Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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Best vampire the masquerade games The Masquerade’s virtual legacy is shaky at best, but the tabletop RPG did inspire one of the greatest-written video games of all time. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, released in 2004, was a sexy, hilarious, and delightfully twisted portrait of Los Angeles’ vampire underground, packed with strange and intriguing people. Cocky motorcyclists, insane nightclub hostesses, smoldering late-night radio DJs, and even murderous prosthetics experts are all on the loose. It may have been buggier than a rotting corpse, but it was a master at making vampires appear beautiful, frightening, and odd.

Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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Swansong is the polar opposite of The Masquerade. Its bloodsucking cabal is horribly boring, frequently foolish, and has all the charisma of a Nosferatu living in a bin. Big Bad Wolf’s narrative RPG has big goals and flashes of brilliance, but it all comes crashing down in a jumble of half-baked ideas and a storyline devoid of personality.

Swansong is a vampire game set in Boston in which you play as one of three vampires who are all high-ranking members of the Camarilla (a sort of cross between a governing body and the Mafia). Galeb is a sleek and devoted Camarilla henchman, while Emem is a politically ambitious vampire who battles with authority. Finally, there’s Lisha, who has just awoken after three years of hibernation owing to the crippling mental sickness that plagues her Malkavian clan.

The decision to focus on a trio of individuals results in a perplexing start. Swansong provides a quick review of the three points of view while also introducing the remainder of the Camarilla court and sketching out the plot’s off-screen happenings. As it becomes evident that a party organized by the Camarilla to form an alliance with a local group of thaumaturges (vampire warlocks) has been attacked by unknown assailants, Hazel Iversen, the head of the Boston Camarilla, assigns the trio on separate missions to investigate the disaster.

Swansong’s closest living relative in terms of structure is Life is Strange, which combines complex dialogue sequences with third-person exploration and puzzle-solving. Both games‘ mechanisms are more complex than Life is Strange, in ways that I’ll explain later. But none of it matters in the end because the most important aspect of Swansong’s design—the writing—is utterly uninteresting.

Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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To begin with, the script is virtually completely devoid of humor. Almost every character is droningly serious, spewing information like cod liver oil in thick, flavorless spoonfuls. This isn’t to argue that everyone should be quipping like they’re in a Marvel movie, but Swansong’s dialogue is flatter than a hedgehog on the highway when contrasted to Bloodlines’ fireworks display of a script.

The major issue is how underdeveloped each character’s personality is. Galeb is a vampiric Agent 47 who hides his true identity behind his outfit. In fact, 47 is the more expressive of the two, as he’ll occasionally make a joke while devouring some trust-fund ghoul. Meanwhile, Emem’s rebellious tendency is largely manifested in petulant complaining, making her difficult to relate to. Lisha is the most powerful character, hiding a severe psychological instability behind her pleasant, slightly uneasy demeanor. Unfortunately, she’s accompanied by Halsey, a vexingly annoying kid vampire, and her character arc centers entirely around her fondness for the obnoxious goblin she refers to as “sugar fangs.

The poor writing detracts from the rest of the game, which is unfortunate because there is some ambition on display. Narrative options are numerous and have a significant impact on the plot’s development. Emem, for example, goes to the warlocks’ base to try to reconcile but ends up imprisoned in their underground dungeon. She eventually makes her way free and is able to confront the warlock’s boss. However, more investigation reveals a new character and a possibly very different conclusion for the scene as well as the entire plot.

Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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The story itself also explores some interesting concepts. The fundamental question of who is responsible for the attack is intriguing, and the interpersonal conflicts provide some exciting drama. Lisha’s destructive relationship with her vampire therapist is the most powerful of these. Swansong’s concept of a vampire therapist comes the closest to being a joke, but his very controlling demeanor toward Leysha outweighs the idea’s inherent silliness, and their tale has some of the best turns in the game.

Toothless

Unfortunately, these are isolated high points amid an otherwise lukewarm feast of ideas. Swansong’s biggest issue, other than the narrative, is that inhabiting its vampires isn’t much fun. Each character has an extensive skill tree that includes speech, contextual skills such as deduction and lockpicking, and vampire clan-specific abilities.

The goal is to allow you to customize each character in a unique way. However, the amount of XP required to upgrade these talents is proportional to your performance in each scene. Given that each character has only a few scenes over the course of the 15-hour game, one poorly executed scenario might substantially impede that character’s growth. Consider how each terrible decision in Telltale’s The Walking Dead makes the following one more difficult to get right, and you’ll have a sense of the issue that can arise in Swansong.

Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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While this shortcoming can be circumvented with luck, a more serious flaw is the triteness of some of the game’s dialogue scenes. Confrontations are key exchanges in Swansong when you must verbally vanquish your opponent in a long debate with numerous phases. Rather than saving this approach for the most important story moments, Swansong frequently employs it in minor brawls. Galeb, a century-old vampire whose clan’s main act is using people as puppets, is attempting to persuade a parking valet to access some electrically sealed waste canisters in one ‘confrontation.’ Although the parking attendant is a ‘thin-blood’ vampire, it’s not exactly an exciting basis for a battle of wills.

Each scene’s overall quality also differs greatly. Galeb’s chapters are by far the greatest in the game when he isn’t ranting at people in a parking lot. In the first, he’s rummaging around an opulent penthouse apartment, trying to uncover the murder of a decapitated billionaire. It’s a well-made detective puzzle with a smart twist in the end. Galeb explores a massive subterranean complex where there are various answers to the riddle handed to you in the second, which is (perhaps coincidentally) evocative of Hitman’s Hokkaido level.

Not every chapter is as enjoyable. The two main scenes in Emem are also the weakest. The warlock dungeon looks interesting, but the gameplay is largely focused on some strangely constructed platforming and a tedious pattern-matching problem. In her second act, you wonder about a seedy backlot looking for biker vampires to join your crew. There’s a great hacking-themed puzzle in here, but I’m not sure hacking puzzles are what will draw gamers to Swansong.

Best Vampire The Masquerade Games

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Swansong isn’t very… vampire, as you may have realized by this time. You can feed on humans to enhance one of your ability bars on occasion, but the way the function is implemented in the game‘s limited locations makes it feel crowbarred in. Furthermore, riddles centered on phones, laptops, and other electrical devices frequently take precedence over your vampire powers. There are also a few extremely strange one-off puzzles that appear to have been taken from 1990s adventure games.

Releasing steam

The worst of these occurs in Leysha’s second chapter when she must flee a vampire bar’s basement, which is guarded by heavily armed mercenaries. It’s worth mentioning that Lisha’s Malkavian powers allow her to turn invisible and take on the appearance of others, making her well-suited to stealth and deception. Swansong, on the other hand, instead of devising escape routes around these talents, finds an excuse to nullify them, then concocts the dumbest riddle since Gabriel Knight 3’s cat-hair mustache.

Are you ready for this? It’s a doozy. The guard blocking your way just happens to be standing beneath a pipe that’s venting boiling-hot steam. Despite repeatedly scalding his big bald bonce, the guard refuses to move from the doorway, but also refuses to wear the ballistic helmet all the mercenaries have been issued, instead of setting it aside on some crates. To escape the area, you need to find a way to increase the steam pressure until it poaches his head like an egg and kills him. Bear in mind that this is a very serious vampire RPG and not a rejected Monkey Island game.

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Swansong, at the very least, is attractive. Sometimes. Although the majority of the game takes place in drab rich-person apartments or grey concrete interiors like sewers or ventilation pipes, areas like the Red Salon bar allow the environment designers to have some fun. Swansong also doesn’t do much to show Boston as a city, save from a couple of skyline panoramas. As in Fallout 4, you don’t get a sense of the city’s distinct history and architecture. You wouldn’t think much of it if it was set in New York or Los Angeles.

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