I downloaded and installed the unofficial fan patch and so far it's been pretty good. The game looks a lot crisper and more detailed, which is nice, and I can actually read the nameplates on various doors, which is essential. It's still a very early open-world game at its core, but it's a lot prettier to look at.
The plot is continuing apace. Conflict between the Anarchs and the Camarilla is becoming more heated. Nines Rodriguez may have killed one of the Camarilla elders, or he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, Prince Lacroix declared a Blood Hunt on him, which is exactly as bad as it sounds.
While all this is going on, everyone on board a cargo ship carrying a mysterious sarcophagus was killed. Rumor has it that the sarcophagus contained the remains of an ancient and powerful vampire, and every supernatural faction in the city wants to get its hands on it. Some believe it could herald the end of the world. All I know is that chasing after this fucking thing has forced me into too many goddamned stealth missions. I'm a Brujah, dammit, specced for brawling. Why on earth would the Prince send me into a delicate situation that calls for the minimization of casualties?
I guess it's just one of those rpg conventions that you just have to learn to live with. You have the freedom to build your character however you want, but the challenges are fixed and sometimes you're just not going to have the tools to deal with a particular situation.
I'm not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it's "realistic" (or at least verisimilitudinous). If you take a video game as a simulated world, then it makes sense that purely by chance you're going to be shorter than some things and taller than others.
Except that chance has nothing to do with it. The virtual world is a designed place, which means that nothing that happens to me is entirely be accident. With that in mind, it becomes harder to justify putting roadblocks in the way of the player's progress. If a game allows multiple builds, it should be difficult (if not impossible) to choose a bad build. So far in my gaming experience, Deus Ex is the only game that really gets it right.
That being said, the main consequence of me being bad at stealth is that I had to kill some people I probably shouldn't have and thus my vampire boss yelled at me, which wasn't exactly a pleasant experience (especially since I couldn't throw his poor choice of agents back in his face), but I could shrug it off pretty easily, which just reinforces the advantage of choosing a combat build - had I gone with stealth, the sneaking missions would have been easier, but some of those deadly vampires I wound up fighting would have made for a frustrating cul de sac.
When I first started playing Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, I was ambivalent about whether the game was an overlooked classic or a niche curiosity. And in the course of playing, I've assembled a wishlist of features that I think would make the game a lot better (customizable wardrobe and day/night cycle, for example). However, if I stop comparing it to the awesome open-world crime/vampire action-rpg I have floating around in my head and just take it on face value, I'd have to say that Bloodlines is pretty good. I wouldn't necessarily call it a classic (partially because I can't shake the feeling that it is only due to my preexisting familiarity with the lore that the story is as comprehensible as it is), but it's got decent gameplay, an interesting story, good voice acting, and atmosphere to spare (even in pre-patch form).
I may not be shaking my head in disbelief that I haven't played this game before, but I can understand perfectly why it has such a passionate and devoted following.