Thursday, November 8, 2012

Games You Probably Haven't Tried Yet: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines by Matthew W.A

Did you know that there was a time when vampire's didn't suck? Before Twilight came and ruined everything, vampires were actually pretty awesome. TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angle, and the British miniseries Ultraviolet told interesting and often dark stories, and pen and paper roleplaying games like Vampire the Masquerade wove tales of political intrigue and backstabbing. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (which from here on out I will just call “Bloodlines”) was at the tail end of that era when it came out in 2004, and did an amazing job of capturing the feel of being a vampire.

In Bloodlines, you play as a newly sired vampire (also known as a fledgling) in modern day Los Angeles. It is a time of political upheaval among the local vampires, and you are a pawn in the entire mess. Lot's of vampires want to do a lot of different things, and helping one often means angering another. Also, no matter what you do, you absolutely cannot be seen doing “vampire stuff” in public. Grabbing a snack in the middle of a large group of people, doing your best ‘Neo’ impression in a club, or making the large group of police officers you pissed off commit suicide via mind control are all verboten. Each time you publicly do “vampire stuff” you get a masquerade violation. After you get more than two, vampire hunters start tracking you down and trying to kill you. At five violations the game simply ends.

The story is excellent, with lots of unique characters, and has numerous vastly different outcomes depending on your decisions. How you approach a mission can have a ton of consequences. Kill too many museum guards when trying to retrieve an ancient artifact? Someone’s gonna be pissed. The combat is only ‘ok’. Stealth is sometimes a viable option, you have to fight often enough that focusing on stealth can make the game very difficult near the end. Guns are useful against human enemies, but unless you have some really big ones, they don't do much at all to supernatural creatures. Blades are by far the most effective weapons in the game.

Now, here is some information you absolutely need if you are going to play the game. First, this game is only available on Windows. That being said, it came out in 2004, and will run just fine on any computer made in the last three years, including a recent Macbook Air running bootcamp. If you get the game, be sure to install Wesp5 unofficial patch. The game is almost completely broken without it. Finally, when it comes to character creation play a ‘Brujah’ or ‘Toreador’ clan vampire depending on how pretty you want to be. ‘Tremere’ have blood magic which is nice, but they are a bit weak in combat, ‘Ventrue’ are completely useless, and ‘Nosferatu’ are so ugly and inhuman that you break the masquerade just by walking around above ground where people can see you. ‘Malkavian's’ are awesome (in a completely, and I do mean completely) insane way, but should really be saved for a second play through. If anything I said appeals to you, go pick up the game on Steam. It costs $10 right now, and frequently goes on sale. Oh, and Happy (two weeks late) Halloween!

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