Let’s kick off the first Throwback Thursday post on Gamespresso by taking you back to the far off year of 2004, when Vampires didn’t suck, no pun intended.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is one of those rare games that somehow manage to blend good gameplay and narrative together without somehow screwing up one of the other.
It’s based off the table-top roleplaying game by White Wolf Vampire the Masquerade, part of the World of Darkness series which focuses on various supernatural creatures living in a variety of setting. One of these is the modern world.
There are a lot of creatures in the World of Darkness and, speaking from my experiences, Vampires are one of the weaker ones. So does this mean the game is weak? Well, no, it’s not.
The game was released to positive reception back in 2004 and has grown in popularity in recent years. It has been continually developed and updated by fans of the series who just want to see it live on as the classic that it is.
So I should probably start with the beginning. Character creation is essential to any table-top and roleplaying game, and this adaptation manages to blend the table-top character sheet well with the video game. You’re given a representation of the real world character sheet which you use to put points into your stats, abilities and such to make you better at things.
Vampires in this world aren’t all the same bloodsucking menaces though, no. They’re divided by clans. You get to choose from seven. The brutish Brujah, the rather extravagant Toreador, the bat-sh*t crazy Malkavian, the regal and upper class Ventrue, the hideous and terrifying Nosferatu, the cultist blood-magic wielding Tremere or the beast like Gangrel.
Each clan boasts benefits and unique abilities that can suit any type of player from the thuggish and brutal to the more refined and polite. For those of you really wanting a fun time go Malkavian. Conversations are never dull with those crazy b*stards.
The game begins in California, Los Angeles to be exact, with your character getting drunk off out of their mind and scoring a Vampire to makeout with for a bit. Of course she’d rather keep you as her little pet forever and turns you into one of them.
After this you’re allowed a brief moment of what the f*ckery before some Vamps in black bust in and stake you through the heart. Now in the World of Darkness a stake does not necessarily kill a vampire, it merely puts them into an extended sleep known as torpor, from which they can be awoken.
You eventually wake up in a theatre where the vampires of the city, lead by their “Prince” are deciding what to do with you. Unfortunately your master did a naughty thing by siring you into this un-life and has to be murdered before your very eyes. A free pass for you though since you’ve done nothing wrong and from there it’s a fun romp around the city learning how to be a vampire.
As you’re allowed into the freeroaming sections of the city such as “downtown”, “Santa Monica”, “Hollywood”, and “Chinatown” you get a feeling that you’re given about as much freedom as you could want.
Obviously a table-top game your actions are dictated by you and decided by the dice. So unfortunately there are limits, but giving the players the option to reveal themselves as Vampires or play it safe and protect the “Masquerade” of humanity plays very close to the original game.
So what’s the overarching plot though? Well that’s really down to the player in the early points. Running errands for the Prince is always a good way to keep your money up but alliances and decisions have to be made to stay alive. Not to mention the whole needing to drink blood thing.
Luckily there’s a good supply of people ready to “donate” blood to you. While humans aren’t your only source of food they are the most plentiful and tastiest. Just make sure you do it quietly and no murdering, that brings you closer to an element known as “the beast”.
The beast is a term that Vampires use to describe the animal in themselves. Questionable actions such as murdering innocents bring a Vampire closer to the beast. Get too close and that’s not a good sign. It’s hard enough to pretend being human with lifeless cheeks without a pair of giant fangs protruding from your jaw.
But of course this is all up to the player. Ultimately how they choose to approach the game is up to them.
Interacting with the denizens of this “World of Darkness” is done through conversation boxes, seen in a lot of RPGs. The player can pick from a few options and get different responses and, if they’re skilled enough in certain fields, get special dialogue options that could be beneficial or very painful.
When it comes to combat the game doesn’t stoop on options. Certain clans have access to blood magic which can unleash terrifying powers onto enemies. Other players might choose to run in with a knife or blunt object, a stealthy approach always works too. Guns exist in this world as well, but they’re a bit loud. Or for those who just wanna hit something there’s always your fists.
As a fresh Vampire at the start you’re not much better than a human, so trying to take on a mob of twelve people will probably see you beaten into a vampiric pulp. Luckily health comes easily to Vampires as draining blood from an opponent or passer-by will heal you rather effectively.
So I’ve rambled on about this game for a good 900 words now. But what makes it good? Well It’s a faithful adaptation of a great table top experience. It has a great existing narrative that can only be built upon by players own interpretations of it. The combat is solid and varied and the mechanics of being a Vampire are well integrated into the gameplay.
I would recommend this game for any Vampire or nostalgia lover. But a better idea would be, if you can get some friends over, pick up a copy of any of the White Wolf World of Darkness books and give table-top a try. The freedom is limitless.
Did you play Vampire back in the day? Are you a table-top fan? Let us know in the comments below.