Monday, March 7, 2016

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines - 6/20 hours

Astonishingly, for once in my life I can follow a crpg's plot. I think I can credit this to extra-textual knowledge derived from the tabletop game. Basically, what's going on is that there are three factions vying for control over the city of Los Angeles and they all want to use me as a pawn against each other. The Camarilla, led by Prince Lacroix, want to manipulate mortal society from the shadows. The Anarchs, led by Nines Rodriguez, fancy themselves independent and egalitarian vampires, and just want to be left alone to hunt in peace (and it hasn't been shown in Bloodlines yet, but many Anarchs are part of the movement because they think they can amass more personal power outside the Camarilla's control). Finally, the Sabbat just want to kill shit and drink its blood.

The central tension of the political situation is that both the Anarchs and the Camarilla agree that the Sabbat are an existential threat and a danger to the Masquerade (Vampire society's tradition of staying out of sight), but they hate each other so much that cooperation is difficult, if not impossible. It is yet to be seen whether the main character of Bloodlines will favor one side over the other, or if he will act as a bridge between the two factions.

Mostly, this manifests in the form of me breaking and entering in order to fetch various items or kill various NPCs. There were some memorable moments, feeding my blood to a wounded woman in the clinic, discovering Therese and Jeanette were actually the same person, getting mystery-teased by the werewolf, Beckett. All this amounted to was me being jerked around by NPC after NPC, with it never being entirely clear who I could trust or what their real agendas are.

Which, you know, is exactly like the tabletop rpg, so well done.

The biggest barriers to my enjoyment of the game thus far are simply artifacts of its age. The low resolution makes it difficult to read signs. The lack of objective markers means I'm wandering around in circles more than I should. Dialogue is unskippable, even when you've reloaded after a difficult boss fight (though to be fair to Bloodlines that's a problem that even some modern games still inexplicably have). However, these issue aren't too serious. Exploring the World of Darkness in an immersive visual form is such a blast that I'm willing to tolerate a lot of awkwardness.

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