Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Posted by SadExchange
12/19/2004
Released on: 11/16/2004
Developed by: Troika Games
Published by: Activision

A RPG that many fans have been waiting for giving the player great atmosphere great graphics and a great storyline.

Score

9.02

Troika has already put out a couple of Role Playing Games including Arcanum and Temple of Elemental Evil: A Greyhawk Adventure. Arcanum took place in a fictional world caught between technology and magic and featured a rather good storyline and everything you've come to expect from creators of the Fallout series, but seemed to lack in the graphic design. Temple of Elemental Evil was a Dungeons and Dragons pen and paper adventure that was converted into a Computer RPG, and it was the first game to feature the 3.5 rule system from Wizards of the Coast. Although the game came form a background of imaginative background, being from a pen and paper adventure, the game suffered from a story that could captivate the player from start to finish and players found that it was plagued with bugs. The game did have some pretty good graphics for its time, letting the player switch around their outfits and letting them be able to tell the difference within the game. So, with two RPG's in their pocket, one having a good storyline and following and the other having nice graphics, Troika began working on their next RPG which brought upon Vampires The Masquerade: Bloodlines.

With the help of White Wolf, holders of The Masquerade license, Troika wanted to put together a game that would have replayability, great graphics, and a great storyline that would have the player wanting to come back for more each time they played through the game. With getting the license of White Wolf, Troika had a good setting, being the World of Darkness, where Vampires openly walk around at night alongside humans with their own society and rules that were to be followed. Throughout the game, you'll learn about the society of the Vampires; about the Camirilla, the Anarchs, the Sabbat, and the Kuei-Jin. You'll be able to experience the society through a variety of seven different clans being: Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Noesferatu, Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue. Each clan supporting a different look whether you're female or male and in Bloodlines, being a male or female does make a difference in dialog and situations that you'll be apart of. Being apart of different clans can also give anything from different dialog options to different living spaces within the game. Each clan has their own specific disciplines which are also known as your vampire powers. So they do give the player made reasons to play through multiple times. Add the fact that there are multiple endings for the game and it seems as if Troika has finally found what they were looking for; a game with replayability, great graphics, and a great storyline.

The game is separated into four different Hubs located in Los Angeles. Those hubs from beginning to end are Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood, and Chinatown. Throughout these hubs, you'll be given different quests that pertain to the main quest that runs the length of the game, but also a multitude of side quests that you'll be doing for different memorable characters for cash, experience, or different items including clothing, weapons, or even bloodpacks. These are not your regular run-of-the-mill quests either, not to be confused with the mailman quests found in most RPG's. These quests involve anything from infiltrating a warehouse and placing explosives to silencing a stripper after she's done performing her show for different geezers throughout Hollywood. But the thing is there's multiple ways to complete these quests. Most developers boast about being able to do this, but none have been able to truly accommodate players with the option of completing quests in different ways such as Troika has in Bloodlines. Some clans have different ways of completing quests than others, such as being able to intimidate someone for information instead of paying them, or hacking into a computer for answers instead of having to find the password through research, or even haggling down the price of bullets for their weapons in situations that arise throughout the game's four hubs. The story is what drives the player through the game, and with the help of White Wolf's Masquerade license, Troika has developed something that definitely can have the player replaying for the clan's and their own different playing styles. You'll be playing through constantly deciding whether to fully obey or disobey the higher vampires within the society whether it's through your dialog or your actions.

In wanting to have graphics that could compete with games of this year, Troika licensed out the Source Engine from Valve, developers who made and used the Source Engine to make Half Life 2. The Source Engine is a gaming engine that brings great graphics, great physics, and many other things together to give the player a great atmospheric gaming experience which can be seen from spending some time playing Half Life 2. Troika took the Source Engine, which was still in the finishing stages of being complete by Valve, and implemented everything they needed to make one of the year's best RPG's. The graphics are top of the line for any RPG that has come out this year or even last year for that matter giving the player to either play in a 1st or 3rd person perspective, but there are some downsides. You're not able to interact with as much in the city of Los Angeles as in Half Life 2. No, I'm not comparing the two games when saying this because they're in very different genres. I'm talking about the use of the engine in these two different games. Troika didn't place a lot of different movable objects within the game that the player could interact with such as using an item to progress through a mission or having to use an object to complete a puzzle. The facial expressions were done well in the game, but again, they didn't use the engine to its most productive manner. I'm in no way saying that the graphics are bad, because the atmosphere within the game is better than most games thanks to the graphics. The style of graphics in the game is very well done compared to any other RPG because they really put the player in the game with how they're done. So much that sometimes when in dark areas, it's almost impossible to see where the player is going and sometimes when in 1st person perspective when swimming, it can be very hard to navigate your character. Nothing too bad, but it can get frustrating in certain situations.

The sound in the game is done quite well. Troika signed known gothic/industrial artists such as Ministry, Daniel Ash, Lacuna Coil, Chiasm, among others to produce music that would be implemented within the game in different clubs and areas. The standard music, being the music that provides atmosphere in the game was done exceptionally well also. In notables areas like the cemetery, the actual hubs themselves, and the wonderful Haunted Hotel in the beginning, the player will enjoy themselves or feel the fear that the music instills in them as they try to discover the banging noise that's taking place within a washing machine in the basement of the hotel. It's one of the more scarier levels this year, comparing with Doom 3, and even being notable next to Thief: Deadly Shadow's "The Cradle" level. The voice acting in the game is done exceptionally well also. Something that some developers take for granted and some developers put a lot of time into it. Troika falls into the second category on this one. And because of the realistic, well done voice acting, the game received a mature rating. The swearing that's done in the game flows through each conversation and never seems pushed which Troika should also be credited for. When talking to different NPC's throughout the Hubs, and being given lots of dialog options, the player will feel like it's an actual conversation when compared to other RPG interrelations in other games.

The dialog was written very nicely and it is notable to talk just about the different choices that are presented to the player while playing the game and talking to different people whether it's a hooker, or a doctor in a hospital. In most conversations, the player is given 2-4 responses, but with enough skill points in intimidate, seduction, haggle, and persuasion which are nicely written in different colors when given the choice of answer you'd like to speak, the character has the ability to act, not only differently each time they play, but also the ability to act how they think their clan member would act in that situation.

The fighting within the game is something that strays from other RPG's, but this is because the game is played through 1st and 3rd person perspectives. When using a melee weapon, your character is shown through 3rd perspective, and while shooting any type of gun, you'll be pulled into 1st person view. It is something that is a lot different to RPG players, but with the ability of switching between views being a simple click of a button and the transition being so smooth, it's easy to get used to. The player is given a multitude of weapons being: an iron pipe, a baseball bat, a knife, a severed arm, a shotgun, many handguns, a flamethrower, a crossbow, plus many others. The list goes on and on, but along with the more powerful weapons, the player needs to have more skills in those areas being melee or ranged attacks. Something that some people have been bothered by in the game is the weakness of ranged attacks from guns. The melee weapons such as the knife or a katana will do more damage to vampires which is rightfully so in the vampire lore. The game, with the use of the license of White Wolf, is sticking close to the actual rules of the game and many people don't seem to understand that, but if you go into the game with an open mind listening to different conversations from different NPC's and a little bit of vampire knowledge/lore, you'll be just fine.

Overall, the game is a definite contender for the RPG of the year, and although it has some bugs with the finished product, patches are already being made by both Troika and the fan community. The bugs can be a little hard to swallow considering that the game was actually ready over a month before it came out and couldn't be released until Half Life 2 was finally released. But, overlooking the bugs, thinking that they'll all be fixed one day, this game is a must buy for any RPG player and definitely deserves a good look from anyone wanting to get into the RPG genre.
Gameplay9.00
Graphics9.00
Sound9.00
Story/Plot10.00
Replay Value9.00
Stability7.00
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