Vampire: the Masquerade-Bloodlines is the second video game based around White Wolf's Vampire RPG. (The first was Vampire: the Masquerade-Redemption) It was designed by Troika and published by Activision in 2004.

I must admit that I have little experience with the RPG this is based on. I was attracted to this game via e2 in fact. I stumbled upon some nodes about the Vampire universe and after half an hour of interested reading I went down to my local second hand games shop and picked it up for the tidy sum of £8.

Upon starting a new game you are asked to choose a clan, either manually or by answering a series of questions to determine your personality. I came out as a Toreador and after a short introduction detailing your embrace and grudging acceptance into vampire society the game begins with you in an alley being shown the ropes by a fellow kindred named Jack. Then it's on to the perpetual night of LA (where the sun never comes up for some reason) to feed on some hookers and perform some errands for the Camarilla. Later on, you become introduced to other factions and their motives before eventually being presented with a choice for where your allegiances lie.

I chose Toreador because I like to play social characters in my RPGs. I like to see as much of the plot as possible by exploring every dialog option and character. Communication in this game is fantastic, the facial expressions are wonderful (if not quite at the level of half-life 2) and there is some brilliant voice acting and writing. Some of the nastier options that come up in conversation are too brilliant not to say. Your choice of character can affect the game massively, as a Nosferatu you must do all your navigation via sewers as even being seen by a human is a breech of the masquerade, as a Malkavian you conduct conversations with the tv and address people by their names before they have mentioned them.

There are a great many little secrets for players willing to explore, lots of interesting characters and things to do. By the end of the game I had picked up a human slave, hunted down a serial killer and claimed part ownership of a club. All is great in fact, until the game effectively says “Oh, so you didn’t pick a combat oriented character? Well fuck you then.”

Combat is all in real time, which is fine for unarmed and melee characters, but firearms are next to useless, its an odd mash up of FPS controls and an RPG skill system that will leave you frustrated unless you pour all your skill points into it. It also becomes depressingly frequent towards the end of the game. In Fallout and Planescape:Torment I enjoyed using my charm and sneakiness to find my way through a situation avoiding combat, the games were balanced so there was always an alternative available for a weaker character. In Bloodlines it's like the developers ran out of ideas for challenging level design towards the end except for “Add more ninjas.”

There are also a depressing amount of bugs and glitches that add to the impression of an unfinished game. Opening some doors requires a complicated little dance from your character, stealthing breaks trap triggers, my human pet disappears inexplicably and so on and so on. My advice for surviving the end game battles as a Toreador is to invest all your xp into celerity, which unbalances the game the other way by making it laughably easy.

Bloodlines is an interesting experience, if a less than complete game. I would say to give it a try if the concept sounds interesting to you.

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