Review: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Well, it’s been over a week and I still haven’t heard anyone mention anything about it so I figured it was high time I posted a review for it. VTM: Bloodlines is the latest game by Troika studio, which is composed largely of the team that created such great classics as Fallout and is probably the best PC rpg this year and one of the better ones I’ve played in years. Is the game perfect? Not quite, a few minor graphical and sound bugs still crop up every now and then.

For those who don’t know, V:TM – Bloodlines is set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe; it’s a modern world very much like our own, but sinister and more gothic; a world were vampires and other supernatural creatures have existed since the dawn of time and secretly rule the world. It’s a very rich setting filled with countless schemes and personal agendas as most elder vampires play a mad game called the Jihad using mortals and lesser vampires as pawns in their bid to personally rule the world. Obviously, with any game set in a world with such richness there’s a risk of leaving the uninitiated feeling completely lost, however, Troika has packed the game with information about the different clans and factions, about kindred (what the vampires call themselves) lore, and anything else you might need to enjoy the story. For those players who already know all this stuff don’t worry, all this information is extra and you don’t have to listen to or read any of it if you don’t want. In fact, because of the way the information is presented, a player who’s never played Vampire: the Masquerade might actually get even more engrossed in the story since he actually shares his character’s puzzlement at this new supernatural world he or she’s discovering.

When creating your character, you can select any of the 7 clans belonging to the Camarilla sect. While this is only half of the major bloodlines available in VTM and it does leave out some popular choices like the Giovani, the Lasombra, the Tzimice, and the Asamites, it’s still more than enough to give you a varied selection of character types. Each of the available clans is best at one type of gameplay, the Brujah and Gangrel for melee combat, the Malkavian and Nosferatu at stealth, the Toreador and Ventrue for negotiation, and the Tremere for magic. Yes you read that correctly, the Toreador and Venture are social characters, it’s actually possible to play the game and simply talk your way out of most difficult situations, just don’t forget to put a few points into your combat skills for those pesky boss fights.

While your clan does affect what you’re character will be good at initially and determines your special abilities, called Disciplines, you aren’t limited to playing that archetype for the rest of the game, if you spend you points to boss your social skills you can have your melee character talk his way out of a fight as well as any venture. The only exception to this is the Malkavian clan; every Malkavian is completely insane and they thus have their unique set of dialog options, which do sound quite insane; I haven’t personally tries it, but somehow I don’t think a social Malkavian would work, but it would certainly be interesting to try.

While we’re on the topic of dialog, it’s interesting to mention that every single line of dialog is voiced, if you can talk to it, it’s got it’s own set of audio files. It might be a small touch for some, but it really adds to the immersion into the world, and best of all, the voice acting is quite solid. Obviously, to save space some NPCs share voice clips, for example every prostitute in the game has exactly the same voice and says the same thing, having 2 or 3 sets of voice clips for these NPCs would have been nice, but it’s a very minor thing. One small problem with the sound worth mentioning is that the game doesn’t have separate volume controls for voices and for background music so in some areas where the background music is loud such as in a club or outside in the rain, it can be difficult to hear exactly what an NPC is saying. This problem is alleviated with the addition of subtitles that can be displayed and hidden at the click of a mouse, but it’s still an annoyance. The game also has problem with the sound looping for a few seconds when the game loads a new section of a map (but not when loading a new area), again, it’s minor thing but is still annoying.

Loading times are worth mentioning, they are quite long and even on my 2.8 Ghz laptop with 1 gig of RAM, I was still getting loading times between 15 seconds and 2 minutes (for larger areas, such as the city map). This could get quite frustrating when you had to move from say the Prince’s office to your haven and had to sit through 2-3 minutes of loading for a 40 second trip. However, most areas are quite large so you don’t have to sit through too many loadings while doing a “dungeon.”

With the exception of the loading, the game runs quite smoothly in both first and 3rd person modes and the controls are quite intuitive and with the exception of the crouch key, are well positioned. I would recommend remapping the crouch key from ctrl to ‘q’; I found that when using control it was very easy to accidentally hit the windows key and swap out of the game. I would then take several minutes for the game to restore itself after you alt-tab back.

The game features some beautifully rendered areas and faces (although, not quite as good as Half-life 2, I’m told), as well as some devilishly fiendish puzzles that will have you kicking yourself for not thinking of it sooner. Most of the quests are fun, and range for the usual fetch quest, to assassination, to stopping a zombie apocalypse so the guy who’s supposed to be watching the graveyard can go buy beer. Best of all, there are multiple solutions to most quests. For example, one quest has you checking up an artifact that’s stored on a cargo ship; you can either sneak your way past the guards to look at it personally, or cut them down, or you can even hack into the security system of the ship and check on it from the safety of the control room if your hacking or social skills are high enough. This means that you won’t get stuck on an important quest because you didn’t boost the correct skill.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story so I’ll move on to some of the problems the game has, namely graphical bugs. For a game that’s obviously put a fair bit of effort into creating a very impressive experience, these bugs really are a shame, there aren’t that many, but they really do stand out. Large pools of blood in certain areas flash or disappear if you look at them from different angles, parts of characters sometimes appear through doors. In one conversation, the NPC was talking on a cell phone, which would disappear and reappear every now and then. At one point, I closed a door and the door handles remained stuck where they were, floating in midair were they were when the door had been open. In 3rd person view, you could sometimes see your long coat get stuck in usual positions. The game has a few clipping problems and I became stuck in terrain on 3 or 4 occasions, some doors are also hard to open because they automatically close again when hitting an object (namely you). The game is quite stable, and in almost 40 hours of gameplay I’ve only crash twice, both at the same location. However, what is probably the most annoying problem, is that the AI seems to shut down every now and then in some characters; it doesn’t happen often, but it always seems to be at the most annoying times and places, usually with an NPC blocking your way. When this happens you have no choice, but to kill the NPC since even leaving the area and coming back doesn’t seem to reinitialize their AI.

The game could have probably used a little more testing before release (what can I say, I’m a software tester, it’s my job to complain about these things), but considering the quality of everything else it’s easy to overlook these problems. Oh and for the record, don’t bitch like IGN and Gamespot about firearms being weak, it’s not a balancing problem with Bloodlines, guns are just as underpowered in Vampire: the Masquerade (pen and paper) and no self respecting vampire who expects to live forever would use a gun instead of a sword.

That’s basically the just of it, if you can look beyond the small bugs the game has and want an impressive RPG then Bloodlines is definitely worth checking out.

Hrmm, well, being made by the same team that put out Arcanum I’ll have to look into it…

Cause everyone knows…


Sounds pretty cool. I enjoyed Masquerade and have been looking at this one for a while. What’re some decent minimum specs?

Well according to the box a 1.2 Ghz CPU and 512 megs if RAM.

Its running off the HL2 engine, from what I’ve heard, so if you could run that you should run this. Theoretically.

I was looking forward to it, despite having only played Vampire (the P+P rpg) once before. Troika + first person RPG = OH YES

Guns aren’t ridiculously underpowered in V:TM. It’s just that putting a bullet in a creature that can regenerate and can only die due to sun, fire or true faith isn’t quite effective, hence why it’s considered bashing damage.

Put a bullet through the skull of a Mage or Hunter, and then you’ll see guns are pretty damn powerful. Just that Bloodlines makes it true to the p&p game, which is damn good.

And if I get this, I’m so playing a Malky.

Whatever, just as long as it’s better than Redemption.

Anything’s better than Redemption.