Game: "Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines"
Published by: Activision
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: There aren’t many games out there that I consider to be true classics, but V:TM – Bloodlines is among them. It’s just too bad I’m in the minority on that one.
For the uninitiated, Vampire: The Masquerade is a DnD-type game built on the premise that vampires and other supernatural creatures are real, but the vampires choose to hide their true nature from mankind for fear of inciting a nasty crusade. In Bloodlines, your character has been thrown into this complex world of underworld politics and goth fashions after a one-night-stand with a vampire. You’ll have to land on your feet and adapt to your new lifestyle quickly, or else wind up a pile of ash. So, no pressure.
On the upshot, being a vampire means you’re much stronger than the average human, your wounds heal quickly, and you’re highly resistant to bullets. Plus, depending on your vampire “clan”, you’ll have access to a variety of blood-fueled “disciplines” like celerity (super speed) and potence (super strength), as well as more exotic disciplines like thaumaturgy (blood-based projectiles and such) and protean (sprout claws and transform into a vicious beast!). Of course, all this is dependent on your ability to get that precious blood. Without it, you won’t be doing anything overly impressive, and you risk regressing into a berserker rage.
Combat does play a large part in the game. Disciplines can be used by themselves to stop your enemies, or they can be used to bolster your other combat abilities, namely melee and ranged combat. Melee combat is great for dealing major damage to a single foe, but the trouble is you have to get to them first. Ranged, on the other hand, lets you engage from a distance, but it doesn’t work quite so well against vampires.
Then again, maybe violence isn’t the answer. Maybe you prefer to boost your character’s social skills so that they can negotiate with the gang of baseball bat-wielding thugs. Therein lies the beauty of Bloodlines: every situation has multiple solutions, and experience is awarded based on solving the solutions, rather than the body count you rack up. There are even times when you can unlock additional quests simply by being particularly skilled in a single area such as hacking.
It was the variety of solutions to problems in the game that kept me coming back, but it was the presentation that kept me from getting bored during the slow parts. Troika did an excellent job portraying the different parts of Los Angeles that you’ll be visiting as a vampire. Likewise, the dialog in the game is fantastic, especially if you choose to play as one of the terminally-insane Malkavian vampires. Great detail was also put into the character models, particularly the female vampires.
Some of the character animations, however, don’t quite measure up to that same standard. While in dialog, some NPCs will smile, frown, and gesticulate, but these animations run the gamut from “believable” to “his eye is clipping through his face”. The worst, though, is saved for the in-game cutscenes. In many cases, such animations will fail to sync with the sound, end too soon, and otherwise look hilariously bad.
All of that could’ve been fixed with a little QA, but that brings me to the game’s most glaring flaw: as part of Activision’s continuing quest to drive all their developers out of business, the game was rushed onto the market, and the result is painfully clear. Bugs abound in this game, most of them superficial, but you’ll still find a few crashes in the mix. Unfortunately, Troika folded before they could fix more than a fraction of these bugs, but fan-made patches do exist.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that despite coming from the V:TM universe, the game is thankfully minimizes the goth influence. The clubs around LA are filled with women with too much eye shadow, and men that look like the lead singer of AFI, but other than that, the emphasis is more on mimicking the real LA, and thank god for that. The last thing I need is a bunch of vampires whining about how unlife is even worse than life.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Sadly, I've owned this game for years (and it's precursor, Redeption) but I've yet to actually install and play it. Mostly, I've been needing a machine to handle the two of them.
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