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04/27/2018 02:49:51 •••

The Very Definition of a Flawed Gem

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines is a hard game to review, because it scores so differently along different metrics.

In terms of polish? The game came out in an infamously rushed and unfinished state, and even after years of fan-made mods and fixe, the animations are still wonky and janky. Without mods and fan fixes, it's a leaky boat crawling with bugs.

In terms of sound? A mixed bag. While the music and overall sound design are great, and the lead characters are all superbly voice acted, lots of background characters were clearly done quick and cheap. And sometimes the music, sound effects, and voicework fight with each other.

In terms of design? The levels are great. Replaying the Ocean House Hotel really hammers home how the ghosts' vanishing is carefully disguised by fixtures in the environment. And, before the later, less-finished and -polished parts of the game anyway, there's often two or three routes to any given problem, following the usual template, albeit with later parts leaning much more heavily on the combat.

However, the game also suffers from having lots of newb traps. Lots of skills are much more useful and potent than others. Point allocation at chargen inherits many perverse incentives from the game it's based on. And the presence of skill-increasing books and tutors may work as crutches for people who didn't buy useful skills, but it also means that putting too many points into them too early can feel like a bad move that wastes precious XP.

In terms of story and writing? Well, it does a fantastic job of trying to realize the World of Darkness as a setting, with news and advertisements just over-the-top enough to be funny while getting across that this is a worse version of our world. And the humor is often spot-on, particularly as a Malkavian. It at least tries to incentivize roleplaying a character. Plus, the variety of colorful, well-designed characters and personalities add a lot to proceedings.

But, well... The narrative kind of fights itself in the process. The character is clearly supposed to grow frustrated with always being jerked around by all of these people as they tell them to do jobs, but, as a player, I started up this game to have a fun adventure, and all of these people are just asking me to go have fun adventures. Worse, they generally reward me well for them, are suitably grateful, and the major exception is pretty much the game's main villain. It just doesn't work.

Finally, in terms of game feel? It's... fine. Balance is a bit off, with a number of early boss fights being bonkers hard and later ones really easy, but it's adequate. Progression can be frustrating, with so much to spend points on, but XP gain does ramp up with the player's needs as the game goes on.

It's still a game I love, but I love it warts and all. Do go get a fan-patch though. And maybe a walkthrough.

04/26/2018 00:00:00

Sounds like a pretty good summary of the game to me.

The character is clearly supposed to grow frustrated with always being jerked around by all of these people as they tell them to do jobs, but, as a player, I started up this game to have a fun adventure, and all of these people are just asking me to go have fun adventures. Worse, they generally reward me well for them, are suitably grateful, and the major exception is pretty much the game\'s main villain

Personally don\'t consider that a flaw, but... yeah, I gotta admit, it\'s true.

04/26/2018 00:00:00

Like I said, it\'s only a flaw because the game makes it one, via trying to with one hand make you angry about all these lazy elders who\'re making you do all their stuff for them without lifting a finger to do it for themselves, while with the other hand being a CRPG where doing their stuff is what you\'re playing the game for, which undermines the narrative intention.

I mean, aside from relevant information and content being strapped for time, how else can we explain how Nines is supposed to be Not So Different from LaCroix, or why the Independent ending is clearly supposed to come across as the \"best\" one? I got the Anarch ending my first time through, and I *still* feel the sting of being cheated out of the *actual* conclusion the others get.

04/27/2018 00:00:00

Well, I already said it in my own review, but one of my main problems with the game is that the ending feels... a bit unsatisfying. It leaves you wanting for more, wanting to see what happens to your character and LA after that. Though honestly, if my main issue when the game end is \"I want more of it\", that\'s a good sign^^


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