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‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ Explores the Undead Society

‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ Explores the Undead Society
© Illustration by Troika Games

‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ is an underrated entry in the vampire video game genre. 2004 saw the release of action role-playing game ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’, which was developed by California-based Troika Games. Upon its initial launch, the game garnered lacklustre sales, but it turned out to be a sleeper hit and became a cult classic, earning praise for excellent writing, memorable quests, and diverse character customisation. Despite the numerous vampire-themed titles that followed, none have explored the depth of vampire worlds quite like ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ that introduced a complex and rather diabolical society of the undead.

‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ made up for its flaws with its rich setting. GameSpot’s review noted that it “allows you to indulge your inner vampire, immersing you in an undead society that is not unlike that of its human counterpart.”

The game brings to life the World of Darkness featured in White Wolf’s pen-and-paper RPG, ‘Vampire: The Masquerade’. In this universe, vampires, demons, werewolves, and other mythical creatures exist, though they steer clear of the public eye. In ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’, you play as a fledgeling vampire who must discover and navigate the vampire underworld that is hidden right under the noses of Los Angeles’ locals.

Vampires have decided to hide their existence, despite their capability to conquer the city. And in order for the race to survive, certain rules have been established. You are expected to uphold the code or the Masquerade, and never reveal you are true nature to humans. Performing vampiric abilities in front of witnesses can lower other vampires’ respect for you. Too many violations will prompt vampire hunters to track you down, resulting in your execution.

Before you begin, you must choose to be a part of one of the seven vampire clans derived from the original pen-and-paper game. Each clan adheres to a particular set of beliefs and is blessed with unique abilities. Altered Gamer gives an overview of the clans: “the Gangrel are considered the most feral and predatory, and are closer to their animalistic tendencies than the rest. This allows them to shapeshift to animals. Meanwhile, the Toreador admire beauty above else and are closest to humans in appearance. They have a way with words, and can easily talk their way into getting what they desire. Then, there are the Ventrue, who see themselves as rulers. They want to be in charge of all things in the vampire society. Your choice of the clan would define how you play through the rest of the game.”

Ultimately, the game explores the complexities of a divisive society. As you progress further into the story, you start to uncover the diabolical plans of vampire lords. These undead in power seek to obtain a relic that would herald the end of all vampires. The threat has caused an increased distrust among clans, further fueling unrest in the underworld. Each choice you make will reflect the causes you fight for. ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ features different endings, encouraging you to play through the game multiple times from various perspectives.

Rarely do video games explore such depth. Most will settle on providing a linear, focused point of view. The ‘Castlevania’ series centred on the quests of a family of vampire hunters, while ‘BloodRayne’ focused on the revenge of a half-human, half-vampire protagonist. Small-scale titles also adopt similar stances. Foxy Bingo hosts a vampire-themed game called ‘Bloodsuckers’, which allows you to slay vampires via simple mechanics. Since games like this have no room for background-building, they usually place vampires on one side of a coin, being either the villains or the protagonists. Although this kind of vampire game is enjoyable, the genre can still use a wealth of lore that builds up the mythos they work around.

Because of its cult following, ‘Bloodlines’ has gone through numerous unofficial patches. PCGamesN featured one die-hard fan’s quest to fix the game and bring out its true potential. What began as a bug-fixing project bloomed into something more expansive, as Werner Spahl and the rest of the game’s community uncovered bits of code, concept art and rogue files to create new content for the game. The result was a major patch that built upon the game’s potential. Werner Spahl’s patch has become a crucial factor in playing ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ that online stores would include it with their sales of the game. It is a testament to how much of an impact “Bloodlines has made”, despite its shortcomings. While the fans are still hoping for a sequel, many would agree that ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ rich and complex universe of vampires makes it one of the best and underrated video game of its kind to date.

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