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Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2

GAME PREVIEW GAMING

It may not be trending as it had a decade ago, but is there an eternal market for vampire content? With the success of Vampyr in 2018, signs point to yes. It was a surprising move when Paradox Interactive, known for primarily for its grand strategy games and isometric RPGs, acquired the White Wolf license from CCP Games back in 2015, but made later sense considering the company’s love for pen and paper RPGs is expressed by their publishing of two Shadowrun games and the Knights of Pen and Paper series.

 

What is known of Bloodlines 2 so far? Not much besides few details of the setting and its release date is anticipated to be March of 2020. To preserve the story, developers have only given vague descriptions of what to expect and have only released footage of one mission in the game. The game will feature more character customization than the orignal, allowing you to choose a human background before embracing the night, and hopefully will allow for customization of the character’s physical appearance beyond clothing. You will begin as a thin-blood, which is, according to lore, a 14th or 15th generation vampire. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, the strength of your vampirism is generally based on the generation of vampire you are. Each generation gets weaker because the blood gets diluted each time it is spread, and thin-bloods are, lore-wise, are able to walk in the sun, have children, and even somewhat stomach human food because their vampiric blood is so “thin.” As you progress in the game, you are given the option to choose a clan from five of the seven clans that were included in the original game. They may have changed a bit of the internal lore to make it so you can choose a clan- which is something that is based on your sire’s bloodline in the pen and paper RPG, but it allows new audiences to get a feel for the clans before joining one.

 

The level of detail that went into your bloodline was what made the original such a classic. While the original game’s launch was a commercial failure, the amount of depth put into it is what drove fans to take it on themselves to fix the game’s series technical issues and improve its content, and ultimately, there wouldn’t be a sequel if they hadn’t. The original was fairly linear storywise, but each playthrough was unique because of the little details that immersed the players into a different experience. If you were to play a Ventrue, the aristocratic bloodline, characters will be either more respectful to you or consider you a snob, and if you were a Malkavian, the bloodline riddled with insanity, your dialogue options are cryptic and loony, most NPCs are thrown off by your odd behavior, and you can talk to inanimate objects that’ll provide comedic relief and give you clues about future events. Each bloodline has different powers, but it’s the flavor that makes it memorable- I mean, come on, who could forget arguing with a stop sign?

 

(Source: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1514109191)

 

As for the upcoming sequel, the pre-alpha gameplay certainly looks rough around the edges. In a demo video posted on IGN’s Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oYJAnhvgNk), there are considerable concerns besides the fact that the gamer in the demo moved through the game with the finesse of a toddler operating an RC car. For a game driven by its narrative and roleplay, the NPCs act awkwardly. The quest giving NPCs don’t acknowledge your presence as you approach them, and they silently stand there waiting for you to interact with them like they are a toy waiting for you to pull its string so it can give you a long spiel about the quest and end it with “so how about it, yes? No? Maybe so?” It would help considerably if made they animated NPCs a bit more lively instead of a rigid prop waiting it be interacted with, as seen with the Noserfatu, Samuel, who is first seen already standing, hunched in a tunnel already waiting for you for who knows how long.

 

(I bet he stood there, eagerly waiting in a dank tunnel wearing his cleanest pair of clothes, just so he could deliver that line because he thought it’d make him look cool.)

 

I have other criticisms about the combat AI being pretty bad (which may in part be affected by how poorly the demo player handled the game), the facial animation/lip-sync are noticeably off, the human bystanders act like brainless zombies, and there was very little variety when it came to the character models for the enemies- the demo shows the player killing multiple doppelgangers that scream the same surprised reaction dialogue (“what’s going on!?!”) that comes off like they are innocent bystanders who witnessed something abnormal and not aggravated criminals defending their hideout with fully automatic machine guns- but all of those things could be pre-alpha problems that’ll hopefully be sorted out before launch.

 

Other than that, the game looks very promising. It won’t have the same gothic feel as the original because the times have changed, but it’ll be interesting to see how vampires have adjusted to smartphones and modern media. Though the game’s greatest challenge is losing presence when Cyberpunk 2077 drops two months after its release, it should be to weather the storm if they stay true to their word and deliver a sequel that is worthy of its name.



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