the Anarchs, calls out “Bullshit!” quite literally and you're saved. You then become a pawn of the political war between both parties as your try to make your way in a strange new dark world.
The game is amazing at putting you in the shoes of a little fish in a big pond. The game is divided into four hubs surrounding the LA area (Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, and Chinatown) with plenty of nooks and crannies for you to creep around. Vampire provides plenty of spooky atmosphere and plenty of thrills as you are totally immersed in the world of hidden monsters. From exploring haunted hotels to visiting your favorite club, this is a game where nothing feels out of place, yet nothing is what it seems.
You will encounter plenty of people to lunch on and run errands for as you make your way to the top of the vampire underworld. This is a true RPG in the sense that you must make your way around town and talk to everyone to progress the story, with most of the game taking part in the dialogue choices you make. The amount of content within these encounters was breathtaking, making replaying the game as different clans enjoyable and fresh and dialogue for the most part was tailored to the traits of each clan. A conversation can be manipulated through the use of different abilities such as manipulation, charisma, and seduction. Use of said abilities can greatly alter the way parties respond to your character and the game itself. As I played through the game, I felt myself making attachments to certain characters by protecting their secrets and on the flip side, plotting the demise of any douche bag that crossed me. Vampire has numerous endings, depending on whom you ally yourself with.
The combat is as varied as the dialogue with weapons ranging from handguns to severed limbs to your own innate vampire abilities. The game can be played wither from the first or third person perspective. The character is moved with the standard WASD controls and the camera by the mouse. Typical to this setup, shooting is easiest in first person, but all melee attacks are automatically switched to the third person perspective. Shooting was spot on but melee combat felt sloppy. The lack of a lock on feature is a blessing and a curse, making fighting mobs easier, but also making it hard to keep a bead on a single target as the AI strafes and ducks realistically. Vampiric powers can also be used in combat, and these are solely based on the clan you choose at the beginning of the game. Each clan has trait abilities, such as invisibility, super speed, transformation, etc. You can use these powers in conjunction of a weapon, such as super speed strength katana to make short work of most enemies. The variety of enemies themselves was impressive as well, ranging from thugs to other vampires, ghosts and werewolves. For myself, the combat wasn't the draw of the game, rather I felt myself wanting to get through it as quickly as possible so I could get back to the dialogue.
Vampire is a beautiful gem of a game, shining brilliantly almost every minute played. Alas, there are some flaws, small but noticeable. Sometimes the sound would clip off and speech would stutter, nothing major. The biggest problems I ran into were when I would load into an area and the game would shut down, sometimes setting me back hours because I forgot to save. Another major issue was when I was in a sewer portion. I had to fill up a chamber with water, to move from a lower level to a higher one. When I had filled said chamber and then moved into it, I could not go up. I looked beneath and above, seeing the gentle waves of the water, but nothing in the space that I occupied. I reset the game a few times, even loading older saves, but nothing would work. Eventually, I had to make it so I could move through walls to proceed with the game.
Overall, this is a game well deserved of the praise it received, despite its flaws. The more I played, the more I regained that nostalgic feeling I had playing my first RPG's, the sense of adventure lost long ago. It has plenty to offer, with a vast amount of missions to complete and ground to cover and never is there a dull moment. It quickly became one of my top five favorite games and I recommend it to anyone looking to be sucked into a world other than their own.
Game completed as a Male Toreador with all missions cleared. Santa Monica section cleared as a Female Malkavian.
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