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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Troika

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Smooth graphics thanks to the Source engine

- Involving storyline, with many sidequests

- Clear goals, good pacing

 

 

- Can lag at times, even on a good machine

- Character creation system

- Several of the Vampire 'Clans' are made unplayable by the lack of dialogue options that avoid combat.

- Weak ending

 

 

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Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Score: 8.4/10

 

Troika's latest RPG comes to us from the pen and paper role-playing franchise called Vampire: The Masquerade, owned by White Wolf. Some of you out there may remember the somewhat forgettable first game based on V:tM, Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption. Well, playing through this glorious thirty-five hour Vampiric roleplaying romp more than makes up for the original. This is a modern RPG done almost exactly as they should be. I met the character creation system in with a mix of happiness and disdain. Your characters physicality is beyond your ability to change. You may choose their sex, and their clan. For all practical purposes think of your Clan as your 'Class', from the more common D&D based systems. But after that disappointing experience you move right into allocation of Attributes, Abilities, and Advantages. The points spent here will shape who your character becomes, so spend wisely.  

 

vampire the masquerade bloodlines preview          vampire the masquerade bloodlines preview

 

The storyline sets you up for a fall from the very beginning, as you barely escape your turning into a Vampire with your life, or unlife as it would be. Things progress from there in a solid story, that gives you a lot of choices. Unfortunately, these choices mostly come in during side quests, which leaves you unable to affect the main plot and direction of the game. The only real problem with the plot that crops 

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up is the almost essential need for certain skills. On my first run through I played as a fighting character, with moderate computer and security skills. I had a fairly easy run of things as it turned out. But try to take a smooth talking character, with a ton of charisma and seduction, and maybe some backup skills in firearms, and you'd better remember to save every chance you get because there will be a good many fights that will be nigh beyond your ability to complete.

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One of the many things that draws you into this game is the imagery, and the stunning graphics that create it. Bloodlines is easily the best looking RPG on the market right now. And although some choppiness can creep in once in a while, even on a powerful system, most of the time you'll be running smoothly. And the artists have done a fine job of drawing you into the world of darkness, and making the atmosphere of the game almost tangible.

 

The combat of the game can fall into two categories depending on which route you take your character. You can follow the hack n slash method, and employ a fairly large variety of weapons in dicing and bludgeoning your enemies. Or if getting up close with Vampires and Kuejin doesn't suit you, you can take firearms or spells and turn the games combat system into a passable, and fun, first person shooter. Either way you'll find the combat to be quite fun, though enemies tend to respawn randomly, which can get annoying. Just keep in mind when skulking about that the room you cleared five minutes ago may no longer be void of enemies.  

 

vampire the masquerade bloodlines preview          vampire the masquerade bloodlines preview

 

Two of the game mechanics that play a heavy hand in your style, but work out very well are the humanity and masquerade system. The more actions your Vampire takes that are unnecessarily cruel, and vindictive, the more of their Humanity they lose. This can lead to new dialogue options, and the sometimes helpful, sometimes dreadful vampiric frenzy. When your character gets lower in humanity the chance of them giving into their inner beast increases, and they will occasionally fly into a rage, attacking everything in site. Which, often, reaks havoc on the other mechanic, your Masquerade points. These represent how many times your character has broken the illusion of their condition. How many times they done something supernatural in the public eye, and been spotted. For one clan in particular this is important, as even getting to close to someone with their hideous forms will cause a masquerade violation.

 

Even outside of the aforementioned systems you're looking at a game that gives you a fair amount of versatility. You can play a stealthy night crawler, a powerful behemoth of the night, a seductive lady of the evening, or a brutal and hideous sewer-dweller. And although it is often hard to avoid combat in the main storyline when you're trying your hand at some of the more dapper, manipulation based classes, there are a fair number of things in the side quests that come to you much easier than it would for other players. But since you get pretty much the same results from all of the missions, no matter how you complete them, you may find you have little motivation to play through the thirty plus hours more than once.

 

When all is said and done, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is an above average bit of RPG goodness, with some added mechanics, and all of it's served up in a very eye-catching package. And yes, there were several things that were done in the wrong way in this game, but there were a great many more that were done right.

 

- D.T. Mathers

(January 30, 2005)

 

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